• LOCATION 27 | Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City

    Summit Street

    Summit Street on Toledo, Ohio audio tour Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City

    Turn left here onto Summit.

    We're going to head up to Point Place to explore a few more chapters of the Unholy Toledo story. You’ll stay on Summit all the way so just follow the road. It’s a bit of drive so to help put you into the right frame of mind, let's talk about what Toledo was like in the early 1930s and Pretty Boy Floyd as we head north up to The Point.

    Toledo was not much different from other Midwest cities back in the early 30s, except it did experience the biggest run on banks of any major metropolitan area during the Great Depression and it was hit harder than most places when it came to unemployment. In other words, Toledo was at its lowest of lows in the early 30s. Some say that Toledo was crime-ridden during this time. That's not true. While we had our share of crime and gangsters, it was happening elsewhere too. During the Great Depression, with much of the United States mired in crushing poverty and unemployment, quite a few Americans found work in criminal activities like bootlegging, loansharking, bank-robbing—even murder. A lot of this started because of prohibition, but the Great Depression had a big effect too. With no jobs, many people who would never have ventured into crime did so because they had so few other opportunities. Another major factor was the advent of the automobile. Cars gave criminals the chance to travel the country armed with submachine guns. It was a very different age than just 10 years before.

    This was also the era of the Public Enemies when the FBI began to keep "Public Enemies" lists of wanted criminals charged with crimes. But as we learned earlier, Toledo was a safe place to cool off, as long as you kept your nose clean and didn’t pull any jobs in this area. On February 5, 1930, a guy by the name of Charles Arthur Floyd, better known as Pretty Boy Floyd, broke the unwritten "truce” when and members of his gang robbed the Farmers’ & Merchants’ Bank in Sylvania. Despite their daring bravado as they stormed into the bank, the gang only got away with about $2,000 thanks to the quick thinking of the bank’s cashier, John Iffland, who slammed the vault shut and cranked the tumbler as the gang walked into the lobby -- it couldn’t be opened again until five hours later thanks to a time lock. The furious robbers ran out of the bank and were shot at by a local gas station attended and then chased down Monroe Street by a village firetruck. They got away but a few months later, Floyd and his accomplice were captured in Akron after the murder of a policeman. Pretty Boy Floyd was brought back to Toledo to stand trial for the Sylvania bank job and was found guilty in late November of 1930 and sentenced to 12 to 15 years in the Ohio state penitentiary. But the story doesn’t’ end there. Floyd escaped from the Toledo Police while en route to Columbus by breaking a window in the train’s lavatory and jumping out the window. He would go on to commit more robberies and was suspected of several murders, including the killing of the Wood County Sheriff. The FBI caught up to Floyd in East Liverpool, Ohio on October 22, 1934, where he was shot and killed by Melvin Purvis and his men.

    Now you can understand a little better why J. Edgar Hoover and his men quietly snuck into town to capture Harry Campbell.

    Keep heading straight on Summit. I'll catch with you in a bit.

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Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City