Barker Gang Kidnaps Bank President

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Ma Barker: America’s Most Wanted Mother

When the suggestion to kidnap Edward Bremer was presented to Ma, she ordered her crew to meet and discuss the proposal. In the summer of 1933, the Barker-Karpis Gang had kidnapped William Hamm, Jr., the president of Hamm’s Brewing Company. The caper was successful, yielding the gang $100,000 in cash for the return of the millionaire. News of the kidnapping was reported throughout the country. “Money or death was the ultimatum laid down by the culprits that absconded with Hamm’s Brewing Company executive,” the June 17, 1933, edition of the Albert Lea Evening Tribune read.

William had been captive near the same location in Bensenville, Illinois, where Edward Bremer was secured away. The police had withdrawn from the case at the request of the family. They were frightened of what might happen to William if law enforcement interfered. The ransom note from the abductors warned the Hamms that William would be shot and killed if the police were allowed any involvement. A note sent to William’s father instructed him to deliver the ransom money in “$5, $10, and $20 bills.” Payment of the ransom for the release of William, the kidnappers directed, was to be made using one of the company’s beer trucks. Not only did the Barker-Karpis Gang get the full amount they were asking in ransom, but when the authorities did begin investigating the kidnapping, a rival gang was arrested for the crime.

“J. Edgar Hoover himself announced from Washington that his men had put together a solid case against the Touhy gang,” Alvin Karpis wrote in his memoirs. “The scientific evidence left no doubt at all,” Hoover said, “that the Touhys were behind the kidnapping of William Hamm.”

The ease with which the Barker-Karpis Gang was able to get away with taking William and collecting the ransom was an argument for kidnapping Edward Bremer. In late December 1933, Ma’s boys convened at William Weaver’s apartment in St. Paul to talk through the details of the abduction. Who would trail Edward to learn about his habits, routine, friends, and work associates, who would write the ransom notes, who would deliver those notes to what contact, and when the job would be done were all determined. With the exception of Arthur, whom Ma suggested might have been a little too rough with the victim, everyone performed his duties as planned.

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To learn more about the life and violent death of Ma Barker

and her sons read

Ma Barker: America’s Most Wanted Mother