this day in crime history: january 16, 1935

On this date in 1935, Kate “Ma” Barker, matriarch of the infamous family of criminals, died along with her son Fred in a hail of gunfire near Ocala, FL. Far from the Tommy-gun toting outlaw she’s been portrayed as in popular culture, Ma Barker’s role in the Barker-Karpis gang was probably limited to providing logistical and moral (or is it immoral?) support.

On January 8, 1935, her son Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago. When he was searched, he was found to have a map of the area where his brother Fred Barker was hiding out with Ma. On the 16th, federal agents surrounded the house and ordered the Barkers to surrender. A gunfight followed. Both Ma and Fred were killed in the battle. When they entered the house, agents found a Tommy gun still in Ma’s hands. Or so they claimed.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Ma Barker

Find a Grave – “Ma” Barker

FBI – Barker-Karpis Gang

Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, January 17, 1935 – “Fred Barker and Mother Slain in Florida Hideout”

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6 thoughts on “this day in crime history: january 16, 1935

  1. John D.:
    You have to say that the number of “gangs” back in the 1930s were quite a different sort than those found in major cities, the cosa nostra, and today’s street gangs.
    Not that they were any less bad in their OWN right.
    But they were ALWAYS on the move (but never that far or fast that the “G-Men” didn’t catch up and take them down.

    Good call.

    Stay safe.

    Like

    • Once the FBI (then known as the Division of Investigation) took up the chase, it took about a year and a half to capture or kill most of the “Public Enemies.” I think what made them so successful at first, was their early adoption of the latest technology (like automatic weapons and cars with V8 engines) gave them an edge. They also used tactics that were very effective against law enforcement. Once LE upgraded their equipment and tactics – including an agency that could cross local jurisdictional lines – it was only a matter of time before the game was over.

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