ARMORED CARS OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
The Shelton Brothers and Charlie Birger
In 1926, after winning the “War” with S. Glenn Young and the KKK, the Shelton Brothers gang and Charlie Birger’s gang had a falling out over the revenues of slot machines and ended up warring against each other. Most of the time, it was a normal gang war with ambushes, drive-bys and the occasional hand-thrown dynamite bomb. But unlike most gang leaders of the 20’s the Shelton Brothers and Birger were innovative and came up with new weapons to use against each other. Both the Shelton brothers and Birger had their own homemade armored cars (though there is no reported encounter between them). Birger’s was based on an old Reo car (see picture below) while the Shelton’s was described as being a water tank in the back of a 2 and ½ ton truck or a fuel truck with the top cut off so the riders could fire over the side (no pictures of the Shelton’s armored car survive so I have included a drawing showing a supposed fight between the warring sides armored car by a local). In addition, the Shelton’s tried aerial bombardment of Birger’s HQ (the Shady Rest) by chucking three dynamite bombs out of a Curtis Jenny. The aerial attack was unsuccessful, in one account none of the bombs (dynamite wrapped around a container of nitroglycerin) worked, in another one bomb exploded killing a dog and a pet American eagle.
In 1927 Charlie Birger entered history, as the last man in Illinois to be executed by hanging. The Shelton Brother moved on to control gambling in Peoria but, by 1950 three of the four brothers were dead, with the fourth moving permanently to Florida to sell real estate.