Monday, April 16, 2018

All-Time Top Ten Blog Posts

Photo Credit: Nicole Fribourg
I won't lie, it takes time to research a post and write it concisely so readers don't feel like I'm wasting their time. But after seven years of blogging, I enjoy writing these smaller pieces largely because of the instant gratification of having readers respond, comment, and share my posts in real time.

One of my young critics wrote that my blog was old-fashioned and looked like a Monopoly property card. High praise indeed! That's when I knew I was onto something. No whistles, no bells, no GIFs, no capturing of readers' marketing information, just fact-driven posts that interest me--and as it turns out--interest others. As of May 2018, I have written 400 posts drawing over 630,000 page views trudging my way to a million.

Several people have asked me how to find my earlier posts. Go to the right sidebar and scroll down to the Blog Archive. You can browse the titles by year and month to find a topic you like. To receive new posts automatically, you can subscribe in the upper-right corner of the site.

Many thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares my Fornology posts. Here are the titles of my top ten all-time blog posts.


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Willow Run Bomber Plant Changes Ypsilanti Forever

Original Three-story Ypsilanti Depot Station.
At the turn of the century, before the second World War, Ypsilanti had an active downtown area along Michigan Avenue. Northeast of town, there was a thriving business district called Depot Town.

Depot Town was the area's commercial hub and provided services for weary train travelers. Ypsilanti's three-story brick depot station was ornate compared to the depot in Ann Arbor. In its day, it was said to be the nicest train station between Detroit and Chicago.

The Norris Building built in 1861 was across from the depot on River Street. It was originally supposed to house a retail block on the ground floor and residential rooms on the two upper floors. Instead, the building became an army barracks during the Civil War. The 14th Michigan Infantry Regiment shipped out of Depot Town in 1862, as did the 27th Michigan Regiment in 1863. 

The facade of the historic Norris Building remains on North River Street, despite a fire which decimated the rear portion of this last remaining Civil War barracks in Michigan. Work has begun on rebuilding the historic building.

Michigan State Normal School was located west of Depot Town on West Cross Street and northwest of downtown Ypsilanti. It spawned a growing educational center which later expanded its mission to become Eastern Michigan University. 

Ypsilanti's residential area with its historic and varied architecture filled the spaces between. Surrounding everything was some of the most fertile farm land in the state.

The water-powered age of nineteenth century manufacturing on the Huron River gave way to the modern electrical age of the twentieth century. The soft beauty of the gas light was replaced with the harsh glare of the incandescent light bulb. The times were changing for Ypsilanti--ready or not.


The countryside was prime tillable ground with fruit groves scattered about the landscape. Henry Ford owned a large tract of land in an area known as Willow Run, named for the small river that ran through it. The Ford patriarch used the land to plant soybeans, but the United States government needed bombers for the Lend Lease program with Great Britain. On December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Nazis declared war on the United States on behalf of their ally. America was drawn into the second world war.

The Roosevelt administration asked the Ford corporation, now run by Edsel Ford, to build a factory that could mass produce the B-24 Liberator Bomber. Edsel Ford, Charles Sorenson (production manager), and some Ford engineers visited the Consolidated Aircraft Company in San Diego to see how the planes were built. 

That night, Sorenson drew up a floor plan that could build the bomber more efficiently. His blueprint was a marvel of ingenuity, but the Ford corporation made one significant change in his master plan.

The best shape to build a front to back assembly line operation is in a straight line. But to avoid the higher taxes in Democratic Wayne County, the bomber plant took a hard right to the south on one end to stay within Republican Washtenaw County, which had lower taxes. This was at the insistence of Harry Bennett, Ford's head of security who had strong ties to Washtenaw County being a graduate of Ann Arbor High School.

The construction of the plant in Willow Run began in May of 1941, seven months before Pearl Harbor. Legendary Detroit architect Albert Kahn designed the largest factory in the world, but it would be his last project. He died in 1942.

The federal government bought up land adjacent to the bomber plant and built an airport which still exists today and is used for commercial aviation. The eight-sectioned hangar could house twenty Liberators.

Soon, workers flooded into Ypsilanti and the rapidly developing Willow Run area where makeshift row housing was hastily constructed. The Ford Motor Company recruited heavily from the South. By March 1, 1943, the bomber plant brought in 6,491 workers from Kentucky. That's when the derisive term "Ypsitucky" was first heard. But Ford recruiters also brought in 1,971 workers from Tennessee, 714 from Texas, 450 from West Virgina, 397 from Arkansas, and 314 from Missouri. In the most demographic shift in the area since the white man drove the red man west, the sleepy farming town of Ypsilanti went from a sunrise-to-sunset community to a three shift, around-the-clock, blue collar factory town. 

Suddenly the area was hit with a housing shortage. Ypsilanti homeowners rented rooms to workers or converted their large Victorian homes into boarding houses. It was wartime and money was to be made. Some families rented "warm beds." One worker would sleep in the bed while another was working his shift, but still there was a housing shortage. Many people slept in their cars until they could make other arrangements. 

Long time residents did not like the changes they saw in their town. The bomber factory workers worked hard and drank hard. Fights broke out in local bars, often over women. Ypsilanti developed a hard edge and a dark reputation.

Because so many men were in uniform serving their country, there was a shortage of skilled labor at first. But then the women of Southern Michigan stepped up big time. To make up the labor shortfall, they donned work clothes, and tied up their long hair in colorful scarves collectively earning the nickname "Rosie the Riveter". It was calculated that by the end of the war, 40% of every B-24 Liberator was assembled by women.


Little known factoid: The first stretch of expressway in America was made with Ford steel and Ford cement. It connected workers in the Detroit area to their jobs at the bomber plant in Willow Run via Ecorse Road. It's still there and runs along the north end of the former GM Hydromatic Plant and Willow Run Airport.


The Yankee Air Museum housed on the east end of Willow Run Airport was established in 1981 to restore and preserve the almost forgotten history of Willow Run Airport, and to commemorate the achievement of the men and women who helped win the war by the sweat of their brow producing 8,685 B-24 Liberators.


Background history of the Yankee Air Museum:

Rosie the Riveter short:

The following link has some vintage bomber plant footage:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Erie Canal Populates the Great Lakes Area

If you wanted to travel to the Northwest Territory from the East prior to 1825, your choices were limited to canoeing with portaging around sizable natural barriers, or a person could take a rugged land passage on horseback or a horsedrawn wagon over perilous dirt roads and Indian trails. Neither method was suitable for commercial success or serious westward expansion. There needed to be some way to open the interior of the continent west of the Appalachians to farming and settlement.

The driving force behind the Erie Canal was New York Governor DeWitt Clinton. His vision made Detroit a destination city in the nineteenth century and provided a water highway for many of our European ancestors--especially German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Scandinavian, and Greek. These settlers were not like the French who trapped and hunted wildlife establishing a lucrative fur trade with Canada and Europe. These new immigrants were land-hungry farmers and empire builders who wanted a fresh start in life, and they changed the face of the Great Lakes region forever.

Once Governor Clinton raised the seven million dollars for its construction, the groundbreaking for the Erie Canal began at a middle segment of the proposed route in Rome, New York, on July 4, 1817. When finished, the canal would stretch 363 miles from Albany, New York on the Hudson River to Buffalo, New York on the east end of Lake Erie, opening the Great Lakes to westward American expansion.

Untold numbers of Irish immigrants and draft animals provided most of the muscle power to dig out the canal. The excavated soil was piled on the north side and graded to form a towpath for horses to pull canal boats and barges along the route. Hundreds of migrant German masons were hired to build the stonework for thirty-four locks needed to raise the boats 565 feet--the elevation difference between the Hudson River and Lake Erie. Where the canal had to cross valleys and water barriers, the masons built eighteen aqueducts to carry the boats above them. 

Lockport, New York
In 1823, the builders reached the Niagara Escarpment at what came to be known as Lockport, New York. Canal engineers devised five locks along a three-mile stretch to carry the canal eighty feet over the dolomitic limestone barrier. The original Erie Canal profile was forty feet wide at the surface, twenty-eight feet wide at the bottom and four feet deep. In 1835, the State of New York enlarged the canal to seventy feet wide and seven feet deep, further encouraging westward expansion and making New York City the economic powerhouse of the Eastern Seaboard.

"Erie Canal Opening" by Charles Yardley Turner (1905).
The Erie Canal was completed in eight years, two years ahead of schedule at a cost of $7,143,000. In a grand ceremony, Governor Clinton and other dignitaries boarded the Seneca Chief steamer in Buffalo and traveled the length of the canal to the Hudson River and down to New York harbor. On October 26, 1825, amid patriotic fanfare and a brass band, Governor Clinton took a keg of Lake Erie water and poured it into the Atlantic calling it a "marriage of the waters." The keg was then refilled with ocean water for the return trip of the Seneca Chief to Lake Erie to consummate the exchange of water.

Erie Canal aqueduct
The Erie Canal became an instant commercial success and stimulated economic growth along its entire route. Before the canal, the only way west through the Appalachian Mountains was overland on rugged wagon roads. The trip to Detroit took five to six weeks. The Erie Canal cut that time in half.

Prior to the canal, bulk goods traveled on the backs of pack animals limited to no more than 250# per beast of burden. Canal boats could carry up to thirty tons of cargo. Shipping costs dropped 90% from $100/ton to less than $10/ton. Buffalo, New York became a major transhipment point for farm produce from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan going east while manufactured goods and European immigrants shipped west.

Historian Harvey C. Colburn wrote in The Story of Ypsilanti (1923) that "Immigration in Detroit from Europe was greatly facilitated by the Erie Canal. The first steamer on Lake Erie was the Walk-on-the-Water in 1819. By 1826, there were seven steamers on the lake, and by 1830, a daily service was established between Buffalo and Detroit." If your ancestors came to Detroit between 1825 and the 1850s, chances are they floated up the Erie Canal courtesy of the labor of thousands of skilled and unskilled immigrants who preceeded them.

The Erie Canal reconfigured the young United States' national religious and social dynamics by connecting the Hudson Valley with the Great Lakes region. By 1842, the New York Railroad had a continuous line linking the East with the continental interior. Passenger traffic on the canal tapered off in favor of the modern steam locomotives with their speed and relative comfort. The canal simply increased its commercial freight business. Water was still the most cost-effective way to move bulk goods, and the canal could ship thirteen times more tonnage than all the trains of New York Central Railroad.

By the end of the 1880s, railroads dominated passenger transportation, but it wasn't until competition from improved roadways and the trucking industry at the beginning of the twentieth century that the canal was rendered obsolete. Today, 200 miles of the old canal are used for public recreation like boating, biking, hiking, and cruising.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Detroit's Nineteenth-Century Moonlight Towers

Newport, Rhode Island introduced the first gas street-lighting in America in 1803. Throughout the nineteenth-century, it was the preferred method of outdoor street illumination, but the system was expensive to install and each lamp had limited range. In the 1880s, electric carbon-arc lighting offered a relatively inexpensive alternative to coal-generated gas lighting.

Large municipalities who could afford them invested in moonlight towers to illuminate large expanses like parks and public squares. Each tower was crowned with six carbon-arc lights giving off 200 times more illumination than the most powerful incandescent light bulbs.

Because the "moonlight" was harsh, the arc-lights were mounted 175 feet high and lit up a circle with a radius of 1,500 feet.  Downtown nightlife became a new reality for many Americans who believed that general illumination drove criminals deeper into the shadows.

The lights buzzed loudly and dropped shreds of burning ash as the carbon electrodes burned quickly and had to be replaced nightly. The height of the moonlight towers made them difficult to maintain, so a counter-balanced "dumbwaiter" elevator system was soon developed to change out electrodes more efficiently.

Detroit winter street lit up by a moonlight tower.

Detroit had one of the most extensive moonlight tower systems in the country inaugurated in 1882. One-hundred and twenty-two towers were placed 1,000 to 1,200 feet apart. The entire system illuminated twenty-one square miles. By the turn of the century, most of the towers were replaced by incandescent lighting once the AC electrical grid was laid out. Detroit sold its towers to several small municipalities such as Grand Rapids, Michigan and Austin, Texas.

Austin moonlight tower.
In 1885, Austin, Texas was terrorized be a serial killer known as the Servant Girl Annihilator, who killed eight servant girls all attacked at night. The only night light Austin had in those days was moonlight, but when the evening skies were cloudy, Austin had no light at all.

Detroit agreed to sell thirty-one of their used moonlight towers to Austin. Over the years, the lamps have been refitted with modern mercury-vapor light bulbs which require much less maintainence than the crude carbon-arc technology. Seventeen of their original thirty-one towers--the last of the moonlight towers--are still in operation.

Austin city officials were ready to remove the towers by 1976, but they were too late. The moonlight towers were inducted into the National Registry of Historical Places. In 1993, the city dismantled and rebuilt each existing tower for a citywide Moonlight Tower Festival which began in 1995. Next time you are in Austin, Texas, behold some Michigan history.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Detroit's Great Fire of 1805

"The Detroit Fire: June 11, 1805" painting by Robert Thom (1965).

Detroit's history is forged in fire. From the furnaces of its steel industry to a history of blazing civil unrest, Detroit is as familiar with fire as Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. From the senseless arson of Devil's Night to the vigilante urban renewal of more recent years, fire has been an agent for change and part of the city's destiny.

Major General Arthur St. Clair
Territorial Governor Arthur St. Clair approved Detroit's city charter on February 1, 1802. On the 23rd of the month, the Michigan Board of Trustees adopted a fire code requiring all residents and business owners to sweep their chimneys regularly, have a large barrel full of water, buckets at the ready, and a ladder that could reach rooftops. The code compelled all residents to turn out to form fire brigades when necessary, carrying water from the banks of the Detroit River to the three acre timber stockade where the wooden homes were crowded together separated by narrow lanes. 

At about 9:00 am on June 11, 1805, the only fire-fighting equipment the city had were wooden buckets. Although no official cause for what history notes as the Great Fire was ever determined, it was widely believed that baker John Harvey carelessly tapped out some hot tobacco ash from his pipe catching some straw on fire. The fire quickly consumed his barn and spread embers throughout the city. It soon became evident that the fire brigade efforts were useless. The fire spread too quickly. Residents saved what they could and fled from the stockade. By afternoon, every home and building was razed except for the stone fort along the waterfront and some brick chimneys.

Father Gabriel  Richard
Fortunately, nobody was killed. Jesuit Priest Gabriel Richard comforted his parishioners in Latin before the smoldering embers of St. Anne's church, "Speramus Meliora Resurget Cineribus." Those words became the official motto of the City of Detroit in 1827.

Judge Augustus Woodward
The legacy of the Great Fire is still evident in 21st century Detroit in two ways. First, when Detroit was rebuilt, Judge Augustus Woodward took on the task of city planning by laying out a street plan that radiated spoke-like from the riverfront with broad avenues--Fort Street, Michigan Avenue, Grand River Boulevard, Woodward Avenue, Gratiot Avenue, and Jefferson Avenue reached inland to the outskirts of the city and beyond. The new municipal code called for larger lots for commercial development as well as a military parade ground named Campus Martius and a public park named Grand Circus Park anchoring what became Downtown Detroit.  

In the days of horse-drawn carriages and wagons, the street arrangement may have seemed elegant and sophisticated. After all, the street plan was based on the urban layouts of Washington D.C. and Paris, France. But in our modern fast-paced society of high speed automobiles, the eighteenth-century arrangement of diagonal streets is difficult to navigate by car and not particularly pedestrian friendly.

The second way Detroiters are reminded of the Great Fire is emblazoned on the city's official flag reflecting its early history. The flag's field is divided into quarters. One panel represents the city's French heritage with five golden fleurs-de-lis on a white background. One panel represents British rule with three golden lions on a red background. The other two panels represent the United States. One has thirteen stars on a blue background and the other has thirteen red and white stripes. The city's emblem and motto are centered on the flag. A woman weeps while another comforts her with the words of Father Richard, "We hope for better times. It will rise from the ashes." In our time, these words are prophetic.

Link to post about St. Anne's Catholic church:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More Ypsilanti, Michigan Hidden History Revealed--the Richard Streicher, Jr. Murder

Bill Kurtis and Company

A CBS interview opportunity for Through the Decades with Bill Kurtis--about the John Norman Collins murders--brought me to Southern Michigan last week. Just as I thought interest was dying down after a year and a half on the market, Terror In Ypsilanti still has some legs. This interview segment is scheduled to air sometime in August. The national exposure is welcomed.

While in Ypsilanti, I was pleased to discover that NPR/WEMU producer Patrick Campion won an "Excellence in Broadcasting Award" from the Michigan Broadcasters Association for his radio feature "Hidden in Plain Sight--John Norman Collins." Patrick interviewed me while we went to several of the key locations in Collins's killing spree. Patrick did a fine job. There is a link to the program at the end of this post.

Museum and Archives
I went to the Ypsilanti Historical Society (YHS) to get the go ahead to publish the true crime story of one of Ypsilanti's most disturbing events--the Depression-era murder of seven-year-old Richard Streicher, Jr. found stabbed and frozen to death beneath the Frog Island Footbridge in Depot Town. The unfortunate boy's 1935 murder was investigated by Ypsilanti and State Police over a two-year period. Although townspeople and police were in general agreement who the guilty party was, investigators were not able to make a direct connection to bring charges. Richie Streicher, Jr.'s body was buried in an unmarked grave in Highland Cemetery over eighty years ago and his murder fell into obscurity.

Beginning in 2007, YHS docents George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott began collecting any documentation they could find. Responding to their Freedom of Information Act request, Michigan State Police produced 1,100 documents related to this case, some more revealing than others. A number of relevant documents was clearly missing, but there was enough factual information to recreate the history and the atmosphere of the era.

In 2011, George and Lyle interviewed Richie's last living classmates who remembered him. They were in their mid-eighties. These several interviews were the living history materials George and Lyle were able to collect. It was George's intention to write a book telling this piece of Ypsi's hidden history, but his failing health overtook him in 2016.

George helped me with local research on serial killer John Norman Collins for my Terror In Ypsilanti true crime book which was most helpful. When Lyle McDermott asked if I would be interested in taking on George's project, I was honored to take on the challenge of making his vision a reality. It took me two years to puzzle the pieces of this tragedy together and to begin the publication process, but this summer, The Richard Streicher, Jr. Murder--Ypsilanti's Depot Town Mystery--should be available for purchase.

In 2016, a fundraiser was held to purchase a headstone to mark Richie Streicher's gravesite.
When I return to the Detroit area in mid-July for Bookfest 2018 at the Eastern Market, I hope to schedule a couple of Ypsi speaking engagements to discuss the project and promote the book locally.

Initially, the paperback will be available from Amazon, the YHS Archives on N. Huron Street, and at my book talks. The ebook will be available in Kindle, Nook, iPad, Google, and KOBO formats.

Link to NPR/WEMU's Hidden in Plain Sight John Norman Collins interview:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Purple Gang

Purple Gang roundup by Detroit police: Sam Axler, Eddie Fletcher, Sam Goldfarb, Phil Keywell, Abe Zussman, Willie Lake, Harry Fleisher, Jack Stein, and Abe Axler (seated)
There is an oft-repeated story about how the Purple Gang got their name. When an Eastern Market butcher was assaulted and his shop vandalized, he reported to police that "These boys are not like other children, they're off-color. They're rotten purple like tainted meat. They're the Purple Gang." Whether the anecdote is accurate or not, the street thugs made their presence known to merchants and street peddlers from Paradise Valley to the Eastern Market--anybody they could squeeze a buck from was a target.

Ray Bernstein
The Bernstein brothers--Raymond, Abe, Joe and Isadore "Izzy"--were young teens who ran with the gang of street toughs in their Hastings Street neighborhood on Detroit's lower East Side. The gang started off as petty thieves and skakedown artists. By 1919, they branched out to armed robbery, extortion, protection, hijacking, and murder under the tutelage of more experienced neighborhood gangsters from the Sugar House Gang. As their reputation for ruthless savagery grew, so did their power and grip over Detroit's underworld.

In 1927, Frank Wright, a Chicago-based jewel thief, along with Joseph Bloom and George Cohen, New York based burglars, began to kidnap Detroit gamblers for ransom. Among the gamblers snatched were some Purple Gang members. The Purples plotted against the interlopers. One of Wright's men--Meyer "Fish" Bloomfield--was kidnapped by the Purples to lure Wright into the open. The ploy worked. A ransom was agreed upon and a hostage exchange for money was to take place at the Milaflores Apartment on 106 East Alexandrine Ave.

At 4:30 am on March 28th, 1927, Wright showed up with Bloom and Cohen and knocked on the door of room 308 as prearranged. Three men at the end of the hallway opened the stairwell door and fired at point-blank range with pistols and a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun (Tommy Gun). The trigger men escaped down the back stairway.
Fred "Killer" Burke finally convicted

Evidence was found in the apartment connecting it with Purple Gang members Eddie Fletcher and the Axler brothers--Abe and Simon. The next day, Purples Abe Axler and Fred "Killer" Burke were pulled over on Woodward Avenue. Although they were suspects in the Milaflores slaughter, nobody was ever charged. It was commonly believed that Fred Burke wielded the Tommy Gun and Abe Axler and Ed Fletcher--known as the Siamese Twins--used hand guns. 

Charles Givens, a reporter for the Detroit Times wrote, "In nine out of ten unsolved cases, investigators are virtually certain who the murderer is. Proof is another thing. Ask detectives who handle these cases and you get the same answer: 'We knew who the murderer was, but there were no eyewitnesses or evidence'."

The Milaflores Apartment murders did result in a Michigan ban on hardware stores and other retail outlets selling submachine guns and multi-round magazines to private citizens. Only police and the military could legally buy them.

Abe Bernstein
Abe Bernstein was essentially the gang's behind the scenes business manager. In 1925, Bernstein and corrupt American Federation of Labor president Francis X. Martell went into a business partnership to control prices in the cleaner and dyers industry. The Cleaners and Dyers Association was formed and the city's independently owned cleaners were forced to join or pay the consequences. Shops were dynamited or burned down. Laundry plants were destroyed, owners and employees were beat up, and some people were gunned down.

A brave businessman stood up and filed a complaint in 1928 with the Wayne County prosecutor. In all, nine Purple Gang members (Raymond Bernstein, Irving Milberg, Eddie Fletcher, Joe Miller, Irving Shapiro, Abe Kaminski, Abe Axler, and Simon Axler) were indicted for extortion. Several days later, Abe Bernstein surrendered and paid a $500 appearance bond. All the Purples were acquitted. The gang was at the height of its power with a feeling of invincibility. The huge amount of money the Purples skimmed from this labor racket allowed the gang to dominate the city's underworld until 1931.

The Collingwood Manor Massacre on September 16th, 1931 marked the beginning of the end of the Purple Gang's stranglehold over Detroit's underworld. An inter-gang dispute erupted when three Purple Gang members violated the underworld code of poaching outside their operating territory. Herman "Hymie" Paul, Isodore "Izzy" Sutker, and Joseph Leibowitz were members of a Purple Gang faction called The Little Jewish Navy (LJN). They owned and operated boats transporting liquor across the Detroit River. The trio wanted to break away from the gang and establish their own organization and territory.

Collingwood Manor at 1740 Collingwood Avenue

A bookie go-between named Sol Levine brokered a meeting between gang factions and transported the LJN men to the apartment on Collingwood Avenue. The LJN, thinking they were going to cut a deal with the gang's leaders. Ray Bernstein ordered the hit and stayed outside in the car acting as the wheel man. After a brief discussion with Purple Gang members Harry Fleisher, Irving Milberg and Harry Keywell, Fleisher stood up and brutally shot the three unarmed men to death. Fleisher dropped his gun into an open can of green paint as he and his men ran down the stairs and out a back entrance to the alley where Bernstein was waiting in the get-away car.

In the heat of the moment, Sol Levine was left behind in shock and was arrested when the police arrived. In fear of his life because he was the only eyewitness to the murder, he turned state's evidence placing himself under police protection. Milberg, Keywell, and Bernstein were arrested and convicted of first-degree murder and sent to Michigan's maximum security prison in Marquette. The trigger man Harry Fleisher left town and was never convicted of the crime. In those days, criminals had a much larger and less-documented world to move around in. It was still possible to simply vanish.

Eddie Fletcher and Abe Axler--"The Siamese Twins"
The Sicilian Mafia--called the "Moustache Pete's" in Detroit--began to fight the Purples over territory they could no longer control. The bodies of Abe Axler and Eddie Fletcher were found shot to death on November 27, 1933 around 2:00 am in the back seat of a brand new Chrysler at the corner of Telegraph and Quarton roads in Bloomfield Hills. The bullet-ridden bodies of the so-called "Siamese Twins" were placed side-by-side, their hands intertwined as a sign of disrespect.

Harry Millman
Purple Gang gunman and loose cannon Harry Millman was brutally shot to death on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, 1937. Radio crime reporter Walter Winchell described the hit this way:
In a big Midwest metropolis yesterday, another gang member met justice at the end of a gun. Prominent Detroit Purple Gang member Harry Millman was enjoying a drink in the bar of Boesky's Restaurant, on 12th Street (and Hazelwood), when four men entered brandishing guns and shot the hoodlum ten times. His body was still warm on the floor when the Detroit Police arrived. His killers were rumored to be members of Brooklyn's notorious Murder, Incorporated. Millman's death signaled the end of the Purples as a force in organized crime in the Motor City. Because of his repeated escapes from convictions for kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, Millman earned the nickname "Lucky." Yesterday, his luck ran out. This is Walter Winchell reporting.

Millman was whacked for feuding with the Detroit Mafia and extorting money from their brothels and gambling operations. The predecessors of Detroit's modern day Mafia simply stepped in to fill the void once the Purple Gang was neutralized.

Abe Bernstein was spared because he had friends in high places--namely New York gangsters Meyer Lansky and Joe Adonis--with whom he co-owned several Miami gambling casinos. Abe Bernstein was allowed to live out his life bookmaking from his suite at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit until his death from a stroke in 1968.

Detroit Police Chief of Detectives James E. McCarthy credited the Collingwood Massacre for "(breaking) the back of the once powerful Purple Gang, writing the end to more than five years of arrogance and terrorism."


Part One: