/ Crime

The Death of Dan Hogan (Dec. 4, 1928)

Saint Paul gangster Daniel (Dan) Hogan, known as "Dapper" Dan for his knack for dressing in stylish clothes, was a leading criminal figure during the era of the O'Connor Layover Agreement. He wore many different hats during his time as Saint Paul's central underworld fixture. Hogan was not just a hotel proprietor, and restaurant owner in the city, but also an essential liaison between criminals entering Saint Paul and its local police.

Hogan came into criminal prominence with his arrival to Saint Paul in 1909. He found the sanctuary of the O'Connor System to be the perfect opportunity to organize various criminal elements of Saint Paul without having to worry about interference from law enforcement. He was an adept politician intimately connected with the local police. Called the "Smiling Peacekeeper," Hogan was the perfect candidate to lead the lawless after the 1913 death of William H. “Reddy” Griffin, his predecessor, and the city's first O'Connor System criminal liaison.

With that promotion, Hogan rocketed to notoriety previously unseen in the city. He was adept at helping keep the "heat" out of Saint Paul, and the Justice Department considered him one of the country's most resourceful criminals. A man of his word, Hogan kept a criminal's money in a back safe at his Green Lantern Saloon and told them the rules to stay in the city. He controlled this agreement until his death. Hogan even offered money to more egregious gangsters to leave the Twin Cities area. He understood that allowing criminals to bring too much attention to the city would lead to the end of the lucrative O'Connor System.

He was considered a kind man that would go out of his way to help others. While this made him a modern day “Robin Hood” to many people, some resented the fact that Hogan had such a significant stranglehold on the goings on within the city. In the days leading up to his death, he reported seeing someone hanging out in the alley behind his house. Hogan believed that someone was trying to get him and installed a burglar alarm at his home for added protection. Unfortunately for Hogan, the batteries to the security device were outdated and no longer working.

On December 4, 1928, at around 11:30 am, after a substantial, late morning breakfast with his wife and father-in-law, Dan went to the garage of his home at 1607 West 7th street, got in his Paige Coupe, turned the ignition and pressed the starter. A nitroglycerin explosive detonated with such force that it blew the car backward out of the garage. Being a large man Dan’s head was shielded from the blast by his stomach. He was rendered unconscious, but didn’t die from the impact; however, his right leg was utterly pulverized and eventually amputated in hopes of saving his life.

At 8:55 p.m., after nine hours of fighting for his life in the hospital, Hogan slipped into a coma and succumbed to his injuries. The local underworld was so upset over this act that after initially lining up alongside local law enforcement to donate blood, they offered to help police find the perpetrators this horrible crime. The initial rumors were that the killing was done as an “outbreak of a feud” by either an outlaw band of criminals Hogan tried to keep from working in the city or a rival gambling organization. His wife reported seeing unfamiliar men near their garage a couple days prior but paid no attention to them.

Popular opinion later shifted to a theory that Harry “Dutch” Sawyer, Hogan’s second in charge had him killed. Sawyer was angry that Hogan had not repaid a $25,000 bond in 1924, and also cheated him out of a percentage of revenues from The Hollywood, a casino located south of Saint Paul near Mendota that had recently closed. Hogan had placed a significant sum of money in a safe deposit box for his wife to have in the event of his death, and when she went to get the money it was gone. Sawyer was the only other person that had a key. In spite of all of this, the mortally wounded Hogan, tight-lipped to the end, refused to name potential assailants.

The respect that Hogan had been shown during his life continued after his death. Over twenty-five hundred people, along with two-hundred automobiles came to mourn him at his funeral. More than five thousand dollars worth of flowers from underworld bosses in New York, Chicago, and the Twin Cities adorned his casket. Mourners placed a six-foot-high wreath near the coffin, a large ribbon with the words “Our Danny” stretched across it. A who’s who of both the city officials and the crime world attended. Former middleweight boxing champion Mike O’Dowd, and former major league baseball player Tony Faeth were among the pallbearers.

The criminal underworld was taken aback by his death and went dark for a short time as a tribute to Hogan. “Somehow, one would rather be in Mr. Hogan’s place than that of his murderers” preached Father Nicholas J. Finn at the funeral. He echoed the sentiments of many in attendance and spoke of Hogan’s goodwill and generosity saying that “maybe God gave him a chance to prepare for death because of his charity.” Many assumed there would be retribution, but payback never occurred. Hogan is buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Saint Paul.

Bibliography available here.

Creative Commons Attribution

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 International License.

Matt Reicher

Matt has a BA in history from Metropolitan State University and a MA in museum studies from Oklahoma University.

Read More
The Death of Dan Hogan (Dec. 4, 1928)
Share this

Subscribe to Minnesota Then