Back to top

Blumenfield, Isadore “Kid Cann” (1900–1981)

Creator: 
  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
Kid Cann

Kid Cann, ca. 1935. Photo by George E. Luxton.

In the annals of Minneapolis crime one man occupies the place held by Al Capone in Chicago and Meyer Lansky in New York and Miami: Isadore Blumenfeld, also known as Kid Cann. He was a lifelong criminal who made fortunes in liquor, gambling, labor racketeering (all protected through political corruption), and real estate. Only late in life did he serve more than a year in prison. He retired in Florida and died rich.

Blumenfeld was born into a Jewish family in 1900 in Râmnicu Sărat, Romania, and came with his family to North Minneapolis in 1902. Poverty dogged his childhood and, very young, he turned to crime. Like many criminals he found Prohibition a godsend and seems to have moved easily from running stills to running speakeasies.

Blumenfeld’s first major arrest came for killing taxi driver Charles Goldberg in a row about a woman outside the Vienna Cafe on Nicollet Avenue in 1924. He admitted to the shooting but claimed it was an accident and was never tried. The next arrest came for shooting two policemen at the Cotton Club (Minneapolis) in 1928. The row was over a woman nicknamed Shuffle Along. Witnesses said Blumenfeld ducked under a table when the shooting started, and he was not charged.

Blumenfeld made plenty of money during Prohibition as a high-volume bootlegger. He mostly evaded prosecution, as he did all his life. He paid a $400 fine in 1927, $1500 more in 1932, and served a year in the Hennepin County workhouse in 1934, all for bootlegging. In 1931 he was charged in New Orleans with running rum into the country from Cuba, but he fled Louisiana and never returned to face the charges. He was tried in Oklahoma in 1933 for laundering the $200,000 ransom paid to free oilman Charles Urschel, kidnapped by Machine Gun Kelly (George Kelly Barnes).

Of the seven defendants in that trial, only Blumenfeld was acquitted. He was tried again in 1936 for the Minneapolis murder of journalist Walter Liggett. Liggett’s wife, an eyewitness, positively identified Kid Cann as the drive-by machine-gun killer, but Cann produced an alibi witness, his barber, and the jury found him not guilty. It seems unlikely he would take such a risk when he could pay a professional to do the job. Liggett’s daughter late wrote that the hitman might have been Chicago mobster Frank Nitti, who did resemble Blumenfeld.

After Prohibition state law forbade any person from owning more than one liquor license, yet Kid Cann controlled many bars, nightclubs, and liquor stores through relatives, blinds, corporations, and bribery. It was alleged that he controlled liquor licenses in Minneapolis and had aldermen on his payroll. In 1957 the US Attorney estimated that he made $100,000 a year from Minneapolis liquor stores. Throughout the 1950s crime commission after crime commission and grand jury after grand jury investigated Blumenfeld, but nothing stuck. In 1959 he was charged with five others for fleecing the Twin City Rapid Transit Company during the conversion from streetcars to buses; once again, only he was acquitted.

Then his luck changed. The federal government pursued him relentlessly and finally convicted him under the Mann act for transporting a woman across state lines for "immoral purposes." This was like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. Blumenfeld had not engaged in sex trafficking. The woman, Marilyn Ann Tollefson, was a regular paid paramour of his, and the conviction was overturned. Then he was convicted, again in federal court, for procuring false statements in Minneapolis liquor license applications. That conviction was overturned also. But during that trial he attempted to bribe a juror for $10,000, and that conviction stood (he admitted the crime). He went to Leavenworth, though he served most of his time at the Springfield, Missouri, medical facility. Heart trouble, it was said—but he lived another twenty years.

Freed in 1964, he moved to Miami Beach, worked there for mafia financier Meyer Lansky, and reportedly acquired a fortune in real estate. He died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Minneapolis on June 24, 1981, while in the city on a visit. The source of the Kid Cann nickname, which he hated, has never been satisfactorily explained. He preferred to be called Dr. Ferguson, or, especially by his lady friends, just Fergie.

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Correct
  • Print
© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

“7 Plead Guilty in Rum Ring.” Minneapolis Star, March 13, 1934.

“Bloom Claims He Fired Shot in Street Row.” Minneapolis Daily Star, May 1, 1924.

Blumenfeld v. United States, 306 F2d 892 (8th Cir. 1962).

Blumenfeld v. United States, 284 F2d 46 (8th Cir. 1960).

“Cann Is Freed: Mrs. Liggett Bares Attempt On Her Life.” Minneapolis Star, February 19, 1936.

“Kid Cann, Old-time Crime Figure, Dies.” Minneapolis Tribune, June 23, 1981.

“Kidnappers Are Found Guilty.” Minneapolis Star, September 30, 1933.

Maccabee, Paul. “Alias Kid Cann.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (November 1991), 88-91, 160-162.

——— . John Dillinger Slept Here. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.

McConagha, Al. “Five Get Fines, Jail Sentences.” Minneapolis Tribune, May 17, 1961.

Parsons, Jim. “Wife Pays His Fine, Kid Cann to be Freed.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, August 12, 1964.

Smith, Robert T. “The Decline and Fall of Kid Cann.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, May 21, 1961.

Wingard, Earl. “Kid Cann Says: I’ve Sold Out and Am Leaving Town.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, January 27, 1952.

Woodbury, Marda Liggett. Stopping the Presses: The Murder of Walter W. Liggett. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1998.

Woodruff, Al. “Kid Cann, Perkins Are Found Guilty.” Minneapolis Star, February 23, 1960.

Related Images

Kid Cann
Kid Cann
Newspaper headline announcing Kid Cann’s 1934 conviction
Newspaper headline announcing Kid Cann’s 1934 conviction
Walter W. Liggett and his wife
Walter W. Liggett and his wife
Scene of the murder of Walter W. Liggett
Scene of the murder of Walter W. Liggett
Drawing of Liggett murder scene
Drawing of Liggett murder scene
Diagram of Liggett murder scene
Diagram of Liggett murder scene
Isadore Blumenfeld (Kid Cann) on trial
Isadore Blumenfeld (Kid Cann) on trial
Newspaper article and headline published after Kid Cann’s 1936 acquittal
Newspaper article and headline published after Kid Cann’s 1936 acquittal
Marilyn Ann Tollefson
Marilyn Ann Tollefson
Newspaper headline and article announcing Kid Cann’s 1960 conviction
Newspaper headline and article announcing Kid Cann’s 1960 conviction
Kid Cann in handcuffs
Kid Cann in handcuffs
Judge Edward Devitt
Judge Edward Devitt

Turning Point

On trial in federal court in 1961, Blumenfeld attempts to bribe a juror. This leads to his only substantial prison term and ultimate move to Florida.

Chronology

1900

Isadore Blumenfeld is born September 8 in Râmnicu Sărat, Romania.

1902

With his parents, Phillip and Eva, Blumenfeld resettles in Minneapolis.

1920

Blumenfeld is arrested for the first time, at a Minneapolis brothel.

1924

Police arrest Blumenfeld for the murder of cab driver Charles Goldberg. A grand jury rules the shooting accidental.

1928

Blumenfeld is arrested in the shootings of two Minneapolis police officers but released for insufficient evidence. The real shooter was probably gangster Verne Miller.

1933

With the end of Prohibition, Blumenfeld takes control of the retail liquor trade in Minneapolis.

1934

Blumenfeld pleads guilty to conspiracy to operate an illegal still and serves one year in the Minneapolis workhouse.

1936

A Minneapolis jury acquits Blumenfeld of the murder of journalist Walter Liggett.

1944

The election of Hubert Humphrey as mayor of Minneapolis prompts Blumenfeld to move his gambling operations underground and also diversify into Miami real estate.

1952

Blumenfeld announces his intention to quit Minneapolis for Miami. He settles a $32,000 tax bill with the IRS.

1953

The California Crime Commission describes Cann as an “ex-bootlegger who now as a millionaire shares the rule of the underworld.”

1954

The US House of Representatives names Blumenfeld as a highly paid labor racketeer.

1959

Blumenfeld is tried with several others for fraud in connection with Twin Cities Rapid Transit. He is the only defendant acquitted. He is convicted of a Mann Act violation due to his long association with a prostitute and sentenced to three years in pris

1961

Blumenfeld is convicted of running illegal liquor operations in Minneapolis, and he pleads guilty to attempting to bribe a juror in that case. Judge Edward Devitt sentences him to eight years in prison.

1964

On September 16, Kid Cann is paroled from the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri, and moves to Miami Beach, where he goes to work for Meyer Lansky.

1981

Kid Cann dies on June 21 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Minneapolis. Though he died in Minnesota, there is no Minnesota death certificate for Isadore Blumenfeld. He is buried near Charles Goldberg at Adath Yeshurun Cemetery in Edina.