October 2, 1931: Holden-Keating Gang robs Duluth bank messengers

On this day in Duluth in 1931, three members of what would later be dubbed the “Holden-Keating Gang” robbed bank messengers in downtown Duluth and made off with $58,500—$8,500 in cash and $50,000 in “negotiable bonds and coupons.” It was a daring, daylight robbery, occurring at 5:45 in the afternoon on West First Street between 4th and 5th Avenues West, directly across from City Hall, which then held police headquarters. Shots were fired, and Duluth News Tribune proofreader Sadie Knowles was hit in the thigh by a ricocheting bullet, but she was not seriously injured. Ten minutes later the thieves stopped near 24th Avenue West and Third Street and commandeered a Cadillac that belonged to Mrs. Marshall H. Alworth, widow of the prominent Duluth businessman. They not only stole the car, but also kidnapped the chauffeur, 36-year-old Clarence Bertram. They raced to Brookston, Minnesota, where they stranded Bertram at the side of the road. The bandits told Bertram they only robbed the messengers because, “It’s the depression. We needed money and we knew where to get it and we didn’t go to the poor for it either.” The bandits turned out to include Thomas James Holden and Francis Keating, who had begun robbing banks in the 1920s. They escaped from Leavenworth prison in 1930 and made their way to St. Paul via Chicago. Holden and Keating were arrested in 1932 after a series of similar daylight robberies.

Thomas James Holden and Francis Keating. (Image: Public Domain)