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Dirty Doc Ames and the Scandal That Shook Minneapolis

Dirty Doc Ames and the Scandal That Shook Minneapolis

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Author Erik Rivenes

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 1, 2018)

The story of a mayor and his police department run amok—and of the stunning political collapse that helped launch the Progressive Era.


The story of Albert Alonzo “Doc” Ames is perhaps the greatest political scandal in Minnesota history. As mayor of Minneapolis, Ames exposed the city to national humiliation—and helped jump-start an era of reform.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Minneapolis was moving away from a time of political rings, frontier justice, and old boys’ clubs to a more civic-minded way of governing. But in 1901, the affable, degenerate Doc Ames, a former Minneapolis mayor well past his political prime, duped his way back into the office. Ames appointed his brother as chief of police, and together they assembled a rogues’ gallery of thieves to squeeze as much money out of the city as quickly as they could. Under Ames’s leadership, criminals walked beats wearing policeman’s uniforms. City detectives robbed prominent citizens. Police maintained arrangements with madams and saloonkeepers, extracting pay for the privilege of openly ignoring the law.

With a card game gone bad, and a complaint to a newspaper, it all fell apart. Ames fled Minneapolis in mid-term to avoid prosecution. And at Doc Ames’s spectacular downfall, the citizens of Minneapolis finally woke up and took their city back.

Also of interest: MNopedia article on Albert Alonzo "Doc" Ames

Author information

Erik Rivenes, founder of the St. Paul Gangster Tours, is a writer and historian who produces the Most Notorious podcast.

Reviews and news

Star Tribune
MN Good Age
Tom Barnard Podcast

WCCO-TV and Pioneer Press profiles on Eric and his Most Notorious podcast

Advance Praise:

“Through deep research and no-nonsense prose, Erik Rivenes deftly unravels a tale of rampant corruption in the Mill City. A last, sordid gasp of the Gilded Age, this largely forgotten Minneapolis scandal makes for an absorbing read.”
Mark Lee Gardner, author of Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape

“A cast of vivid characters—including restaurateur and police captain ‘Coffee John’ Fitchette, who sometimes beat up complaining customers, and policeman Chris Norbeck, a married man whose mistress ran a First Street bordello—populate Rivenes’s tale of the popular and unscrupulous mayor Albert Alonzo ‘Doc’ Ames, who entangled Minneapolis in corruption and brought the city national notoriety. This is a well-researched, lively contribution to Minnesota history.”
Penny Petersen, author of Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront

“With wit and clarity, Erik Rivenes tells the amazing story of Doc Ames and his improbable rise from Civil War surgeon to boss of a wide-open city, complete with brothels, saloons, con games, election fraud, and labor and class strife. As one policeman testified, ‘Whoever did the dirty work, Mayor Ames got all the money.’ How Doc and his corrupt band of cronies came undone is a classic tale of arrogance and greed arriving at its logical, inevitable end.”
Tim Mahoney, author of Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 256 pages
  • 30 b&w photos
  • 6x9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681340920

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