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Union Station linked to FBI history

 Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

Gangster history from the 1930s is one of those areas that interests me, as I’m sure it does many others. Lately, I’ve been reading Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. It details the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 1933-1936 “War on Crime.” Covered in a fast-pace style are the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and others, along with the early days of the FBI.

I’m working on this book while I’m also reading two others, one of which is in Dutch. So I allow for some memory slippage, but because of that I almost missed a chance (during my trip to Kansas City, Mo. for the paper money show) to take a closer look at one of the sites prominent in Burrough’s book.

This year’s Society of Paper Money Collectors awards breakfast was at Harvey’s in Union Station. While there for the breakfast, I marveled at architecture of this old rail station, opened in 1914, but didn’t pay much more attention. It wasn’t until Saturday evening of the show that I stopped to read a placard about Union Station that related it was the site of the “Kansas City Massacre,” which Burrough explained was, at the time (1933), “the second-deadliest murder of law-enforcement officers in American history.”

Feds were escorting recently captured criminal Frank “Jelly” Nash to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. when they were attacked in the Union Station parking lot, after having arrived there by train from Fort Smith, Ark.

As they were getting into their car, gun fire erupted and four officers were killed, along with Nash. It is believed by some that Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd was involved in the attack, and the massacre is credited, by Burrough, with launching the FBI’s “War on Crime.”

I had to go back over and take a look. Supposedly you can still see some bullet holes in the side of the building.

There is a plaque at the entry to station, placed there in 1991 by the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, that relates: “The incident so outraged the American public that new federal legislation was enacted the following year. Such crimes as bank robbery and extortion became federal offenses and FBI agents were authorized to carry firearms.”

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter. >> Subscribe today.

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