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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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The general scene of the wreckage after the explosion on November 3, 1935. (Originally published in Milwaukee Journal.)
The general scene of the wreckage after the explosion on November 3, 1935. (Originally published in Milwaukee Journal.)

The Mad Bomber of Milwaukee

One of my favorite parts of OnMilwaukee.com is "This Day in Milwaukee History." We built this homepage widget a decade ago and have continued adding to it ever since.

Occasionally, it teaches me something. Today's entry is:

Nov. 9, 1935 – Before the city can respond to his ransom demands, Idzi Rutkowski, the "Mad Bomber of Milwaukee," dies when his dynamite cache explodes.

I have heard of this Mad Bomber before, and in fact, I think I saw a documentary that briefly touched upon his story. But I wanted to learn more.

That's when I found this fascinating story in the Milwaukee Polonia Project. You should definitely give it a read.

Some of the nuggets include:

"On October 2, 1935 he took the first step in this plan when he stole 150 sticks of dynamite, blasting caps and fuses from the Estabrook park CCC camp. He had tried to get a job there earlier in the year, but had been rejected because of his bad teeth."

In other words, his crime spree began because he had bad teeth. We're talking about 1935 here, when I'm guessing most people had "bad teeth." Makes me wonder how bad his teeth were.

And check out this account:

"The next bombings occurred less than twenty-four hours later when two banks were targeted. At 6:10 p.m. on October 27th, another bomb went off against the rear wall of the Citizens branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank located at 3602 W. Villard Ave. It weakened the building's foundation and sprayed glass over the surrounding homes. Using his stolen car that was made up to look like a police vehicle, Idzi then sped away to the site of his next target. Less than 30 minutes later, another bomb exploded, this time at the East Side branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank at the corner of N. Farwell and E. North Avenue. The dynamite had been placed on the ground at the rear of the building, so much of the force of the explosion went outward, wrecking near-by parked cars."

That East Side bank is my bank, the one by our old office. The one that's been robbed at least five times this year. I guess it's had its problems for 80 years.

Finally, read how the Mad Bomber met his demise:

"The bits and pieces of Idzi and Paul that could be collected had to be buried in the same coffin because there was no way to tell them apart."

Gross. Fascinating and gross. Milwaukee's history continues to enthrall me. I wish my grandparents were alive today; I'd love to hear more about how one crazed bomber held Milwaukee hostage.

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