The Story Behind Senator McKellar And J. Edgar Hoover

Whether you recall it from a movie or a book, the incident might stand out in your mind. It was the confrontation during the 1930s that would haunt JEH for a time after.  That incident …..the one when it looked like Tennessee Senator McKellar challenged JEH’s manhood was unlike any other.  It was during the hearings that McKellar wanted to know from JEH how many actual arrests he had made himself.  The Director stumbled and stammered…

But what was actually going on with regard to the rift between McKellar and JEH?  It’s always helpful to know the “story behind the story.”  In this 2013 article in a Knoxville newspaper, some of these behind the scenes “rubs” between the two are revealed. 

Factually, with regard to the “arrest challenge,” we know what happened next; JEH put out the word that he wanted to know when SAC E. J. Connelley and others in New Orleans had gangster Alvin Karpis in their sights.  Hoover, Tolson and others would arrive prior to, and participate in the arrest.  After the grab, the media had a field day in 1936 by suggesting that JEH had arrested Karpis by himself.  (It should be noted that a random sampling of news stories for that day reveals the Director continually using the term “we.”) Released Karpis arrest documents I’ve examined don’t reveal anything close to some of these media accounts. Arrest documents reveal the presence of seventeen agents with various SACs at the scene. 

In his later memoirs, Karpis would lambast Hoover stating “I made that SOB” and would go on record stating that Hoover was hiding behind a building during the arrest and came out when others told him “it was all clear” and that Karpis was in custody.  Once again, documents released point to evidence proving Karpis wrong. 

In fact, JEH was in a a Bureau car with another SAC (Brantley) and SA W. L. “Buck” Buchanan.  As they converged on the Karpis vehicle, two documented pedestrian obstacles prevented a simultaneous arrival with Connelley and others at the Karpis auto. One obstacle was a young boy crossing in front of the Bureau car and the other was a policeman on horseback doing similar. 

As a side note, we’ve shown from contact with Buchanan’s son, and letters from JEH, that it was Buchanan’s necktie used to bind Karpis hands that day. All the agents had forgotten to bring handcuffs. A long search by us a few years back revealed the necktie used has disappeared into obscurity. For decades, the media claimed the tie belonged to SA Clarence Hurt.  Again, not according to the evidence at hand.

To get a full accounting of the “behind the scenes story” with JEH and the Senator, read the article at the above link.  

Everyone have a great Thanksgiving…

Working With J. Edgar Hoover - Eye Witness

SA Charlie Kleinkauf (RIP) entered on duty as a clerical employee in 1931. In 1932, he was assigned to night clerical duties which included having direct contact with J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) (and other ranking Bureau personnel) regularly on an array of matters.  He worked the early teletype system, decoded messages, joked with JEH and Helen Gandy, and took calls from SAC’s like Melvin Purvis. Two of those calls from Purvis alone are memorable. One, that Inspector Cowley had died from his wounds at the Barrington, Il. and another call that Dillinger was dead. Both, among others, to be relayed to JEH at home. 

In 1939, Kleinkauf was appointed special agent.  

In 1993, Kleinkauf submitted 5 pages of notes to “Grapevine” Editor Larry Heim regarding his early Bureau days. His notes were sanitized and appeared in a later article in the Bureau's internal magazine. 

Recently, a family member provided us his original 5 pages of typed notes, among other items, for inclusion at our website. 

While we’re sifting the documents, we did post these notes for others to read. 

Read the Kleinkauf notes of his 1930’s early days at FBIHQ.  As Kelinkauf typed, “I had the unique experience of working in a capacity which today would be unheard of.”  

Read Kleinkauf's notes of his early FBI career

"Charlie’s recollections are absolutely fascinating!  They show the human side of JEH, and it appears that he wasn’t such a dictatorial person as many had painted him.  I was in the same unit at FBIHQ as Ed Appel, son of the Charles Appel mentioned by Charlie in his recollections.  Ed shared with us some interesting tidbits about his dad’s early days in the Bureau."

"Thanks for all that you do to preserve the history and memories of the FBI that we all care so much about!

Best wishes,



Mystery Solved....

Smith and Wesson collector and author, Tim Mullin, provided us with the first look at why Doug Wesson gave FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover the famous Registered Magnum #1.   As most know, this weapon has never been found and its whereabouts is one of the great mysteries of the collector world along with Smith and Wesson and law enforcement history buffs. 

Portions of the mystery behind this particular hand gun is the reasoning behind Wesson giving Director Hoover a handgun with an 8 3/4" barrel. Based upon information examined by Mullin with regard to Wesson's scrapbook left behind, the mystery may have just been solved!  Read the article in our section "FBI History: The Findings Of Others."

Our Anticipated Move To Kentucky...

The residential move I've previously mentioned elsewhere, from New York to Kentucky, was completed on May 2nd and we're getting settled in. Our email is the same and so is our phone number afterall.  Over the next couple of weeks while getting boxes unpacked and all the rest, bear with me in getting back to you on any requests etc. since I may need an extra day or so to answer. We did have to change internet providers.  

Thanks for your patience....

Larry Wack

To Whom Do You Owe What You Hold?

I have to admit ......I was a bit disappointed with some recent findings I pulled up from my emails with FBI families. Specifically, those who had fathers and grandfathers serve during the early Bureau of the 20s and 30s. All of them originally contacted me after finding this site. Mostly all of them commented that they were happy to see that those who pioneered the early Bureau were not going to be forgotten. 

My decision to review these emails was a result of one thing. A simple 8 x 11 photo I received from one family which answered a slew of questions. The sender, who obtained the photo on Ebay, then commented, "...makes you wonder how much of this 'stuff' is out there?"  Indeed it does....the answer is "a lot." 

What I counted in those emails that are now over a year old caused some sad reflection. Thirteen families mentioned they had photos and various documents of their relative's service with the Bureau during those very early days; very germane to this website and our viewers. In each one of them, there was a pledge to furnish some relevant material for inclusion here. Those pledges lost steam as the weeks and months went on. 

I knew the material ....if nothing but a mere photo.....would provide needed accuracy to the history of the Bureau's beginning and turbulent years. I knew there was a chance some of it would dispel the myths and the rumors.  Importantly, I knew what they had would assist other families searching for info on their relatives. I knew all of this because I've seen it here a hundred times over. I've lost count of the number of comments I've had from authors to movie producers who have raved about the Bureau history supplied by the families and how the information has assisted them with some much needed evidence of the era. 

Well, it didn't take long for the reality to set in.  That's when I realized that of the thirteen who have history sitting in boxes in their basements, only two....yes, just two.....came through and supplied some very interesting items that now appear here.  A couple of letters supplied by one donor, written by J. Edgar Hoover to his father, actually solved a decades old debate on one aspect of the arrest of gangster, Alvin Karpis. Case closed!

In one unfortunate scenario, one individual presented proof he had a manuscript written by a Southwestern FBI, SAC during his retirement years. The donor was willing to provide a copy of the manuscript for history sake and inclusion at this site. When I discussed with the owner how important that document was, and the SAC's role in the 1930s gang war, he contacted a lawyer and the smell of money was no doubt in the air. All of a sudden, he no longer could provide it. I had bad news for him; any thoughts of money, publishing rights and the rest was a pipe dream!  This incident by the way is now over four years old and he's still holding the manuscript where it supposedly sits somewhere in a barn according to family.   

In general, re-contact with those who pledged to furnish copies of family photos and papers germane to this site revealed a common denominator of which we're all familiar. It was always along the lines of "I'm sorry, I've been busy with (fill in everything you can think of)."  Ok. I get it.  But leaving the items wasting away in the basement sure isn't helping to maintain FBI history and the organization your relatives served.  And if you're proud of your heritage and your relative's service to their country, letting their photos and personal papers sit in a box is not the way to do it! If you don't want to supply copies to us here, at least contact the local library, the Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, the FBI's current Historian, or whomever.....but get that information into the hands of someone who can share the history you are holding with others.

Share it so some other family in the dark might learn from something you hold.  Share it so historians, movie moguls, authors and more will tell the story accurately.  Share it so others will learn...





Happy Holidays & Happy New Year! Plus FBI's National Academy...

First known as the FBI "Police Training School" this is the first class of graduates of what was renamed the FBI's National Academy.  There was 1 class in 1935 and 2 classes in 1936.

First known as the FBI "Police Training School" this is the first class of graduates of what was renamed the FBI's National Academy.  There was 1 class in 1935 and 2 classes in 1936.

Well, we're drawing to the close of another year and I wanted to wish our readers, visitors, family members and others the best of the Holiday Season!  We enjoyed working with many over the months to get your photos published here, your stories told or simply help you with your research about the agents and the FBI of the 1930s.  

We recently enjoyed helping our historical friends at the Dayton, Ohio Police Department. They were looking for a class photo and roster of names for either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd National Academy class of 1935 or '36.  Reason was, their former Chief was a graduate of one of those classes and they wanted the document, and photo, to add to their historical items at the Department.  Problem was, they were not sure which class he was in....

Through some record searching and assistance too from the FBI's current Historian, Dr. John Fox, we were able to come through for them! We discovered their Chief was in the 3rd Graduating class of the National Academy in 1936. With the assistance from Dr. Fox, we located the class photo and the class roster of who was present. Both were forwarded on to the Dayton folks who were most appreciative.  

If you're looking for early National Academy photos and records, get ahold of me to see if we can help you out.  

On that note, I'm running out to do some last minute shopping so, again, have a Happy Holiday and "see you next year!"  

FBI's Pistol Team

In a June 6, 1934 "Memorandum for Mr. Tolson,” Director Hoover mentioned that he was told that a trainee in the present training school at that time, “by the name of Walsh” is the national champion in pistol fire. Hoover mentions he understands Walsh has extensive use of firearms and has been for a number of years giving instruction to police organizations. The Director wants particular attention given to this trainee to possibly use him and his services to go to each field office and see that proper instruction is being given to all personnel. 

Hoover also mentions he is very desirous of having a team formed of our best shots which can be entered in several national tournaments. "I think Mr. Walsh might, upon his visit to the field offices, ascertain the best shots in the respective field offices, and from this group, he could select a team to represent the Division in these tournaments." 

In October 1934 the real father of Bureau firearms training, SA "Frank" Baughman suggested the purchase of "six officers model .38 caliber Colt Special revolvers with six-inch barrels " for issuance only to agents participating in shooting matches as representatives of the Division.

"Mr. Walsh” turned out to be the legendary SA Walter Walsh with whom most are familiar and who passed away a couple of years back at the age of 106. 

And thus began the birth of the FBI’s Pistol Team……Rolling into 1935, the Bureau’s Pistol Team would be composed of some of the best of the best which included Walsh, Baughman, SAC and former Texas Ranger, “Gus Jones (national machine gun champion); the legendary “Jelly” Bryce, Bill Nitschke, Vernon Criss, Dick Glavin, Ralph Winton, Harry Stewart and Bob Reed. Some early matches were at Camp Perry, Ohio.

"Short Bursts" Of FBI History

According to a 1938 FBI document examined, at the time J. Edgar Hoover was designated Acting Director of the Bureau in May 1924, there were 441 Special Agents nationwide including Inspectors, Assistant Directors and the Director. There were 195 stenos and clerical employees along with 21 informants on the roles throughout HQ and the field.  

In February 1925, fifty percent of agents have legal training and “the investigation of mental, moral and physical qualifications of applicants is instituted.” 

In July 1925, regular inspections of field offices began and 5 offices were discontinued. All offices were reorganized and the “policy of promotion in the Bureau was begun with emphasis solely upon efficiency." 

Herman Lamm - "Pioneer" Of Bank Robberies

According to author Bryan Burrough in "Public Enemies," the criminal credited with introducing a new level of professionalism to bank robbery was Herman K. Lamm, a German émigré known as “The Baron.” Born in 1880, Lamm is a quasimythic figure; some claim he began his career with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. What is known is that around 1917, while in a Utah prison, he developed a rigorous system for robbing banks. Lamm pioneered the “casing” of banks, the observation of bank guards, alarms, and tellers; a bank was known as a “jug,” and an expert caser of banks was known as a “jug marker.” Each member of Lamm’s gang was assigned a role in the robbery: the lookout, the getaway driver, the lobby man, the vault man. Most important, Lamm is credited with devising the first detailed getaway maps, or “gits.” Once he targeted a bank, Lamm mapped the nearby back roads, known as “cat roads,” to a tenth of a mile, listing each landmark and using a stopwatch to time distances. Any teenager with a birdgun could rob a bank; it was getting away that posed a challenge. 

Lamm’s detailed gits, clipped to the dashboard of a car, took the guesswork out of the getaway. His gang was credited with dozens of robberies during the 1920s, until Lamm was shot and killed near Clinton, Indiana, in 1930. By then his system had been widely imitated.

The FBI & The Miranda Decision

A long forgotten fact by many is this: The FBI was advising suspects of their constitutional rights long before Miranda. Documented evidence of this is seen in statements I’ve examined from the 1930s. No doubt this practice continued long into the era of the Miranda decision of the 1960s and was commented upon by the Supreme Court.  

As one of the many examples which exist in recovered FBI files is this preamble to the 1934 interview of suspect, Hyman S. Lebman, by FBI, SAC Gus Jones in Texas.  Lebman was altering pistols into machine gun type weapons and selling them to "Baby Face" Nelson (known to Lebman as Jimmy Williams) and others when nabbed.  One of his weapons showed up at the battle at Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin and was subsequently traced back to him.  The story with Lebman is a long one….Several of his weapons seized have been at the Bureau, on display at times. 

Anyhow, here’s the gist of the beginning of the signed statement, witnessed by SA C. R. Davis. Statements I’ve examined begin with this wording, obviously with the Lebman name replaced with whomever was the catch of the day. 

“I, H. S. Lebman, after being duly warned of my constitutional rights that I do not have to make a statement and that any statement I may make concerning this matter may be used against me, make the free and voluntary statement to SAC Gus Jones….”  (Signed statement of April, 1934)

It doesn’t get any more clear than that……

A writer for the Washington Post pointed out last week that, "During oral argument in the Miranda case, Justice Abe Fortas asked the federal government’s lawyer for more detail on FBI interrogation practices. Hoover’s written answer to the court was prompt and specific. “Both suspects and persons under arrest” were given warnings “at the very outset of the interview,” he wrote. They could consult with counsel of their choice “or anyone else with whom [they] wish to speak,” could have “free counsel” if they were “unable to pay” and could consult with counsel by telephone, if more convenient. Interviews were terminated promptly if counsel was requested. If an interview subject was “indecisive” about requesting counsel, or when there was a question as to whether he had waived counsel, Hoover wrote, the decision to proceed was “left to the judgment of the interviewing Agent.”


There Were No Minority Special Agents During The Hoover Years...

I've been addressing some myths elsewhere on this site about the FBI's history. I wanted to drop this in along the way, courtesy of the FBI's current historian, Dr. John Fox.

"The FBI was hardly way ahead of its time in providing equal career opportunities to all Americans, but it is not true that the FBI was unwilling to hire minorities during Hoover’s tenure…or (as one variation of the myth goes) was reluctant to hire minority agents until ordered to do so by President Kennedy in the early 1960s. The fact is, many minority special agents worked in the FBI from the early 1920s forward. An African-American agent named James Amos, for example, investigated major cases in New York from 1921 to 1953, while the Striders—an African-American father/son agent team in Los Angeles—served with distinction from the 1940s through the early 1970s. Hispanic Agent Manuel Sorola served in a number of our western offices from the 1920s through the 1940s, and Filipino-born Agent Flaviano Guerrerro served ably in the 1940s. All told, there were dozens of minority special agents on our rolls before Hoover died in 1972."

No Sense Mincing Words...

SA Fred T. McIntyre 1934  Courtesy FBI

SA Fred T. McIntyre 1934

Courtesy FBI

SA Fred T. McIntyre reported to his first office of Birmingham in 1934. Circa the 1950s, he put together a manuscript covering portions of his career that was never published.  In one section of McIntyre's writing, he reveals the realities of the era and of the men sans the "political correctness."  He wrote: 

“The SAC, John H. Hanson cussed like a trooper and the new agents were scared to death of him. During the second day there came a message over the dictograph from SAC Hanson instructing me to come into his office pronto and bring that “God damned Willie off the Pickle Boat hat.” He meant my Homburg [hat]. When I arrived at his office he instructed that I put on the hat, which I did. "

"He looked me over very carefully, noted the Homburg cocked on the side of my head, gray coat and vest, with the pearl studded fraternity pin of Sigma Delta Kappa flashing.  He saw the black trousers of an Oxford gray suit and pearl gray spats. This was the attire of the day and certainly for one who had been working night clubs [before the Bureau].”

He finally commented, “What are you made up for?”  The SAC continued, “We have a business outfit here and all of our representatives must be attired as young business and professional men and not dressed up like a God damned pimp. ….[Go home] and come back here with an outfit that makes sense. Be dressed in all black or all in gray. And leave off that ‘Willie off the Pickle Boat' hat, those spats and that fraternity pin. Now get going.”

Readers will have to research the origin of the cliche, "Willie Off The Pickle Boat". . . 

FBI's First Use Of Airplanes & The Original Pilot

Retired FBI Agent, Murry C. Falkner was actually the only FBI Agent during the ‘30s who was an "authorized pilot." Falkner became an FBI Agent in 1925. He obtained his pilot's license in 1936 at the Albuquerque Airport while assigned to the El Paso FBI office. Most of his official flying duties were in the West Texas and New Mexico areas. Falkner recounted some of his career in a 1967 interview for the FBI’s internal magazine, “The Grapevine.”

Among other high profile cases, Falkner was involved in the Dillinger and Bremer kidnapping investigations, among others, and received a raise in salary along with others for their work. He used his raise to learn how to fly. In 1939, he was on special assignment in Seattle and bought his first plane. Before delivery, he was transferred to San Francisco, FBI and then had to travel to Detroit to arrange delivery. After a short sprint in San Francisco, FBI he was transferred to Alaska but found problems financially in taking the plane with him.

Falkner retired from the FBI in the '60s and maintained a residence in Mobile, Alabama. At the time of his retirement, he had a new career in mind – writing. In a recently found July, 1965 news interview with Falkner, it’s revealed “Writing is not new in the Falkner family. He (Murry) is a brother of the late William Faulkner and John Faulkner, also a novelist. William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer prizes for fiction in 1955 and 1963.”

Said Falkner in the same interview, “I’m going to try to do some writing. I have no illusions that I have the talent my brothers had but I am going to try my hand at it.” At the time, Falkner was 66 years old.

Falkner retained the revised spelling of the family name when his brothers, on the other hand, restored the “u” dropped by their great-grandfather. 

Another Day At The Ranch Of Special Agent Clarence Hurt...

Special Agent Clarence O. Hurt arrived at the FBI in early 1934 from the Oklahoma City Police Department. Two others were recruited with him, namely "Jelly" Bryce and "Jerry" Campbell. Their recruitment was no doubt due to the efforts of SA George Franklin, assigned to the OKC FBI office and later in life, a close friend of Bryce. 

Playing a pivotal role in many of the high profile gangster cases with Winstead and others, Hurt retired back to his McAlester, OK ranch after the Bureau. Hurt was known in the area to hire parolees to work on his ranch. We did find some support for that and in these cases, he proved to many that - in fact - you CAN pick your friends, and you CAN pick your relatives.

The 1966 issue of the "Lawton Constitution" of OKC revealed that Hurt's brother, Robert Hurt, a former OKC constable was sent to prison in 1957 for the "torture robbery" of an elderly couple. He, along with two others, was sentenced to 45 years. Under the terms of his parole, "Hurt will work on a ranch owned by his brother, former FBI man Clarence Hurt." 

In another case the same year, the State Pardon & Parole Board was considering the favorable recommendations for "model prisoner," Julius Bohannon. A "three time killer," the prisoner said he had been promised a job on the ranch of former FBI agent Clarence Hurt."Bohannon was serving a life term and a 99 year sentence for killing two McCurtin County deputy sheriffs. He later was given another 99 year sentence for killing a prison employee during a prison break in 1936. Prison officials said Bohannon had participated in three other prison breaks. 

I'd venture a guess that the new arrivals would make some interesting talk around the dinner table. . .

SA Walter Walsh & Killing Russell Gibson

Special Agent Walter Walsh passed away in 2014 at the age of 106. The last remaining survivor of the Dillinger era in Bureau history, he had many a story to tell.  His distinguished career in the FBI, a decades long pistol shooting champion and a U. S. Marine Corps veteran who saw action in Okinawa, it would take me pages to cover all of his accomplishments. In 1937, Walsh was wounded in the Bangor, Maine shootout with the Brady gang during a stakeout at a gun store. In the shooting melee on the street, he fired a fatal round at gang member, Clarence Lee Shaffer, Jr., granting him a place in the promised land. Gang leader, Alfred Brady was also killed in the shootout.

A career and a lifetime deserving of a book or movie, there is one thing in Walsh's notable career that is mistaken and deserves mention.

It's unclear when or where it occurred but suffice it to say that with all the story telling, formal and informal interviews, small talk among friends, magazine articles or simply a glitch in transcribing notes, there was - well - confusion at best regarding something that happened back in 1935... 

I noticed all this recently during an examination of some random accounts of the 1935 killing of gangster, Russell Gibson, aka "Slim Gray." Sporadic narratives on the Internet whether it be a forum of sorts, an article about the gangster days, or an interview of Walsh himself attributed the killing of gangster, Russell Gibson to SA Walsh. 

My review of the above came simultaneously with my review of released FBI files on the actual shooting of Gibson that night on January 8, 1935.

It's well documented that along with others, SA Walsh was present at the Chicago hideout of gangster "Doc" Barker and participated in his arrest. That was sometime around 6:30pm, Chicago time. 

Two to three hours later on the same night, at a different Chicago hideout, arrest attempts with Gibson and others caused Gibson to exit the rear of an apartment building firing at FBI agents.  One particular agent returned fire, killing Gibson.

But it wasn't SA Walter Walsh...

Whatever happened during the stories over the years, Walsh was accurately placed at the Barker arrest at about 6:30pm, but a couple of hours later, was somehow moved over to the Gibson arrest where SAC E. J. Connelley and sixteen other FBI agents were executing that arrest (and shooting.) This would not have been unusal, due to Walsh's proficency with a handgun, had it actually occurred. The problem is, this is exactly where a couple of "wheels came off the wagon" in memorializing this incident. Simply put, there's nothing indicative in the official record that SA Walsh was at the Gibson shooting. 

Exiting the apartment during the FBI raid, Gibson was met at the rear by a cadre of FBI agents and namely one legendary figure named SA James "Doc" White of Texas Ranger fame. The files are clear that it was White - not Walsh - who fired on Gibson with a 30.06 rifle, killing him. I noticed off the top that author Bryan Burrough in his book, "Public Enemies" also identified SA White as Gibson's killer - not SA Walsh. Burrough's research was very thorough with regard to his book.  SA White's shooting of Gibson is also noted in a recent copy of SA Tom McDade's diary obtained by the FBI from his son and in some personal papers sent us by White's great nephew.  

We all have an obligation of keeping history as accurate as we can, regardless of how big or how small the issue. Forgetting any "credit" due in the killing of a bad man, the sporadic accounts of the Gibson shooting need correction.  But having said that, none of it removes anything from SA Walter Walsh's esteemed FBI and U. S. Marine Corps career.  May he rest in peace...






1932 - '39 - Nearly Twenty Kidnappings Per Year!

By 1945, the Mattson Kidnapping remains active and during the depression era years before, kidnapping was "big business."

Here's part of a paragraph shown in a 1939 letter to the Attorney General from J. Edgar Hoover covering a seven year period:

"Since the passage of the Federal Kidnapping Statute on June 22, 1932, the Bureau has performed investigative work in 144 actual kidnappings.  All but two have been solved.  The two unsolved cases are those involving the abduction and murder of Charles Fletcher Mattson, Jr. at Tacoma, Washington, [Dec. 1936] and Peter Levine at New Rochelle, NY [Feb. 1938]. "  

"In the kidnapping cases handled by the Bureau, there have been 290 convictions, sentences imposed have totaled 11 deaths, 42 life, 3,493 years, 2 kidnappers have been lynched, 8 committed suicide, 8 were killed by law enforcement officers, and 7 were murdered by their own gang members."

"At the present time, 93 special agents and 10 Technical Experts of the Bureau are exclusively assigned to the Mattson and Levine cases...."

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Another part of the letter reveals agents on the average were assigned an average of 18 cases each (many of them major investigations) and that the Federal laws passed of 1934 had placed undue strain on the Bureau due to lack of agent personnel.  It was generally agreed at FBIHQ that an assignment of 10 cases per agent was "manageable." At the time of this 1939 memo, there were 647 special agents. 

Kidnapping cases during the early days, as is still the policy today, require the responding field office to drop all other investigative matters, and reassign manpower as needed. Quite a few of these kidnappings involved children and more than most are aware of; some have been long forgotten.  Many, as in any major crime, contained long lists of those who confessed; had nothing to do with the kidnapping, and sent agents and police on fruitless pursuits of leads which ate up time and money.

To my knowledge, as of today, the Mattson and Levine kidnappings remain unsolved.


Inspector Sam Cowley - "Hell Of A Poker Player"

FBI Inspector, Samuel Cowley (courtesy - FBI)For many today….both inside and outside the FBI… the name Inspector Sam Cowley usually reflects a recollection of maybe some limited role he played in the 1930s “War On Crime.”  Eclipsed in the media over the decades by Purvis, most only recall Cowley being sent to Chicago to oversee Purvis and being killed at the Barrington, Il shootout months later.  

However, appreciation of Cowley’s place in Bureau history can’t be done without examining the files.  Cowley’s role at HQ during those early 30s was a total emersion into the headline cases of the period, supervising multiple simultaneous major cases from his FBIHQ position and having a unique ability to handle “nine irons in the fire.”   He was clearly Hoover's “point man” in the high-profile gangster-related crimes and kidnapping arena which was eating up the manpower and the budget.  His administrative qualities are very admirable as evidenced by an exam of his reporting to Hoover and others as to what was going on in the field in a variety of areas.  He was in contact with Purvis and issuing instructions to Chicago long before he even arrived there. And the Dillinger case was just one instance of the many major cases being worked; every major case had sometimes up to ten or twenty accomplices and co-conspirators.  

Bureau files reveal that Cowley arrived in Chicago at Hoover's insistence sometime during the June 1934 period, working side by side with Purvis.  By then, Purvis was probably over his head, perhaps through no fault of his own, and the administration of many cases at hand was suffering.  As far as Hoover was concerned, investigative progress was waning in far too many instances.   

Cowley stayed in Chicago and those who served in the Bureau would appreciate it more, but the responsibilities that Hoover laid on Cowley in the fall of '34 are unimaginable.  And with no cell phones, no computers, no analysts and no "Emergency Response Teams" for evidence collection, etc. 

The ink on that letter to Cowley would hardly be dry when he and SA Herman Hollis were killed by Nelson/Chase about a month and a half later. 

I had the honor to speak to Cowley’s surviving son some years back.  He had only wished his father had received the credit due for his role during those violent years.  His son had mentioned that Cowley was not publicity prone and really shunned the media during those years. He left no photos, diaries or papers behind of his FBI career.  We talked about Cowley's devotion to the Mormon religion.  That's when his son chuckled and said, “yes....but he was one hell of a poker player too!”

Readers can view Hoover's instructions to Cowley in September, 1934 at this link. 


"Where's All The Female FBI Agents Of The 30s?"

Special Agent, Alaska Davidson, circa 1923 - FBI photo. She and Jessie Duckstein would be the Bureau's first female special agents. . .

Special Agent, Alaska Davidson, circa 1923 - FBI photo. She and Jessie Duckstein would be the Bureau's first female special agents. . .

One of our astute readers asked me this question recently noting that our site didn't contain anything about female FBI agents during the depression era. It was being passed down by family members that one of her relatives, a female, was an FBI agent during this period. Her question was a good one not only for historical reasons, but to settle the family story too.  

Simply put, there were none. In fact, since the 1920s, there were no female FBI agents in the Bureau until the summer after Director Hoover's death in 1972.  Rather than recount the history, here's some script from a recent speech given by one of the Bureau's female Assistant Directors that explains it best:

Let's take the history of the FBI, for example. The Bureau was created in 1908 as the Special Agent force. In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover became the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and what eventually became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. But, did you know prior to Director Hoover's appointment there were two women pioneers in 1923 who were Special Agents? Jessie Duckstein and Alaska Davidson were dreamers and the first female trailblazers in the Bureau. They resigned in 1924. But, their dreams to see females among the ranks of agents in the FBI were not deferred. Shortly after they resigned, Lenore Houston became a Special Agent in the Philadelphia Field Office and served for four years.

And, although it was not until July 17, 1972, nearly 44 years later, when women began to truly enter the ranks of the FBI Special Agent, the obstacles of the previous years served as the catalysts which forced the dreams of women in federal law enforcement to explode. And today, women in the FBI are supervisors, program managers, Unit Chiefs, Section Chiefs, Special Agents in Charge, Assistant Directors, and Executive Assistant Directors. Women in the FBI are vocal, powerful, and invaluable contributors.

For the assistance of our readers, I've linked a 1971 letter from FBI Headquarters to the then president of Colorado State University regarding his allegation that not hiring female special agents was a discriminatory practice in violation of the law.  The letter explains the law, the Civil Service regulations and the Bureau's reasoning behind the practice.  All of it would change about a year and a half later...