Paul Smith Dillinger Items




Paul Smith's Dillinger Items From Weekly Missives



July 22nd.

Paul Writes -
John Herbert Dillinger, born in Indianapolis on June 22, 1903, then grew up near Mooresville where he committed a robbery and was sent to the Indiana State Reformatory on September 16, 1924.

John Dillinger

After his release from prison, in 1933, the Dillinger Gang committed a series of robberies, and after one arrest Dillinger escaped from the Lake County Jail using a wooden gun, then drove away in the sheriff's car.

Dillinger photographed with Lake County Officials

Designated by The FBI as Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger was shot and killed, by The FBI, while exiting the Biograph Theater in Chicago, July 22nd, 1934.

Now A Chicago Landmark

Buried at Indianapolis' Crown Hill Cemetery, and the grave-site has become the number one tourist attraction in the Cemetery.

Dillinger Marker



September 6th.

Paul Says -
John Dillinger committed his first violent crime on this day in 1924. He and another loser, an older ex-con named Edward Singleton, hid in the dark, drinking, near the Mooresville (Indiana) Christian Church (the building at 61 W. Harrison still stands) and waylaid local merchant Frank Morgan. The crooks got away with about $150 but were captured fairly quickly. Although Morgan wasn’t able to give a good ID on his attackers, the police got a confession out of Dillinger by promising him leniency. Unfortunately for Dillinger, the judge didn’t buy into the deal and sent him away on a 10-20 year sentence. Some observers feel the harsh sentence is what set Dillinger on the road to perdition. Singleton got 2-14.

Young John Dillinger



October 17th.

Paul Writes -
Like Dillinger himself, some of his gang died violently. One went to the chair on this day in 1934. Born in Muncie, he was 31-year-old Harry Pierpont. [Some sources say he was 32.] Ohio executed him for killing Sheriff Jess Sarber while Pierpont was breaking Dillinger out of a Lima, Ohio.

Harry Pierpont - Muncie, Indiana Native



March 3rd.

Paul Writes -
This was the day in 1934 that John Dillinger escaped from the Lake County jail in Crown Point, Indiana, using a fake gun.

It wasn’t Hoosier law enforcement’s finest hour.

Lake County Jail

Fake Gun



April 7th.

Paul Writes -
A period “Time Magazine” map showing the route John Dillinger took after he broke out of the Crown Point, Indiana, jail on March 3, 1934, shows that John Dillinger was involved in an auto accident in Noblesville, Indiana, on this day in that year. No other details are given. It must not have been bad as the next day he had dinner with his dad in Mooresville and on April 13 got a haircut and obtained food and fuel in Brownsburg, Indiana. He had a little over three months to live.

John Dillinger



April 13th.

Paul Writes -
I mentioned that John Dillinger had attended a family fried chicken dinner at his dad’s Mooresville, Indiana, home while on the run from the law following his escape from jail in Crown Point, Indiana.

Visiting Mooresville

Dillinger decided he needed some bulletproof vests so he and gang member Homer Van Meter (another Hoosier, from Fort Wayne) made their way to Warsaw, Indiana, and at about 0115 this day in 1934 approached Officer Judd Pittenger of the local police force and, machine guns at the ready, made him take them to the deserted police station and open the weapons room where they stole some bulletproof vests and pistols before releasing Pittenger.

Type Weapon Used In Warsaw PD Robbery



May 22nd.

Paul Writes -
John Dillinger was on the lam on this day in 1934. Still, that was no reason to pass up the fried chicken at his family reunion in Mooresville, Indiana, so he dropped by. There are photographs of him hamming it up there with the fake gun he used to escape from the jail in Crown Point, Indiana. He spent a couple of days in Mooresville, to the knowledge of everyone——before heading on.

John Dillinger In Mooresvile 1934

Some people think Dillinger buried a boatload of cash on the family farm during the reunion, but as the land is now a housing development, no one knows for sure. Local folklore says you can hear the sounds of a ghostly family reunion on this day and the smell of fried chicken wafts through the air. It is just down the road from Debbie and me so maybe we’ll drive by and let you know if we hear or smell anything.



June 14th.

I’ve often mentioned John Dillinger in these pages. If you read anything or have seen any movies you might link J. Edgar Hoover’s name with him as his nemesis. But, often overlooked is Dillinger’s pursuer from the Indiana State Police, Captain Matthew Leach who, at the age of 60, was killed (with his wife and two other people in the other car) this day in 1955 in a head-on collision near Somerset, Pennsylvania.

Capt. Matt Leach



June 30th.

Paul Writes -
John Dillinger’s gang robbed the Merchant’s Bank in South Bend, Indiana, this day in 1934, his last bank robbery. Patrolman Howard Wagner was directing traffic nearby when he heard a gunshot (one of the robbers discharged a machine gun into the ceiling of the bank) and walked towards the location. A rifle bullet, fired by gang member Homer Van Meter who was stationed at the bank door as a lookout, mortally wounded officer Wagner.

It was a chaotic scene. A jeweler came out of his store and fired a pistol at Baby Face Nelson, staggering him but not injuring him because he wore a bulletproof vest. Nelson fired a machine gun, missing the jeweler but hitting a couple of bystanders, at least one seriously.

A couple of hostages were injured, perhaps by police fire. Van Meter was also injured, but survived. He would be dead in a police shootout in less than two months; Dillinger in a little over three weeks.

Wanted Poster



July 17th.

Paul Writes -
John Dillinger robbed the Commercial Bank in Daleville, Indiana, this day in 1933. It was the first of a quick string, a little over two weeks later (August 4) in Montpelier, Indiana, then ten days later in Bluffton, Ohio, in Indianapolis on September 6, and Greencastle on October 23. Following that were more robberies in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and a couple more in Indiana (East Chicago on January 15, 1934, and South Bend on June 30, 1934). He had little more than a month to live.

Dillinger 380

Dillinger Ford - From Ralph Davis



July 22nd.

Paul Writes -
This is the anniversary of the 1934 death of 31-year-old Indiana native and crook, John Dillinger.  Undeniably he was a bank robber and likely a murderer of police officer William Patrick O’Malley following a Gary, Indiana, bank robbery on January 15, 1934. Dillinger was charged but never convicted as he escaped from prison and was killed before a trial was set.

Beginning & Conclusion

Dillinger was born at 2035 Cooper Street (now Caroline Street ) in Indianapolis near the railroad tracks at Massachusetts Avenue, but as a teenager moved with his family to near Mooresville, just southwest of Indianapolis.  His first known crime was a car theft, but the owner did not press charges.  In 1924 he and another guy tried to rob a 65-year-old Mooresville grocery but were caught and convicted.

He learned his bank robbing trade in an Indiana prison during imprisonment.  He practiced his criminal art throughout the Midwest, including places here in Indiana.  He broke out of jail twice, once in Ohio and once in Crown Point, Indiana. He made his escape from the Crown Point jail in the sheriff’s car. The jail still stands at the rear of what was then the sheriff’s home and when we went by it was in terrible disrepair, although undergoing some kind of renovation.

Dillinger was gunned down by federal agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago and, if such a thing interests you, several of us on this list have stood on the sidewalk where Dillinger met his fate and can personally attest that the theater still stands.

Chicago's Biograph Theater

For twenty years a museum dedicated to Dillinger stood in Nashville, Indiana, a town about an hour south of Indianapolis noted for its fall foliage and touristy shops.  When the owner of the museum died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his son sold the contents to the city of Crown Point, Indiana. Dillinger is buried in Indianapolis in Crown Hill Cemetery and, I am sure to the chagrin of cemetery officials, is the largest tourist draw of the cemetery that contains some 190K Hoosiers, including a president, three VPs, numerous senators, etc. For some strange reason some people who visit his grave feel compelled to chip pieces off the tombstone (the stone you see is the third that has marked his grave; the other chipped stone you see is his dad, also a John Dillinger).

You can download the FBI files on Dillinger here. The Indiana State Archives has a considerable amount of Dillinger material, should you need reference materials. BTW, Debbie and I drove by a gangster-themed restaurant named Dillinger’s in tiny Hudson, Indiana, maybe twenty five miles north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, but it was not open when we drove by. As of May 2002, members of the Dillinger family were suing the restaurant owners for using the name without paying a licensing fee to the family.



September 6th.

While I am at it I will mention that this is also the anniversary of the 1933 robbery by Dillinger and his gang of the Massachusetts Avenue State Bank here in Indianapolis. They got away with $24K that was never recovered.

Dillinger's First Bank Job



September 25th.

Paul Writes -
Crown Hill Cemetery was incorporated on this day in 1863. The pretty Indianapolis cemetery, final resting place of perhaps 195K persons, including a president, three vice-presidents (more than any other cemetery, fitting perhaps as only New York has produced more VPs than Indiana), a dozen or so governors (including a Kentucky governor), and countless senators, congressmen, war heroes, racing greats, pioneers, an odd outlaw or two (John Dillinger), mayors, artists, rich folk, poor folk, and every one in between, is the nation’s third largest non-governmental cemetery.

Dillinger's Grave Marker In Crown Hill



September 26th.

Paul Writes -
Ten inmates escaped from the prison at Michigan City, Indiana, this day in 1933 using guns that had been previously smuggled in with the assistance of John Dillinger.

Sample Dillinger Weapons - FBI & ISP



April 13th -

Paul Writes -
I mentioned that John Dillinger attended a family fried chicken dinner at his dad’s Mooresville, Indiana, home while on the run from the law following his escape from jail in Crown Point, Indiana.

He and his girlfriend, Billie Frechette (Dillinger introduced her to his family as his wife but she was actually married to someone else) returned to Chicago. The next day (April 9) Billie was arrested in a bar while Dillinger, sitting outside in car, was overlooked by the FBI agents.

Billie Frechet

Dillinger decided to spring her from custody by mounting an attack on the agents guarding her when she was being taken to St. Paul, Minnesota, for arraignment on charges she had harbored a criminal (him) there.

Dillinger decided he needed some bulletproof vests so he and gang member Homer Van Meter (another Hoosier, from Fort Wayne) made their way to Warsaw, Indiana, and at about 0115 this day in 1934 approached Officer Judd Pittenger of the local police force and, machine guns at the ready, made him take them to the deserted police station and open the weapons room where they stole some bulletproof vests and pistols before releasing Pittenger.

One of the vests was later found in Lake Michigan the day after Dillinger was killed, probably tossed there by Anna Sage, the “Woman in Red” (actually, she wore orange) who gave Dillinger up to the authorities.

Anna Sage



Another Dillinger Summary By Paul.



July 22nd.

Paul Writes -
Back to the theme of Hoosier criminals, this is the anniversary of the 1934 death of 31-year-old Indiana native and crook, John Dillinger. Undeniably he was a bank robber and likely a murderer of police officer William Patrick O’Malley following a Gary, Indiana, bank robbery on January 15, 1934.

[Dillinger was charged but never convicted as he escaped from prison and was killed before a trial was set.] Dillinger was born at 2035 Cooper Street (now Caroline Street ) in Indianapolis near the railroad tracks at Massachusetts Avenue, but as a teenager moved with his family to near Mooresville, just southwest of Indianapolis. His first known crime was a car theft, but the owner did not press charges.

In 1924 he and another guy tried to rob a 65-year-old Mooresville grocery but were caught and convicted. He learned his bank robbing trade in an Indiana prison during imprisonment. He practiced his criminal art throughout the Midwest, including places here in Indiana.

He broke out of jail twice, once in Ohio and once in Crown Point, Indiana. [He made his escape from the Crown Point jail in the sheriff’s car. The jail still stands at the rear of what was then the sheriff’s home and when we went by it was in terrible disrepair, although undergoing some kind of renovation.]

Dillinger was gunned down by federal agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago and, if such a thing interests you, several of us on this list have stood on the sidewalk where Dillinger met his fate.

John Dillinger

John Dillinger Killed Here



January 15th.

Paul Writes -
This day in 1934 Officer William P. O’Malley was killed outside the First National Bank of East Chicago during a robbery by John Dillinger and his gang that netted them over $20K. Ten days later Dillinger and other members of his gang were arrested in Tucson and he was extradited to Indiana to stand trial for the killing of O’Malley.

He escaped from the Crown Point, Indiana, jail before trial and was later killed in Chicago without ever standing trial for O’Malley’s murder. BTW, the East Chicago bank Dillinger robbed still stands, but the ornate, barrel-vaulted structure is gone.



February 29th.

Famed G-Man Melvin Purvis killed himself with a shot to the head on February 29, 1960.  He was 56.  It is said that he is the one who shot John Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago and used the same pistol to kill himself.

Melvin Purvis



May 10th.

Paul Writes -
Indiana’s Governor Paul McNutt granted John Dillinger’s parole this day in 1933.

In effect, though, he was granting Dillinger his undergraduate degree in criminality as Dillinger had spent the nearly nine years since he had gone to jail for mugging a grocer in Martinsville (who testified for granting Dillinger parole, BTW) learning in Indiana’s penitentiary how to be a bank robber.

The Early Years