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Purple Cross Gang

First Appearance:

October 13th, 1936

Known Members:

Shirtsleeve Kelton, Leader (deceased)
Johnny Fling
Arthur Maylie (deceased)
Midge Humphries (deceased)
Dade Calahan (deceased)
Baldy Stark

Created By:

Chester Gould

Can be Found:

The Complete Dick Tracy Vol. 4

The Purple Cross Gang (also known as The Order of the Purple Cross) a group of thieves and killers who had purple crosses tattooed on their tongues. Led by the man known as The Boss, they committed several violent crimes.

Encountering Dick Tracy[]

Dick Tracy had been on the gang's trail since he had arrested one of their members for hitting Junior with a car. Tracy suspected a man by the name of Arthur Maylie to be one of them, and went to an ex-politician and associate of Maylie's named Shirtsleeve Kelton (a known associate of Maylie's) to gather more information. Kelton refused to help Tracy, then contacted Maylie to arrange a meeting.

Tracy followed Maylie after his meeting with Kelton and discovered that his friend Jim Trailer (an FBI agent) had been assaulted by agents of the Purple Cross Gang. Tracy aided Trailer while the gang members escaped.

Increased Efforts[]

At this point, the Boss decided to become more ambitious in the gang's schemes. He purchased four fast cars and chauffeur's uniforms, intending that the gang would commit bank robberies far outside the city, at such a distance from each other that there would be no discernible pattern.

After the first such robbery, Baldy Stark (the gang member known as "4") began to have pangs of conscience, partially because his gang activities were keeping him away from his young daughter. Around the same time, Shirtsleeve Kelton agreed to tell Dick Tracy anything he learned about the gang's activities. As the case progressed, Kelton's information on the gang's whereabouts always proved to be faulty.

Dissention in the Ranks[]

Meanwhile, the gang was disputing over how to divide their stolen money since Baldy Stark had left the gang without taking his share. The gang forced the Boss to agree to an even split. Fearing that the gang was about to be taken over by the traitorous Maylie, the Boss later caught his own gang off guard and mowed them down with a machine gun.

The Boss then went after Baldy Stark at Stark's home. When the Boss arrived, Stark turned out the lights and managed to shoot and kill the Boss when he accidentally knocked the refrigerator open in the darkness. The leader of the Purple Cross Gang was then exposed to be Shirtsleeve Kelton himself.

Baldy Stark was arrested and was about to be sentenced to death when Tracy testified on his behalf, reducing Stark's sentence to twenty years in prison.


  • Individual members of the Purple Cross appeared as early as September 20th, 1936, but the gang did not appear as an assembled group until October.
  • In addition to Johnny Fling, one member of the Purple Cross Gang who identified himself as "Jack Smith" was arrested in Nederville after a robbery in which he killed a man. "Smith" was freed by the other gang members. It is not known which member "Smith" was, but he was not Arthur Maylie or Baldy Stark (who both had distinctive appearances).
  • Also, two members of the gang were arrested after trying to kill Pat Patton in a hospital. One of them was called Gurney (who had previously assaulted Pat Patton). It is possible that "Jack Smith" was the other man, but this cannot be confirmed.
  • There is some discrepancy about the size of the Purple Cross Gang. The gang members were all identified by numbers (except for the Boss), and at one point one of the gang was addressed as "23". Later, after three members had been arrested, the Boss indicated that the gang consisted of only five people (himself, Maylie, Stark, Humphries, and Calahan).
  • The gang's activities were being investigated by FBI Agent Jim Trailer prior to the Boss's scheme of committing inter-state bank robberies. The gang's earlier activities would not seem to have been severe enough to warrant FBI attention.
  • It is unclear if the Purple Cross Gang had any connection to Big Boy's Outfit or any other precursors to the Apparatus.