Shopping Spree: Peter von Frantzius (1927)

Between 1925 and 1968, Peter von Frantzius Sporting Goods was a famous sporting goods store on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois, at 608 Diversey Parkway (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 5; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 25). His Sport Manual from 1927 has 97 pages and describes a marvellous selection of kit useful to the investigator.

SD_Shopping Spree_Frantzius

Note that, like many stores at the time, von Frantzius actually stocked few of these wares, especially the more exotic and/or more expensive ones, instead ordering them by express from the manufacturers or wholesalers whenever he received a firm order. The customer could then fetch them at his store after a few days.

Von Frantzius was an unscrupulous businessman who did not care who his customers were because “we are in the business of selling firearms.” He had an improvised shooting range behind his shop, the target consisting of a tree trunk riddled with submachine gun bullets. In 1931, von Frantzius was given the ridiculous sentence to pay a fine of $25 for not keeping complete records of his gun sales ‒ when in fact he had gone out of his way to obfuscate his sales by making fake deliveries of empty packages weighted with bricks. Not mentioned in his catalogue but offered nonetheless was having a gun’s serial number removed by his gunsmith Valentin Juch, a service that cost $2 (Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 22-23). This was not illegal at the time but highly suspicious as there was no need to do this unless you planned on committing illegal activities with the gun.

Page 3, Mauser Standard Model

This was a commercial Modell 40B bolt-action sporting rifle (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 2, p. 6; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 67-69), chambered especially for the US market for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge but also available in a number of German Mauser chamberings. Von Frantzius offered the former for $70, the latter for $55.

Page 23, Remington Autoloading Hammerless Repeating Shotgun Model 11A

A semiautomatic shotgun (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 23; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 82-83), not only “unquestionably the most popular shotgun in sportdom for waterfowl and field shooting,” but also common with the gangsters of Chicago. This type of gun played a role in most of the high-profile hits of the era. Sam “Golf Bag” Hunt, hit man for Capone’s Outfit, liked to carry his tools in a golf bag (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 33; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 25), usually with sawn-off barrel. Von Frantzius offered the Model 11A in 12-gauge 2.75” for $52.50.

Page 32, Ortgies Automatic Pistol

The semiautomatic pistol designed by Heinrich Ortgies and manufactured by the Deutsche Werke of Erfurt, Germany, was already out of production by 1923, but since hundreds of thousands were made and most were exported to the USA at very low prices, these continued to be available throughout the 1920s (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 19). Barker-Karpis Gang member Harry “Dutch” Sawyer (née Harry Sandlovich) was arrested with a .25-calibre Ortgies in 1935. This pistol erroneously ended up in the “Dillinger Gang’s Weapons” display at the FBI Headquarters. Von Frantzius offered the Ortgies in .25 ACP (6.35×16mmSR) for $11 and in .32 ACP (7.65×17mmSR) for $12.

Page 36, Colt Detective Special

The snub-nosed .38-calibre revolver favoured by gangsters, “easily carried in a coat side pocket” (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 13; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 35-37). One revolver sold by von Frantzius was found near North Side Gang member Frank Gusenberg, shot dead in the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” on 14-FEB-1929. It had its serial number removed and the hammer ground off to improve the draw from inside a pocket (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 8; GURPS Tactical Shooting, p. 32; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 10). Another one was sold to Outfit member Frank Foster (née Frank Citro) and used to murder Chicago Tribune police reporter Alfred “Jake” Lingle in a Chicago underground station on 09-JUN-1930. It had its serial number removed. Von Frantzius offered the Detective Special for $28.50.

Page 48, Zeiss Rifle Telescopes

A Zielvier scope with 4× magnification made by Carl Zeiss of Jena, Germany, “excellent for distances up to [731 metres]” (GURPS High-Tech, pp. 155-156; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 74). Perfect for that Mauser rifle mentioned above. Von Frantzius offered the Zielvier for $45, plus $15 for the mount and a further $15 for fitting it.

Page 61, Shotgun Shells

US Cartridge Company 12-gauge 2.75” shotgun shells, Climax brand, 00 buckshot load, “noted for their high velocity, uniform pattern and tremendous killing power.” This brand and load was used in the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” on 14-FEB-1929. Von Frantzius offered a box of 25 Climax shells for $1.10.

Page 74, Jones’ Shooting Mittens

Leather mittens with heavy wool liner, giving “free action to the trigger finger.” Von Frantzius offered a pair for $3.50.

Page 79, Eveready Flashlights

The No.2671 was “small enough to be carried in a coat pocket, it throws a beam of light [61 m],” perfect for “everyone who works or plays out-of-doors” (High-Tech, pp. 51-52; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 104). Comes with two D-cell batteries (High-Tech, p. 13). Von Frantzius offered the Eveready No.2671 for $1.49, and charged $0.15 per spare battery.

Page 80, Filmo Automatic Motion Picture Camera

A handheld 16-mm Bell & Howell Filmo movie camera for the amateur ‒ “no focusing, no cranking, no shutter adjustment, no tripod necessary to take movies of theatre quality on the first try” (High-Tech, p. 43). Von Frantzius offered it with a Taylor-Hobson Cooke f/3.5 lens for $180, and charged $6 per 33-m film roll (High-Tech, p. 44) ‒ enough for 5 minutes ‒ including developing and return postage.

Page 82, Bullet Proof Vests

The Wisbrod Bullet-Proof Vest, designed by Elliott Wisbrod but little more than a copy of the earlier Dunrite Bullet Proof Vest designed by Alexander Dunlap and made by the Detective Publishing Company, was lined with steel but concealed as an ordinary blue vest to be worn with a suit. “Guaranteed to stop any caliber revolver and pistol bullet, up to and including the .45 cal Colt’s Automatic steel jacketed bullet. Rifle bullets and German Luger and Mauser pistol bullets are not included” (High-Tech, pp. 65, 66; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 49).Von Frantzius offered a full-coverage vest (front, back, and sides) for $75 in all  sizes from S to XXL.

Page 82, The Thompson Automatic Gun

Although von Frantzius’ catalogue from 1927 listed only the Auto-Ordnance Model 1927 semiautomatic carbine, he made a brisk sale of the selective-fire variants (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, pp. 28-30; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 87-89) between 1928 and 1929. He was traced as the seller of the Model 1921A submachine gun used both in the murder of New York gangster Frank “Frankie” Yale (née Francesco Ioele) on 01-JUL-1928 and in the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” on 14-FEB-1929 as well as the Model 1921AC submachine gun used in the latter. In 1929, von Frantzius admitted selling as many as 22 Thompson guns to unsavoury characters and suspected gangsters, including several with obviously false names. He offered the Model 1921A and Model 1927A with one Type XX 20-round magazine for $175 and the Model 1921AC and Model 1927AC with one Type XX magazine for $200, plus $21 for a Type L 50-round drum magazine and $25 for a Type C 100-round drum magazine. Two boxes of US Cartridge Company .45 ACP cartridges (100 rounds) cost $4.72.

Page 82, Chicago Policemen’s Outfit

Complete outfit consisting of Sam Browne-style revolver belt, flap holster (High-Tech, p. 154; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 103), puttees, and regulation police club made of cocobolo wood (Investigator Weapons 1, p. 104). Von Frantzius offered the ensemble for $11.30. All you needed to look like a genuine Chicago Police Department officer was a dark blue uniform with hat and a police star. Von Frantzius offered the latter for $1.25, plus $2.50 for the correct inscription. A set of Peerless handcuffs (High-Tech, p. 217) was $10. A complete policeman’s outfit was perfect to impersonate a police officer. Gangsters liked to do that to trick members of rivalling gangs or the unsuspecting public.

Page 83, Federal Hand Grenade

A tear gas hand grenade made by the Federal Laboratories of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 2, pp. 30-31; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 98). Von Frantzius offered the grenade for $10.

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3 comments

  1. Sean Manning · August 24

    Pulp Guns 1 gives the Ortgies Selbstladepistole in .32 ACP and .38 ACP and lists production up to 1932. Was the model in .25 ACP cut for reasons of space? It does not sound like a ‘PC’ kind of handgun …

    As Waffenkundler I would be interested in details of these covered-small-plate-armours from the ’20s and ’30s.

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    • Yeah, wordcount, the bane of all-encompassing coverage. The end of production in High-Tech: Pulp Guns is definitely wrong, looks like transposed figures.
      Most of the contemporary vest designs used thin strips of steel. There were actually a good number of designs around worldwide, but all were made only in small numbers.

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      • Sean Manning · August 29

        I would definitely be interested in details of construction of both the cloth and the metal components, although the photos I have seen look like the tailoring was simple. One thing which strikes me is the weight: 8 lbs for a complete vest is only enough for an average thickness of 1 mm or so. I would not expect 1 mm of any steel to be “pistol proof at the least” especially given how much more powerful 1920s handguns were than their sixteenth-century counterparts.

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