Purple Gang-Linked Tours Offered in Albion

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ALBION, Mich. (AP) -- Far from embarrassed at their town's organized crime ties, Albion promoters are turning the Purple Gang into a tourist attraction.
The website of Albion's Downtown Development Authority offers a brochure and map for a walking tour of sites linked to the former Detroit-based crime ring.
"One of the most notorious organized crime groups ever to operate in Michigan -- the Depression-era 'Purple gang' -- actually used Albion for some of its activities," according to the brochure.
Albion is where members of the Purple Gang settled in the post-Prohibition era following the imprisonment of many of their leaders.
"For a time in the 1920s and 1930s, the Purple Gang controlled bootlegging and other organized crime activities in Detroit and throughout eastern and central Michigan," the brochure said. "Even Chicago's Al Capone preferred to buy bootlegged Canadian whiskey from the Purple Gang rather than try to take over the gang's territory."
The tour takes about an hour and regularly attracts visitors, according to group Executive Director Nidia Wolf.
"Some are local, some are guests at a bed and breakfast a few blocks away where the owner talks about it, and some are just fascinated by that era," Wolf told the Detroit Free Press.
The tour sites include an alley where gang members beat up rivals, a junkyard that fronted for illegal activities and a police station where several Purple Gang members spent time behind bars.
It also lists a site where the gang met to plan its activities.
"Allegedly, gang members would show up at the Boehm Theater on Sunday evenings and use the balcony to hold private meetings during the show," the brochure said.
The Purple Gang apparently chose Albion, now a city of about 9,000, because it was on U.S. 12 about halfway between Detroit and the Midwest's then-organized crime-capital of Chicago.
"The final chapter of the Purple Gang activities around Albion was written in 1945, when Albion resident Senator Warren G. Hooper was gunned down . . . in his car on his way home from Lansing," the brochure said. It said that prevented Hooper from testifying about corruption in the state Legislature.
Purple Gang members Harry and Sam Flesher were convicted of conspiracy to murder in the case.

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