Little Bits of History

Public Enemy #1

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 22, 2010

John Dillinger wanted poster

July 22, 1934: John Dillinger is gunned down by FBI agents in a set-up as he leaves the theater with his girl friend and his betrayer. During the Depression, banks failed across America, sweeping away the life savings of millions of regular folks. Homes were lost to foreclosure and businesses failed because of the banking crash. Banks were not seen as the “good guys.”

John Dillinger was a bank robber. Many Americans did not see this as a terrible crime. There was a Robin Hood mystique around bank robbers when these robbers destroyed mortgage paperwork while they were stealing the money. The daring and glamorous getaways were also viewed as entertainment, especially when the robbers were seen as handsome and polite.

The newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] run by J. Edgar Hoover did not view it this way. The FBI did not see the Robin Hood side of Dillinger, but instead noticed the ten dead men, seven wounded, the robberies of banks and police arsenals, and the three jail breaks he staged. The FBI made a deal with Ana Cumpanas who was trying to avoid deportation. She set up Dillinger while they exited the theater.

Maybe. Even today, there is no definitive agreement on the identify of the corpse outside the theater. Dillinger’s father denied that the body was his son’s. They eyes were listed as the wrong color on the autopsy report. There were signs of a childhood illness that Dillinger did not have. However, his sister did positively identify the body by a scar on the leg. Dillinger had plastic surgery to change his appearance and acid treatments to his fingertips to blur fingerprints. Many legends have grown around who died that night. John Dillinger Day is still held every year on this date.

“The greatest crimes are caused by excess and not by necessity. ” – Aristotle

Anonymous: How could crime be reduced?
Solon: If it caused as much resentment in those who are not its victims as in those who are.

“The duty to disclose knowledge of crime rests upon all citizens.” – Robert H. Jackson

“The repetition of a crime is sometimes part of a device of justification: we do it again and again to convince ourselves and others that it is a common thing and not an enormity.” – Eric Hoffer

Also on this day, in 1796 a new community was named for Moses Cleaveland.

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