Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On this Date in Minnesota History: April 19

April 19, 1920 – Rev. J. Thompson, pastor of the Methodist Church of Cannon Falls, Minn., has received a Black Hand communication, mailed in the village.

It appears from the letter that the Black Hand is going to take the minister’s life within 60 days if he does not discontinue his fight for temperance. A revolver drawn in ink is evidently calculated to indicate that it will be a shooting affair. Rev. Thompson believes it is the plan of one of the “wet” campaigners to frighten him.

Not an organization, the Black Hand was actually a version of extortion that began in Italy in the 1750s and made its way to the U. S. Blackmail letters were sent to victims with fanciful decorations, such as daggers dripping blood, revolvers spitting fire and bullets, crudely drawn skulls and crossbones and the inevitable sketch of a human hand.

Above, a sample extortion letter from the Black Hand: “You dog, spy, informer. If you do not do what we say, we have a shot gun prepared for you. What a fine feast for the rats your fat carcass will make. Do what we say, it will be better for your skin.” (Courtesy the National Law Enforcement Museum)1

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Black Hand Warns Preacher. Rev. J. Thompson of Cannon Falls threatened With Death.”; April, 20, 1912; p. 1.


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