THE SHAME OF MINNEAPOLIS

Whenever anything extraordinary is done in American municipal politics,
whether for good or for evil, you can trace it almost invariably to one
man. The people do not do it. Neither do the “gangs,” “combines,” or
political parties. These are but instruments by which bosses (not
leaders; we Americans are not led, but driven) rule the people, and
commonly sell them out. But there are at least two forms of the
autocracy which has supplanted the democracy here as it has everywhere
democracy has been tried. One is that of the organized majority by
which, as with the Republican machine in Philadelphia, the boss has
normal control of more than half the voters. The other is that of the
adroitly managed minority. The “good people” are herded into parties and
stupefied with convictions and a name, Republican or Democrat; while the
“bad people” are so organized or interested by the boss that he can
wield their votes to enforce terms with party managers and decide
elections. St. Louis is a conspicuous example of this form. Minneapolis
is another. Colonel Ed Butler is the unscrupulous opportunist who
handled the non-partisan minority which turned St. Louis into a “boodle
town.” In Minneapolis “Doc” Ames was the man.

Minneapolis is a New England town on the upper Mississippi. The
metropolis of the Northwest, it is the metropolis also of Norway and
Sweden in America. Indeed, it is the second largest Scandinavian city in
the world. But Yankees, straight from Down East, settled the town, and
their New England spirit predominates. They had Bayard Taylor lecture
there in the early days of the settlement; they made it the seat of the
University of Minnesota. Yet even now, when the town has grown to a
population of more than 200,000, you feel that there is something
Western about it too—a Yankee with a round Puritan head, an open prairie
heart, and a great, big Scandinavian body. The “Roundhead” takes the
“Squarehead” out into the woods, and they cut lumber by forests, or they
go out on the prairies and raise wheat and mill it into fleet-cargoes of
flour. They work hard, they make money, they are sober, satisfied, busy
with their own affairs. There isn’t much time for public business. Taken
together, Miles, Hans, and Ole are very American. Miles insists upon
strict laws, Ole and Hans want one or two Scandinavians on their ticket.
These things granted, they go off on raft or reaper, leaving whoso will
to enforce the lawn and run the city.

The people who were left to govern the city hated above all things
strict laws. They were the loafers, saloon keepers, gamblers, criminals,
and the thriftless poor of all nationalities. Resenting the sobriety of
a staid, industrious community, and having no Irish to boss them, they
delighted to follow the jovial pioneer doctor, Albert Alonzo Ames. He
was the “good fellow”—a genial, generous reprobate. Devery, Tweed, and
many more have exposed in vain this amiable type. “Doc” Ames, tall,
straight, and cheerful, attracted men, and they gave him votes for his
smiles. He stood for license. There was nothing of the Puritan about
him. His father, the sturdy old pioneer, Dr. Alfred Elisha Ames, had a
strong strain of it in him, but he moved on with his family of six sons
from Garden Prairie, Ill., to Fort Snelling reservation, in 1851, before
Minneapolis was founded, and young Albert Alonzo, who then was ten years
old, grew up free, easy, and tolerant. He was sent to school, then to
college in Chicago, and he returned home a doctor of medicine before he
was twenty-one. As the town waxed soberer and richer, “Doc” grew gayer
and more and more generous. Skillful as a surgeon, devoted as a
physician, and as a man kindly, he increased his practice till he was
the best-loved man in the community. He was especially good to the poor.
Anybody could summon “Doc” Ames at any hour to any distance. He went,
and he gave not only his professional service, but sympathy, and often
charity. “Richer men than you will pay your bill,” he told the
destitute. So there was a basis for his “good-fellowship.” There always
is; these good fellows are not frauds—not in the beginning.

But there is another side to them sometimes. Ames was sunshine not to
the sick and destitute only. To the vicious and the depraved also he was
a comfort. If a man was a hard drinker, the good Doctor cheered him with
another drink; if he had stolen something, the Doctor helped to get him
off. He was naturally vain; popularity developed his love of
approbation. His loose life brought disapproval only from the good
people, so gradually the Doctor came to enjoy best the society of the
barroom and the streets. This society, flattered in turn, worshiped the
good Doctor, and, active in politics always, put its physician into the
arena.

Had he been wise or even shrewd, he might have made himself a real
power. But he wasn’t calculating, only light and frivolous, so he did
not organize his forces and run men for office. He sought office himself
from the start, and he got most of the small places he wanted by
changing his party to seize the opportunity. His floating minority,
added to the regular partisan vote, was sufficient ordinarily for his
useless victories. As time went on he rose from smaller offices to be a
Republican mayor, then twice at intervals to be a Democratic mayor. He
was a candidate once for Congress; he stood for governor once on a sort
of Populist-Democrat ticket. Ames could not get anything outside of his
own town, however, and after his third term as mayor it was thought he
was out of politics altogether. He was getting old, and he was getting
worse.

Like many a “good fellow” with hosts of miscellaneous friends downtown
to whom he was devoted, the good Doctor neglected his own family. From
neglect he went on openly to separation from his wife and a second
establishment. The climax came not long before the election of 1900. His
wife died. The family would not have the father at the funeral, but he
appeared,—not at the house, but in a carriage on the street. He sat
across the way, with his feet up and a cigar in his mouth, till the
funeral moved; then he circled around, crossing it and meeting it, and
making altogether a scene which might well close any man’s career.

It didn’t end his. The people had just secured the passage of a new
primary law to establish direct popular government. There were to be no
more nominations by convention. The voters were to ballot for their
party candidates. By a slip of some sort, the laws did not specify that
Republicans only should vote for Republican candidates, and only
Democrats for Democratic candidates. Any voter could vote at either
primary. Ames, in disrepute with his own party, the Democratic, bade his
followers vote for his nomination for mayor on the Republican ticket.
They all voted; not all the Republicans did. He was nominated.
Nomination is far from election, and you would say that the trick would
not help him. But that was a Presidential year, so the people of
Minneapolis had to vote for Ames, the Republican candidate for mayor.
Besides, Ames said he was going to reform; that he was getting old, and
wanted to close his career with a good administration. The effective
argument, however, was that, since McKinley had to be elected to save
the country, Ames must be supported for mayor of Minneapolis. Why? The
great American people cannot be trusted to scratch a ticket.

Well, Minneapolis got its old mayor back, and he was indeed “reformed.”
Up to this time Ames had not been very venal personally. He was a
“spender,” not a “grafter,” and he was guilty of corruption chiefly by
proxy; he took the honors and left the spoils to his followers. His
administrations were no worse than the worst. Now, however, he set out
upon a career of corruption which for deliberateness, invention, and
avarice has never been equaled. It was as if he had made up his mind
that he had been careless long enough, and meant to enrich his last
years. He began promptly.

Immediately upon his election, before he took office (on January 7,
1901), he organized a cabinet and laid plans to turn the city over to
outlaws who were to work under police direction for the profit of his
administration. He chose for chief his brother, Colonel Fred W. Ames,
who had recently returned under a cloud from service in the Philippines.
But he was a weak vessel for chief of police, and the mayor picked for
chief of detectives an abler man, who was to direct the more difficult
operations. This was Norman W. King, a former gambler, who knew the
criminals needed in the business ahead. King was to invite to
Minneapolis thieves, confidence men, pickpockets and gamblers, and
release some that were in the local jail. They were to be organized into
groups, according to their profession, and detectives were assigned to
assist and direct them. The head of the gambling syndicate was to have
charge of the gambling, making the terms and collecting the “graft,”
just as King and a Captain Hill were to collect from the thieves. The
collector for women of the town was to be Irwin A. Gardner, a medical
student in the Doctor’s office, who was made a special policeman for the
purpose. These men looked over the force, selected those men who could
be trusted, charged them a price for their retention, and marked for
dismissal 107 men out of 225, the 107 being the best policemen in the
department from the point of view of the citizens who afterward
reorganized the force. John Fitchette, better known as “Coffee John,” a
Virginian (who served on the Jefferson Davis jury), the keeper of a
notorious coffee-house, was to be a captain of police, with no duties
except to sell places on the police force.

And they did these things that they planned—all and more. The
administration opened with the revolution on the police force. The
thieves in the local jail were liberated, and it was made known to the
Under World generally that “things were doing” in Minneapolis. The
incoming swindlers reported to King or his staff for instructions, and
went to work, turning the “swag” over to the detectives in charge.
Gambling went on openly, and disorderly houses multiplied under the
fostering care of Gardner, the medical student. But all this was not
enough. Ames dared to break openly into the municipal system of vice
protection.

There was such a thing. Minneapolis, strict in its laws, forbade vices
which are inevitable, then regularly permitted them under certain
conditions. Legal limits, called “patrol lines,” were prescribed, within
which saloons might be opened. These ran along the river front, out
through part of the business section, with long arms reaching into the
Scandinavian quarters, north and south. Gambling also was confined, but
more narrowly. And there were limits, also arbitrary, but not always
identical with those for gambling, within which the social evil was
allowed. But the novel feature of this scheme was that disorderly houses
were practically licensed by the city, the women appearing before the
clerk of the Municipal Court each month to pay a “fine” of $100. Unable
at first to get this “graft,” Ames’s man Gardner persuaded women to
start houses, apartments, and, of all things, candy stores, which sold
sweets to children and tobacco to the “lumber Jacks” in front, while a
nefarious traffic was carried on in the rear. But they paid Ames, not
the city, and that was all this “reform” administration cared about.

The revenue from all these sources must have been large. It only whetted
the avarice of the mayor and his Cabinet. They let gambling privileges
without restriction as to location or “squareness”; the syndicate could
cheat and rob as it would. Peddlers and pawnbrokers, formerly licensed
by the city, bought permits now instead from the mayor’s agent in this
field. Some two hundred slot machines were installed in various parts of
the town, with owner’s agent and mayor’s agent watching and collecting
from them enough to pay the mayor $15,000 a year as his share. Auction
frauds were instituted. Opium joints and unlicensed saloons, called
“blind pigs,” were protected. Gardner even had a police baseball team,
for whose games tickets were sold to people who had to buy them. But the
women were the easiest “graft.” They were compelled to buy illustrated
biographies of the city officials; they had to give presents of money,
jewelry, and gold stars to police officers. But the money they still
paid direct to the city in fines, some $35,000 a year, fretted the
mayor, and at last he reached for it. He came out with a declaration, in
his old character as friend of the oppressed, that $100 a month was too
much for these women to pay. They should be required to pay the city
fine only once in two months. This puzzled the town till it became
generally known that Gardner collected the other month for the mayor.
The final outrage in this department, however, was an order of the mayor
for the periodic visits to disorderly houses, by the city’s physicians,
at from $5 to $20 per visit. The two physicians he appointed called when
they willed, and more and more frequently, till toward the end the calls
became a pure formality, with the collections as the one and only
object.

[Illustration:

FACSIMILE OF THE FIRST PAGE OF “THE BIG MITT LEDGER”
]

In a general way all this business was known. It did not arouse the
citizens, but it did attract criminals, and more and more thieves and
swindlers came hurrying to Minneapolis. Some of them saw the police, and
made terms. Some were seen by the police and invited to go to work.
There was room for all. This astonishing fact that the government of a
city asked criminals to rob the people is fully established. The police
and the criminals confessed it separately. Their statements agree in
detail. Detective Norbeck made the arrangements, and introduced the
swindlers to Gardner, who, over King’s head, took the money from them.
Here is the story “Billy” Edwards, a “big mitt” man, told under oath of
his reception in Minneapolis:

[Illustration:

PAGE FROM “THE BIG MITT LEDGER”

This shows an item concerning the check for $775, which
the “sucker” Meix (here spelled Mix) wished not to have
honored.
]

“I had been out to the Coast, and hadn’t seen Norbeck for some time.
After I returned I boarded a Minneapolis car one evening to go down to
South Minneapolis to visit a friend. Norbeck and Detective DeLaittre
were on the car. When Norbeck saw me he came up and shook hands, and
said, ‘Hullo, Billy, how goes it?’ I said, ‘Not very well.’ Then he
says, ‘Things have changed since you went away. Me and Gardner are the
whole thing now. Before you left they thought I didn’t know anything,
but I turned a few tricks, and now I’m It.’ ‘I’m glad of that, Chris,’ I
said. He says, ‘I’ve got great things for you. I’m going to fix up a
joint for you.’ ‘That’s good,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe you can do
it.’ ‘Oh, yes, I can,’ he replied. ‘I’m It now—Gardner and me.’ ‘Well,
if you can do it,’ says I, ‘there’s money in it.’ ‘How much can you
pay?’ he asked. ‘Oh, $150 or $200 a week,’ says I. ‘That settles it,’ he
said; ‘I’ll take you down to see Gardner, and we’ll fix it up.’ Then he
made an appointment to meet me the next night, and we went down to
Gardner’s house together.”

There Gardner talked business in general, showed his drawer full of
bills, and jokingly asked how Edwards would like to have them. Edwards
says:

“I said, ‘That looks pretty good to me,’ and Gardner told us that he had
‘collected’ the money from the women he had on his staff, and that he
was going to pay it over to the ‘old man’ when he got back from his
hunting trip next morning. Afterward he told me that the mayor had been
much pleased with our $500, and that he said everything was all right,
and for us to go ahead.”

[Illustration:

PAGE FROM “THE BIG MITT LEDGER”

This shows the accounts for a week of small transactions.
]

“Link” Crossman, another confidence man who was with Edwards, said that
Gardner demanded $1,000 at first, but compromised on $500 for the mayor,
$50 for Gardner, and $50 for Norbeck. To the chief, Fred Ames, they gave
tips now and then of $25 or $50. “The first week we ran,” said Crossman,
“I gave Fred $15. Norbeck took me down there. We shook hands, and I
handed him an envelope with $15. He pulled out a list of steerers we had
sent him, and said he wanted to go over them with me. He asked where the
joint was located. At another time I slipped $25 into his hand as he was
standing in the hallway of City Hall.” But these smaller payments, after
the first “opening, $500,” are all down on the pages of the “big mitt”
ledger, photographs of which illuminate this article. This notorious
book, which was kept by Charlie Howard, one of the “big mitt” men, was
much talked of at the subsequent trials, but was kept hidden to await
the trial of the mayor himself.

The “big mitt” game was swindling by means of a stacked hand at stud
poker. “Steerers” and “boosters” met “suckers” on the street, at hotels,
and railway stations, won their confidence, and led them to the “joint.”
Usually the “sucker” was called, by the amount of his loss, “the
$102-man” or “the $35-man.” Roman Meix alone had the distinction among
all the Minneapolis victims of going by his own name. Having lost $775,
he became known for his persistent complainings. But they all “kicked”
some. To Detective Norbeck at the street door was assigned the duty of
hearing their complaints, and “throwing a scare into them.” “Oh, so
you’ve been gambling,” he would say. “Have you got a license? Well,
then, you better get right out of this town.” Sometimes he accompanied
them to the station and saw them off. If they were not to be put off
thus, he directed them to the chief of police. Fred Ames tried to wear
them out by keeping them waiting in the anteroom. If they outlasted him,
he saw them and frightened them with threats of all sorts of trouble for
gambling without a license. Meix wanted to have payment on his check
stopped. Ames, who had been a bank clerk, told him of his banking
experience, and then had the effrontery to say that payment on such a
check could not be stopped.

Burglaries were common. How many the police planned may never be known.
Charles F. Brackett and Fred Malone, police captains and detectives,
were active, and one well-established crime of theirs is the robbery of
the Pabst Brewing Company office. They persuaded two men, one an
employee, to learn the combination of the safe, open and clean it out
one night, while the two officers stood guard outside.

The excesses of the municipal administration became so notorious that
some of the members of it remonstrated with the others, and certain
county officers were genuinely alarmed. No restraint followed their
warnings. Sheriff Megaarden, no Puritan himself, felt constrained to
interfere, and he made some arrests of gamblers. The Ames people turned
upon him in a fury; they accused him of making overcharges in his
accounts with the county for fees, and, laying the evidence before
Governor Van Sant, they had Megaarden removed from office. Ames offered
bribes to two county commissioners to appoint Gardner sheriff, so as to
be sure of no more trouble in that quarter. This move failed, but the
lesson taught Megaarden served to clear the atmosphere, and the
spoliation went on as recklessly as ever. It became impossible.

Even lawlessness must be regulated. Dr. Ames, never an organizer,
attempted no control, and his followers began to quarrel among
themselves. They deceived one another; they robbed the thieves; they
robbed Ames himself. His brother became dissatisfied with his share of
the spoils, and formed cabals with captains who plotted against the
administration and set up disorderly houses, “panel games,” and all
sorts of “grafts” of their own.

The one man loyal to the mayor was Gardner; and Fred Ames, Captain King,
and their pals plotted the fall of the favorite. Now anybody could get
anything from the Doctor, if he could have him alone. The Fred Ames
clique chose a time when the mayor was at West Baden; they filled him
with suspicion of Gardner and the fear of exposure, and induced him to
let a creature named “Reddy” Cohen, instead of Gardner, do the
collecting, and pay over all the moneys, not directly, but through Fred.
Gardner made a touching appeal. “I have been honest. I have paid you
all,” he said to the mayor. “Fred and the rest will rob you.” This was
true, but it was of no avail.

Fred Ames was in charge at last, and he himself went about giving notice
of the change. Three detectives were with him when he visited the women,
and here is the women’s story, in the words of one, as it was told again
and again in court: “Colonel Ames came in with the detectives. He
stepped into a side room and asked me if I had been paying Gardner. I
told him I had, and he told me not to pay no more, but to come to his
office later, and he would let me know what to do. I went to the City
Hall in about three weeks, after Cohen had called and said he was ‘the
party.’ I asked the chief if it was all right to pay Cohen, and he said
it was.”

The new arrangement did not work so smoothly as the old. Cohen was an
oppressive collector, and Fred Ames, appealed to, was weak and lenient.
He had no sure hold on the force. His captains, free of Gardner, were
undermining the chief. They increased their private operations. Some of
the detectives began to drink hard and neglect their work. Norbeck so
worried the “big mitt” men by staying away from the joint, that they
complained to Fred about him. The chief rebuked Norbeck, and he promised
to “do better,” but thereafter he was paid, not by the week, but by
piece work—so much for each “trimmed sucker” that he ran out of town.
Protected swindlers were arrested for operating in the street by “Coffee
John’s” new policemen, who took the places of the negligent detectives.
Fred let the indignant prisoners go when they were brought before him,
but the arrests were annoying, inconvenient, and disturbed business. The
whole system became so demoralized that every man was for himself. There
was not left even the traditional honor among thieves.

It was at this juncture, in April, 1902, that the grand jury for the
summer term was drawn. An ordinary body of unselected citizens, it
received no special instructions from the bench; the county prosecutor
offered it only routine work to do. But there was a man among them who
was a fighter—the foreman, Hovey C. Clarke. He was of an old New England
family. Coming to Minneapolis when a young man, seventeen years before,
he had fought for employment, fought with his employers for position,
fought with his employees, the lumber Jacks, for command, fought for his
company against competitors; and he had won always, till now he had the
habit of command, the impatient, imperious manner of the master, and the
assurance of success which begets it. He did not want to be a grand
juryman, he did not want to be a foreman; but since he was both, he
wanted to accomplish something.

Why not rip up the Ames gang? Heads shook, hands went up; it was useless
to try. The discouragement fired Clarke. That was just what he would do,
he said, and he took stock of his jury. Two or three were men with
backbone; that he knew, and he quickly had them with him. The rest were
all sorts of men. Mr. Clarke won over each man to himself, and
interested them all. Then he called for the county prosecutor. The
prosecutor was a politician; he knew the Ames crowd; they were too
powerful to attack.

“You are excused,” said the foreman.

There was a scene; the prosecutor knew his rights.

“Do you think, Mr. Clarke,” he cried, “that you can run the grand jury
and my office, too?”

“Yes,” said Clarke, “I will run your office if I want to; and I want to.
You’re excused.”




Mr. Clarke does not talk much about his doings that summer; he isn’t the
talking sort. But he does say that all he did was to apply simple
business methods to his problem. In action, however, these turned out to
be the most approved police methods. He hired a lot of local detectives
who, he knew, would talk about what they were doing, and thus would be
watched by the police. Having thus thrown a false scent, he hired some
other detectives whom nobody knew about. This was expensive; so were
many of the other things he did; but he was bound to win, so he paid the
price, drawing freely on his own and his colleagues’ pockets. (The total
cost to the county for a long summer’s work by this grand jury was
$259.) With his detectives out, he himself went to the jail to get tips
from the inside, from criminals who, being there, must have grievances.
He made the acquaintance of the jailer, Captain Alexander, and Alexander
was a friend of Sheriff Megaarden. Yes, he had some men there who were
“sore” and might want to get even.

Now two of these were “big mitt” men who had worked for Gardner. One was
“Billy” Edwards, the other “Cheerful Charlie” Howard. I heard too many
explanations of their plight to choose any one; this general account
will cover the ground: In the Ames mêlée, either by mistake, neglect, or
for spite growing out of the network of conflicting interests and gangs,
they were arrested and arraigned, not before Fred Ames, but before a
judge, and held in bail too high for them to furnish. They had paid for
an unexpired period of protection, yet could get neither protection nor
bail. They were forgotten. “We got the double cross all right,” they
said, and they bled with their grievance; but squeal, no, sir!—that was
“another deal.”

But Mr. Clarke had their story, and he was bound to force them to tell
it under oath on the stand. If they did, Gardner and Norbeck would be
indicted, tried, and probably convicted. In themselves, these men were
of no great importance; but they were the key to the situation, and a
way up to the mayor. It was worth trying. Mr. Clarke went into the jail
with Messrs. Lester Elwood and Willard J. Hield, grand jurors on whom he
relied most for delicate work. They stood by while the foreman talked.
And the foreman’s way of talking was to smile, swear, threaten, and
cajole. “Billy” Edwards told me afterwards that he and Howard were
finally persuaded to turn State’s evidence, because they believed that
Mr. Clarke was the kind of a man to keep his promises and fulfill his
threats. “We,” he said, meaning criminals generally, “are always
stacking up against juries and lawyers who want us to holler. We don’t,
because we see they ain’t wise, and won’t get there. They’re quitters;
they can be pulled off. Clarke has a hard eye. I know men. It’s my
business to size ‘em up, and I took him for a winner, and I played in
with him against that whole big bunch of easy things that was running
things on the bum.” The grand jury was ready at the end of three weeks
of hard work to find bills. A prosecutor was needed. The public
prosecutor was being ignored, but his first assistant and friend, Al J.
Smith, was taken in hand by Mr. Clarke. Smith hesitated; he knew better
even than the foreman the power and resources of the Ames gang. But he
came to believe in Mr. Clarke, just as Edwards had; he was sure the
foreman would win; so he went over to his side, and, having once
decided, he led the open fighting, and, alone in court, won cases
against men who had the best lawyers in the State to defend them. His
court record is extraordinary. Moreover, he took over the negotiations
with criminals for evidence, Messrs. Clarke, Hield, Elwood, and the
other jurors providing means and moral support. These were needed.
Bribes were offered to Smith; he was threatened; he was called a fool.
But so was Clarke, to whom $28,000 was offered to quit, and for whose
slaughter a slugger was hired to come from Chicago. What startled the
jury most, however, was the character of the citizens who were sent to
them to dissuade them from their course. No reform I ever studied has
failed to bring out this phenomenon of virtuous cowardice, the baseness
of the decent citizen.

Nothing stopped this jury, however. They had courage. They indicted
Gardner, Norbeck, Fred Ames, and many lesser persons. But the gang had
courage, too, and raised a defense fund to fight Clarke. Mayor Ames was
defiant. Once, when Mr. Clarke called at the City Hall, the mayor met
and challenged him. The mayor’s heelers were all about him, but Clarke
faced him.

“Yes, Doc Ames, I’m after you,” he said. “I’ve been in this town for
seventeen years, and all that time you’ve been a moral leper. I hear you
were rotten during the ten years before that. Now I’m going to put you
where all contagious things are put—where you cannot contaminate anybody
else.”

The trial of Gardner came on. Efforts had been made to persuade him to
surrender the mayor, but the young man was paid $15,000 “to stand pat,”
and he went to trial and conviction silent. Other trials followed
fast—Norbeck’s, Fred Ames’s, Chief of Detectives King’s. Witnesses who
were out of the State were needed, and true testimony from women. There
was no county money for extradition, so the grand jurors paid these
costs also. They had Meix followed from Michigan down to Mexico and back
to Idaho, where they got him, and he was presented in court one day at
the trial of Norbeck, who had “steered” him out of town. Norbeck thought
Meix was a thousand miles away, and had been bold before. At the sight
of him in court he started to his feet, and that night ran away. The
jury spent more money in his pursuit, and they caught him. He confessed,
but his evidence was not accepted. He was sentenced to three years in
State’s prison. Men caved all around, but the women were firm, and the
first trial of Fred Ames failed. To break the women’s faith in the ring,
Mayor Ames was indicted for offering the bribe to have Gardner made
sheriff—a genuine, but not the best case against him. It brought the
women down to the truth, and Fred Ames, retried, was convicted and
sentenced to six and a half years in State’s prison. King was tried for
accessory to felony (helping in the theft of a diamond, which he
afterward stole from the thieves), and sentenced to three and a half
years in prison. And still the indictments came, with trials following
fast. Al Smith resigned with the consent and thanks of the grand jury;
his chief, who was to run for the same office again, wanted to try the
rest of the cases, and he did very well.

All men were now on the side of law and order. The panic among the
“grafters” was laughable, in spite of its hideous significance. Two
heads of departments against whom nothing had been shown suddenly ran
away, and thus suggested to the grand jury an inquiry which revealed
another source of “graft,” in the sale of supplies to public
institutions and the diversion of great quantities of provisions to the
private residences of the mayor and other officials. Mayor Ames, under
indictment and heavy bonds for extortion, conspiracy, and
bribe-offering, left the State on a night train; a gentleman who knew
him by sight saw him sitting up at eleven o’clock in the smoking-room of
the sleeping-car, an unlighted cigar in his mouth, his face ashen and
drawn, and at six o’clock the next morning he still was sitting there,
his cigar still unlighted. He went to West Baden, a health resort in
Indiana, a sick and broken man, aging years in a month. The city was
without a mayor, the ring was without a leader; cliques ruled, and they
pictured one another hanging about the grand-jury room begging leave to
turn State’s evidence. Tom Brown, the mayor’s secretary, was in the
mayor’s chair; across the hall sat Fred Ames, the chief of police,
balancing Brown’s light weight. Both were busy forming cliques within
the ring. Brown had on his side Coffee John and Police Captain Hill.
Ames had Captain “Norm” King (though he had been convicted and had
resigned), Captain Krumweide, and Ernest Wheelock, the chief’s
secretary. Alderman D. Percy Jones, the president of the council, an
honorable man, should have taken the chair, but he was in the East; so
this unstable equilibrium was all the city had by way of a government.

Then Fred Ames disappeared. The Tom Brown clique had full sway, and took
over the police department. This was a shock to everybody, to none more
than to the King clique, which joined in the search for Ames. An
alderman, Fred M. Powers, who was to run for mayor on the Republican
ticket, took charge of the mayor’s office, but he was not sure of his
authority or clear as to his policy. The grand jury was the real power
behind him, and the foreman was telegraphing for Alderman Jones.
Meanwhile the cliques were making appeals to Mayor Ames, in West Baden,
and each side that saw him received authority to do its will. The Coffee
John clique, denied admission to the grand-jury room, turned to Alderman
Powers, and were beginning to feel secure, when they heard that Fred
Ames was coming back. They rushed around, and obtained an assurance from
the exiled mayor that Fred was returning only to resign. Fred—now under
conviction—returned, but he did not resign; supported by his friends, he
took charge again of the police force. Coffee John besought Alderman
Powers to remove the chief, and when the acting mayor proved himself too
timid, Coffee John, Tom Brown, and Captain Hill laid a deep plot. They
would ask Mayor Ames to remove his brother. This they felt sure they
could persuade the “old man” to do. The difficulty was to keep him from
changing his mind when the other side should reach his ear. They hit
upon a bold expedient. They would urge the “old man” to remove Fred, and
then resign himself, so that he could not undo the deed that they wanted
done. Coffee John and Captain Hill slipped out of town one night; they
reached West Baden on one train and they left for home on the next, with
a demand for Fred’s resignation in one hand and the mayor’s own in the
other. Fred Ames did resign, and though the mayor’s resignation was laid
aside for a while, to avoid the expense of a special election, all
looked well for Coffee John and his clique. They had Fred out, and
Alderman Powers was to make them great. But Mr. Powers wabbled. No doubt
the grand jury spoke to him. At any rate he turned most unexpectedly on
both cliques together. He turned out Tom Brown, but he turned out also
Coffee John, and he did not make their man chief of police, but another
of someone else’s selection. A number of resignations was the result,
and these the acting mayor accepted, making a clearing of astonished
rascals which was very gratifying to the grand jury and to the nervous
citizens of Minneapolis.

But the town was not yet easy. The grand jury, which was the actual head
of the government, was about to be discharged, and, besides, their work
was destructive. A constructive force was now needed, and Alderman Jones
was pelted with telegrams from home bidding him hurry back. He did
hurry, and when he arrived, the situation was instantly in control. The
grand jury prepared to report, for the city had a mind and a will of its
own once more. The criminals found it out last.

Percy Jones, as his friends call him, is of the second generation of his
family in Minneapolis. His father started him well-to-do, and he went on
from where he was started. College graduate and business man, he has a
conscience which, however, he has brains enough to question. He is not
the fighter, but the slow, sure executive. As an alderman he is the
result of a movement begun several years ago by some young men who were
convinced by an exposure of a corrupt municipal council that they should
go into politics. A few did go in; Jones was one of these few.

The acting mayor was confronted at once with all the hardest problems of
municipal government. Vice rose right up to tempt or to fight him. He
studied the situation deliberately, and by and by began to settle it
point by point, slowly but finally, against all sorts of opposition. One
of his first acts was to remove all the proved rascals on the force,
putting in their places men who had been removed by Mayor Ames. Another
important step was the appointment of a church deacon and personal
friend to be chief of police, this on the theory that he wanted at the
head of his police a man who could have no sympathy with crime, a man
whom he could implicitly trust. Disorderly houses, forbidden by law,
were permitted, but only within certain patrol lines, and they were to
pay nothing, in either blackmail or “fines.” The number and the standing
and the point of view of the “good people” who opposed this order was a
lesson to Mr. Jones in practical government. One very prominent citizen
and church member threatened him for driving women out of two flats
owned by him; the rent was the surest means of “support for his wife and
children.” Mr. Jones enforced his order.

Other interests—saloon-keepers, brewers, etc.—gave him trouble enough,
but all these were trifles in comparison with his experience with the
gamblers. They represented organized crime, and they asked for a
hearing. Mr. Jones gave them some six weeks for negotiations. They
proposed a solution. They said that if he would let them (a syndicate)
open four gambling places downtown, they would see that no others ran in
any part of the city. Mr. Jones pondered and shook his head, drawing
them on. They went away, and came back with a better promise. Though
they were not the associates of criminals, they knew that class and
their plans. No honest police force, unaided, could deal with crime.
Thieves would soon be at work again, and what could Mr. Jones do against
them with a police force headed by a church deacon? The gamblers offered
to control the criminals for the city.

Mr. Jones, deeply interested, declared he did not believe there was any
danger of fresh crimes. The gamblers smiled and went away. By an odd
coincidence there happened just after that what the papers called “an
epidemic of crime.” They were petty thefts, but they occupied the mind
of the acting mayor. He wondered at their opportuneness. He wondered how
the news of them got out.

The gamblers soon reappeared. Hadn’t they told Mr. Jones crime would
soon be prevalent in town again? They had, indeed, but the mayor was
unmoved; “porch climbers” could not frighten him. But this was only the
beginning, the gamblers said: the larger crimes would come next. And
they went away again. Sure enough, the large crimes came. One, two,
three burglaries of jewelry in the houses of well-known people occurred;
then there was a fourth, and the fourth was in the house of a relative
of the acting mayor. He was seriously amused. The papers had the news
promptly, and not from the police.

The gamblers called again. If they could have the exclusive control of
gambling in Minneapolis, they would do all that they had promised
before, and, if any large burglaries occurred, they would undertake to
recover the “swag,” and sometimes catch the thief. Mr. Jones was
skeptical of their ability to do all this. The gamblers offered to prove
it. How? They would get back for Mr. Jones the jewelry recently reported
stolen from four houses in town. Mr. Jones expressed a curiosity to see
this done, and the gamblers went away. After a few days the stolen
jewelry, parcel by parcel, began to return; with all due police-criminal
mystery it was delivered to the chief of police.

When the gamblers called again, they found the acting mayor ready to
give his decision on their propositions. It was this: There should be no
gambling, with police connivance, in the city of Minneapolis during his
term of office.

Mr. Jones told me that if he had before him a long term, he certainly
would reconsider this answer. He believed he would decide again as he
had already, but he would at least give studious reflection to the
question—Can a city be governed without any alliance with crime? It was
an open question. He had closed it only for the four months of his
emergency administration. Minneapolis should be clean and sweet for a
little while at least, and the new administration should begin with a
clear deck.