Thomas Egan (gangster)

Last updated
Thomas Egan
Born(1874-11-01)November 1, 1874
DiedApril 20, 1919(1919-04-20) (aged 44)
Occupation Gangster, politician

Thomas Egan (November 1, 1874 - April 20, 1919) was a St. Louis politician and organized crime figure involved in bootlegging and illegal gambling. [1] Egan was the namesake of the infamous Egan's Rats.

Organized crime groupings of highly centralized criminal enterprises, commonly seeking monetary profit

Organized crime is a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals who intend to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist groups, are politically motivated. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, such as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for "protection". Gangs may become disciplined enough to be considered organized. A criminal organization or gang can also be referred to as a mafia, mob, or crime syndicate; the network, subculture and community of criminals may be referred to as the underworld. European sociologists define the mafia as a type of organized crime group that specializes in the supply of extra-legal protection and quasi law enforcement. Gambetta's classic work on the Sicilian Mafia generates an economic study of the mafia, which exerts great influence on studies of the Russian Mafia, the Chinese Mafia, Hong Kong Triads and the Japanese Yakuza.

Egan's Rats was an American organized crime gang that exercised considerable power in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1890 to 1924. Its 35 years of criminal activity included bootlegging, labor slugging, voter intimidation, armed robbery, and murder. Although predominantly Irish-American, Egan's Rats did include a few Italian-Americans and some Jewish immigrants, most notably Max "Big Maxie" Greenberg.

The son of an Irish-American saloonkeeper, Egan was born and raised in the Kerry Patch, then known as the riverfront Irish ghetto of St. Louis. With some of his childhood pals, he began running with a local gang of thugs, known as the Ashley Street Gang. Egan's best friend, Thomas "Snake" Kinney, was a local street tough and Democratic politician. During an ill-fated burglary attempt on October 17, 1894, Egan was shot through the face by a policeman. Tom survived but was left with an ugly scar on his jaw. Throughout the years, his stock in the gang climbed. By 1904, when Snake Kinney was elected to the Missouri State Senate, Tom Egan had taken over leadership of the street gang.

Thomas Kinney American politician

Thomas Kinney was a Missouri state senator and St. Louis organized crime figure in the early 20th century. He was one of the founding members of the infamous Egan's Rats gang.

On the night of January 15, 1907, Tom Egan shot one of his longtime enemies, Willie Gagel, to death in the Jolly Five Club. While his men were booked at the police station, the desk sergeant snarled that they were all a bunch of "rats", thereby giving the Egan Gang their famous moniker; Egan's Rats. Acquitted of Gagel's murder, Egan was soon confronted by one of his top men, James "Kid" Wilson, whom he suspected was having an affair with his wife Nellie. Egan shot Wilson dead on October 22, 1907 and was eventually acquitted.

Serving as both a city constable and leader of the St. Louis Democratic City Committee, Egan was one of the most powerful gangsters in all the Midwest by the time of the death of his brother-in-law Tom Kinney on May 15, 1912.

That same year, Egan gave an interview to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which he flaunted his power and clout in the underworld. In one famous sentence, Egan boasted, "...we don't shoot unless we know who is present," sounding eerily like Bugsy Siegel saying forty years later, "We only kill each other." Knowing that the up-and-coming Prohibition movement would become the law of the land, Tom Egan set up a liquor smuggling network as early as the mid-1910s.

<i>St. Louis Post-Dispatch</i> daily newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the major regional newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, serving St. Louis City and County, St. Charles County, the Metro East and surrounding counties. It is the only daily newspaper in the city. The publication has received 18 Pulitzer Prizes.

Bugsy Siegel American mobster

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was an American mobster. Siegel was known as one of the most "infamous and feared gangsters of his day". Described as handsome and charismatic, he became one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters. He was also a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip. Siegel was not only influential within the Jewish mob but, like his friend and fellow gangster Meyer Lansky, he also held significant influence within the American Mafia and the largely Italian-Jewish National Crime Syndicate.

In January 1916, Egan's saloon headquarters at Broadway and Carr streets was padlocked by police after one of the original Egan's Rats, William "Skippy" Rohan, was shot dead on the premises. Despite this, Tom Egan remained on top of the St. Louis underworld until he was diagnosed with Bright's Disease in late 1918. Egan died at the age of 44 on April 20, 1919. Tom's younger brother William took over leadership of the Egan's Rats.

William "Skippy" Rohan was a St. Louis gangster and an original member of Egan's Rats.

William Egan was a St. Louis politician and organized crime figure involved in bootlegging and illegal gambling. His brother was the namesake of the infamous Egan's Rats.

Related Research Articles

The North Side Gang, also known as the North Side Mob, was the dominant Irish-American criminal organization within Chicago during the Prohibition era from the early-to-late 1920s and principal rival of the Johnny Torrio–Al Capone organization, later known as the Chicago Outfit.

Gus Winkler American mobster

Gus Winkler was an American gangster who headed a Prohibition-era criminal gang specializing in armed robbery and murder for hire with Fred "Killer" Burke. Winkler was an associate of Chicago mob boss Al Capone and is considered a suspect in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Frank McErlane (1894–1932) was a Prohibition-era Irish American gangster. He led the Saltis-McErlane Gang, allied with the Johnny Torrio-Al Capone Gang, against rival bootleggers, the Southside O'Donnell Brothers. He is credited with introducing the Thompson submachine gun to Chicago's underworld. The Illinois Crime Survey called him, "the most brutal gunman who ever pulled a trigger in Chicago."

William Colbeck (gangster) American politician

William "Dint" Colbeck was a St. Louis politician and organized crime figure involved in bootlegging and illegal gambling. He succeeded William Egan as head of the Egan's Rats bootlegging gang in the early 1920s.

Leo Vincent Brothers

Leo Vincent Brothers a.k.a. "Vincent Bader" was an early 20th-century gangster who gained notoriety throughout the underworld after being convicted of the 1930 murder of Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle.

Fred Burke Mafia hitmen and Prohibition-era gangster

Fred "Killer" Burke was an American armed robber and contract killer responsible for many crimes during the Prohibition era. He was considered a prime suspect in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.

David "Chippy" Robinson (1897–1967) was a St. Louis armed robber and contract killer responsible for many crimes during the Prohibition era. He was a top ranking member of the Egan's Rats gang.

Harry "Cherries" Dunn was a St. Louis gangster and member of the Egan's Rats.

John "Pudgy" Dunn was a St. Louis gangster and member of the Egan's Rats.

Robert "Bob" Carey was a Midwestern armed robber and contract killer responsible for many crimes during the Prohibition era. He is considered a suspect in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.

Max "Big Maxie" Greenberg (1883–1933) was an American bootlegger and organized crime figure in Detroit, Michigan, and later a member of Egan's Rats in St. Louis. He oversaw the purchasing of sacramental wine from Orthodox rabbis, then allowed under the Volstead Act, which were sold to bootleggers in the St. Louis–Kansas City, Missouri area during Prohibition. He was also associated with mobsters in this particular method of acquiring illegal liquor including Waxey Gordon, Meyer Lansky and Arnold Rothstein.

Walter Costello was a St. Louis gangster and member of the Egan's Rats.

The Bottoms Gang was an American street gang that terrorized St. Louis, Missouri in the early 20th century. Their main criminal activities included voter intimidation, armed robbery, assault, illegal lottery, and murder. The gang's members were primarily Irish-American, with a handful of German and Missouri Creole hoodlums sprinkled in their ranks. The ferocious Bottoms Gang had a meteoric rise and fall in St. Louis's underworld. They feuded with the larger Egan's Rats gang and became notorious for going out of their way to attack members of the St. Louis Police Department. They made up for their lack of numbers with frenzied brutality and reckless nerve. Crippled by arrests and murders, the Bottoms Gang had ceased to exist by the time America entered World War I.

The history of the National Crime Syndicate started with prohibition which began on January 16, 1920. Ethnic gangs, businessmen and everyday citizens across the United States became involved in rumrunning to obtain quick wealth and power. Prohibition was also the beginning of great wealth, power and political influence for crime groups and made it possible to begin planning an eventual move to organize crime on a national level.

The Hogan Gang was a St. Louis-based criminal organization that sold illegal liquor during Prohibition in addition to committing labor slugging, voter intimidation, armed robbery, and murder. Although predominantly Irish-American, the Hogan Gang included several Italian and Jewish mobsters amongst their ranks; most notably, Max "Big Maxie" Greenberg. They fought a notoriously violent gang war with Egan's Rats in the early 1920s.

William J. Kinney was a former alderman and federal liquor inspector. He was the brother of Missouri state senators Thomas Kinney and Michael Kinney. His duty station was the Jack Daniel's building in St. Louis. He was an ally of the Egan's Rats, a group of notorious local gangsters. In August 1923, crooks methodically siphoned bourbon through 150 feet of hose to trucks, draining 893 barrels. In May 1924, Kinney and others were indicted for the scheme. Kinney and 22 others were convicted in 1925 in Indianapolis, a change-of-venue location.


Further reading