Minnesota’s “godfather” Kid Cann had Northeast liquor interests


Some called him the closest thing Minnesota had to a godfather.

By the time he died, his police record spanned 40 years. He was arrested 25 times, on charges ranging from bootlegging to murder, but found guilty only once, for slavery.

Born in Romania in 1901, Isadore Blumenfeld grew up in North Minneapolis where he acquired the nickname “Kid Cann.” Some people claimed he got the name because of his tendency to lock himself in a latrine whenever a fight broke out.

But when asked about this rumor as an adult, Blumenfeld—by then a reputed mobster and co-lord of Minneapolis’ liquor syndicate— denied it.

In fact, he added bluntly, “90 percent of what was written about me is bull—-.”

"KidAt right: Kidd Cann Blummenfeld got a haircut during a recess in his 1935 murder trial, in which a haircut was his alibi. He was acquitted. (Minneapolis Tribune photo, from Minneapolis Public Library Special Collections clippings file)

Blumenfeld smoked Parliaments and favored flashy clothes; one of his favorite outfits included a maroon suit, maroon suede shoes and a canary yellow shirt with matching socks.

He began his career during Prohibition, when he was arrested and charged several times for violating liquor laws.

Northeast resident George Belair said his father, John Belair, a 32-year Second Precinct police veteran, was chief of the Morals, or “Purity” Squad during Prohibition. Belair said his father sought to arrest “the gangsters who came in from Chicago in their big cars, with gallons of booze in their trunks.”

The squad raided stills and also made business difficult for the locals such as Kid Cann and his partner, Tommy Banks.

“My father ran Kid Cann out of town once,” Belair said, “but he came back.”

Kidnaping, murder

Blumenfeld indeed left town for a while in the 1930s; he was indicted in Oklahoma City in 1933 for kidnapping Oklahoma oilman Charles Ruschel, but found innocent.

In 1935, he was a suspect in the gangland-style shooting of newspaper editor Walter Liggett. Liggett, according to a May 21, 1961 Minneapolis Star story, edited a “scandal-sheet type of newspaper,” the Midwest American; when he wrote about Kid Cann’s liquor syndicate, Liggett was, as the Star put it, “silenced by five slugs from a 45-caliber automatic.”

Blumenfeld always paid a great deal of attention to his personal appearance; he visited the Artistic Barber Shop, downtown on Hennepin between Fifth and Sixth, every day for a shave. At the time of the Liggett murder, he said, he was getting a haircut.

When a jury believed him and found Blumenfeld not guilty (after a 90-minute deliberation), he rushed over and kissed the hands of the four female jurors.

After Mayor Hubert Humphrey cleaned up Minneapolis, including the police department, in 1945, Blumenfeld “moved into the legitimate liquor business, but in an illegitimate way,” according to a Nov. 6, 1951 Minneapolis Star story. Blumenfeld, reported the paper, was “buying more licenses than he was legally entitled to and putting them in the name of his brothers, cousins and brothers-in-law.”

By the early 1960s, members of 20 families held 51 city liquor licenses.

At least one Northeast bar, East Side Liquor Store, 429 East Hennepin Avenue, might have been such a business; it was licensed to the son-in-law of a Blumenfeld sister.

The son-in-law and East Side Liquor Store were named in a 1960 federal subpoena, which called for any records of partnerships, proprietorships or corporations of the business. He was indicted, accused of filing fraudulent statements and falsely claiming ownership of the bar, according to a Dec. 13, 1976 Minneapolis Star story.

Blumenfeld was also charged in the 1960 Twin City Rapid Transit Company scandal, in which scrap yard dealers and car companies reportedly cheated their stockholders as part of a conspiracy to get streetcars sold off as scrap metal. Both Blumenfeld and Banks held stock in the company. Although five other men were sent to prison, including Fred Osanna, president of Twin City Rapid Transit, Blumenfeld was found innocent of all charges.

By that time, Kid Cann was infamous in the Twin Cities. Jack Kozlak, in his 1996 book, The Fun is in the Struggle, talks about Rosie Goleski Sundholm, “practically a legend as a waitress,” who had worked at the East Hennepin Cafe for 20 years, when it was one of the most popular places in town.

Rosie, he added, knew everybody, including “some characters on the other side of the law: Kid Cann and Tommy Banks, to name a couple.

‘My son, Richard, used to caddy for the Kid’s brother, Yiddy Bloom, who ran a liquor store across from the East Hennepin,’ she recalled.”

Slavery, jury tampering

In 1959, Blumenfeld was indicted on a non-liquor related charge: slavery and attempted jury tampering. A Chicago woman, Marilyn Tollefson, claimed he had brought her to Minneapolis for “immoral purposes.”

At his sentencing in 1961, Judge Edward Devitt told him, “You’ve led a bad life, Isadore,” to which Blumenfeld responded, “Judge, I haven’t been no real bad man at all for 25 years.”

Nonetheless, Devitt sentenced Blumenfeld to seven years in a federal prison medical facility.

Blumenfeld, who called the conviction a “trumped up charge that involved a two-dollar whore,” was paroled after three and a half years.

When Blumenfeld got out of prison, he swore he’d never come back to Minneapolis. He took his family to Miami, Florida, where his “Minneapolis Combination”—or real estate syndicate—grew to become “the biggest landowner along Miami Beach’s flashy gold coast,” according to a Feb. 3, 1965 Minneapolis Tribune story.

Minneapolis Star columnist Barbara Flanagan once noted that one of Blumenfeld’s holdings was the Fontainebleu, “the flossiest and most expensive hotel on the beach.” Frank Sinatra, she added, “is moving in this week.”

Blumenfeld died in 1981 at age 80; he is buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, at 56th and France Avenue in Minneapolis.