The Purple Gang

How did the Purple Gang get its colorful name? Legend has it that one day after members of what would become the Purple Gang had established their criminal ways of shoplifting and vandalizing youngsters in Detroit, two local shopkeepers were bemoaning their fate and the youngsters’ characters. One of them concluded that the gang of delinquents was not like other boys, but ‘rotten, purple like the color of bad

Detroit, Michigan circa 1930

For their safe-robbing and other criminal work, the Fleishers used a specially enhanced gun-metal colored Graham-Paige sedan they had stolen, later described by state police as ‘the most completely equipped burglar’s automobile’ ever seen. The car sported revolving license plates, bullet-proof glass,metal shields, and removable doors and seats to accommodate large safes. The Gang leased the south stall of the auto storage building just north of the junkyard along the river, and used it to secretly house their ‘super auto.’

In the late 1920s, Detroit was a boomtown with a flourishing economy, newly built skyscrapers, and a burgeoning population. But those seemingly halcyon times were marred by bloodshed and terror caused by the Purple Gang, a loosely organized but ruthless group of predominantly Jewish racketeers, headed by the Burnstein brothers.

Real Deal Mafia The Purple Gang
Citizens were petrified to testify against them. Corrupt police officials, their hands greased by bribes, looked the other way.

During the apex of their power, 1927-32, the Purples were the kings of the underworld. The group is perhaps most notorious for the 1931 Collingwood Massacre (at Collingwood and Twelfth streets), in which the gang killed three members who were trying to start their own rackets.

Collingwood Manor After the Massacre

A victim of the Collingwood Manor Massacre (left), and the crowd that assembled after the Purple Gang violence.

Collingwood Manor Massacre

Read More on RK
Detroit's Purple Gang


John Orlich said...

As a teenager my dad worked in a speakeasy in Detroit and he knew some of these guys.

BIG Rich said...

Rough Night with the Purples before ya went swimmin'.... after they put your feet in the concrete

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