“The Egan Rats” was a gang conceived by a City Constable named William T. Egan. Egan’s biggest foe, Edward J. Hogan, was a State Representative, State Senator and a Business Manager for the Brewers and Soft Drink Workers Union. Hogan was also known as “Jellyroll” Hogan and was the son of a St. Louis cop. Along with his brother, James Hogan, "Jellyroll" developed his own gang.
“Jellyroll" and James decided to confront “The Rats” by cutting in on their action, which turned the early 20’s into a decade of gun battles inspired by money and hot, Irish tempers. It was a vicious decade with no signs of slowing down.
Despite popular belief, “Jellyroll” didn’t start the roar of the 20’s in St. Louis, Egan did. After flexing Egan’s influential muscle, President Woodrow Wilson granted commutation for a “Rat” Lieutenant named Max Greenberg in March of 1920. Greenberg had been convicted of stealing from an interstate shipment and had been freed from Leavenworth after serving only six months of his five year term. Even though Greenberg was granted freedom due to Egan's campaign, he felt no obligation to show Egan his appreciation and loyalty. A short while after Greenberg’s release, he defrauded Egan out of $2000 on a booze deal and became a turncoat that ended up devoting his life and loyalty to the Hogan brothers.
A year later, in March of 1921, Greenberg was gunned down at 6th St. and Chestnut while with a group of men including a loyal Egan activist named John Sweeney. In the end, Greenberg was merely wounded and Sweeney was dead.
Six months later Egan himself was gunned down outside a pub on 14th & Franklin while stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. Talk about your irony – this would be one of his last breaths. Nearby, a cop on foot heard the shots and ran to Egan’s side. Egan was then transported to the City Hospital located at 14th Street and Lafayette Avenue (this hospital is in the process of being redeveloped into lofts called The Georgian based upon the building’s Georgian Revival architecture). The city’s Police Chief and a priest from St. Patrick’s arrived shortly thereafter. At Egan’s bedside, he was asked, “who did this, Willie?” and he wouldn’t give any names out of respect for the “game”. He was a “Rat”, but not a rat. City Hospital picture taken by Jeff at Isucube.