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Ned "Shirtsleeve" Kelton was the leader of the Purple Cross Gang. He had wavy hair that he wore swept back and cut very short on the sides. He had a freckled face and typically dressed in a checked suit.

Kelton wore a false moustache in his day-to-day life in an effort to conceal his identity as the leader of the Purple Cross Gang.

Respectable Citizen[]

At some point in the past Ned Kelton had been a low-level public official in Dick Tracy's city. He became embroiled in scandal and left office in disgrace. While he adopted a public persona as a legitimate businessman, he secretly took control of the Purple Cross Gang and began to organize criminal activity.

Kelton's second-in-command in the gang was his old criminal associate Arthur Maylie. Tracy suspected Maylie was a member of the Purple Cross Gang and he questioned Kelton in his office about Maylie's whereabouts. Kelton refused to cooperate, but he arranged a meeting with Maylie shortly after Tracy left.

Tracy observed Kelton meeting with Maylie, and he followed Maylie. Tracy's attentions were focused on Maylie for some time afterwards, and he had little interaction with Kelton.

Greater Ambitions[]

After several members of the gang were arrested, Kelton decided to alter the gang's tactics. He outfitted the remaining members with chauffeurs' uniforms and fast cars, directing them to commit robberies far outside of Dick Tracy's jurisdiction.


Kelton's scheme was successful for a while. Despite this, Baldy Stark (the gang's Number 4) became disillusioned with the criminal life and tried to leave the gang. Stark was brought before Kelton, who tortured him with a whip. Rather than breaking Stark's spirit, this made him more resolved to leave the gang. Stark fled to a different city and adopted a new identity. This left Kelton with only three remaining members of his gang.

In order to increase the gang's effectiveness, Kelton began to give Dick Tracy inaccurate information about the gang's plans, claiming to have overheard this information around town. After several bad tips, Tracy stopped trusting Kelton, though Pat Patton was still willing to act on Kelton's information. Patton was quickly embarrassed by a failed attempt to catch the gang and he stopped believing Kelton as well.

The Purple Cross Gang Disbands[]

Enjoying their success, the remaining members of the gang demanded a bigger share of the money they stole. They threatened Kelton, who agreed to their demands. Kelton then lured the gang members (Maylie, Midge Humphries, and Dade Calahan) to a garage, where he killed them with a machine gun.


Kelton was arrested by Tracy but was quickly freed by his attorney since there was no evidence or witnesses to connect Kelton to his crimes. Kelton then tracked Baldy Stark to Stark's new residence, as he believed that Baldy was the only living person who could incriminate him. Kelton confronted Stark at gunpoint, but Stark was able to get to his own gun and a stand-off ensued. Stark gained an advantage, and he shot and killed Kelton.

Dick Tracy arrived on the scene shortly after, having tracked down Stark himself. He identified Kelton's body and arrested Stark for murder. Stark was able to make a self-defense case, and received a reduced sentence for his other crimes.


  • The origin of Kelton's nickname "Shirtsleeve" is not clear.
  • Kelton's tactic of wearing a false moustache was not revealed until after his death. This was presumably meant to keep readers from guessing the identity of the Purple Cross Gang's leader.
  • A masked figure (who seemed to be leading a group of Purple Cross Gang members) appeared in the strip on October 13th, 1936, but it cannot be confirmed if this was Kelton. The first member of the gang to be addressed as "Boss" appeared on November 6th.
  • It was established that Arthur Maylie knew of Kelton's dual identity, but it was not made clear if the other members of the Purple Cross Gang knew that Shirtsleeve Kelton was their leader.
  • Kelton's method of murdering his gang members (in a garage with a machine gun) recalls the real-life St. Valentine's Day Massacre of Chicago, which had occurred only a few years prior to the publication of the Purple Cross Gang story.