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Gangster John Dillinger

Updated on July 26, 2015

John Dillinger

Dead at the age of 31, John Dillinger truly lived life hard and died young. Some considered J. D. to be a dangerous criminal, while others viewed him as a Robin Hood type figure. John Dillinger's exploits, along with those of other criminals of the 1930s Depression era, such as Bonnie and Clyde and Ma Barker dominated the attentions of the American media and its readers during what is sometimes referred to as the public enemy era, between 1931 and 1935, a period which led to the further development of the modern and more sophisticated FBI.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikipedia

Click here to view the FBI's current Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Early Life

John Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Brightwood, Indiana, and grew up in a small town close to there. He joined the Navy, but soon deserted and was later dishonorably discharged. Dillinger returned to Indiana where he got married and tried to settle down. However, he had difficulty holding a job and his marriage soon fell apart. One night in 1924, a small-time criminal who was a friend of Dillinger convinced him to assist in the mugging of a Mooresville grocer named Frank Morgan. The two believed that Morgan carried a large amount of cash. They were soon captured. Dillinger's friend hired a lawyer and sentenced to just two years in jail. Dillinger, however, was unable to afford council, and was convicted and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison despite having no clean record up to that point. Dillinger served almost 9 years before being paroled.

Public domain photo courtesy Beyond Hollywood

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Dillinger Quote... (to his robbery victims)

"These few dollars you lose here today are going to buy you stories to tell your children and great-grandchildren. This could be one of the big moments in your life; don't make it your last!" - John Dillinger

Quote courtesy Mixbook

Robbery Career

Dillinger served much of his imprisonment in solitary confinement. Ironically, Dillinger's time in jail only trained him to be a more serious criminal. When released from prison in 1933, he carried a map, supplied by inmates, of possible robbery targets.

J. D. was set free during the heart of the Great Depression, as an ex-con it is very unlikely that Dillinger could have found steady work. He quickly discovered robbing banks was a great "job" and almost instantly became a type of Robin Hood nationwide hero. The fact that innocent bystanders were killed during his robberies was generally overlooked, and the national media portrayed him up as a cunning, gusty, likable fellow, stealing from the banks which had been foreclosing on hapless debtors.

Dillinger became a big thorn in the side for the police and FBI, because he generally made them look like idiots; arguments amongst police departments made him tough to capture. When he was nabbed, he was able to escape. His most famous trick was when he broke out of heavily armed Crown Point County Jail using just with a wooden gun. Eventually, however, the members of his gang were killed or caught. Dillinger then relocated to Chicago, disguised himself, laid low, and attempted to blend into the crowded city.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikipedia

Death of Dillinger

July 22 1934, was John Dillinger's last day on Earth. Dillinger attended a gangster movie in a local theater in Lincoln Park, with two female companions. One of the women worked out a deal with the FBI, and set up Dillinger for a plea deal. When they exited the theater that night, the waiting FBI agents opened fire on Dillinger, hitting him three times, killing him. The fatal bullet entered the back of his John's neck and exited just below his right eye.

Dillinger's lifeless body was then transferred to the Cook County morgue where it was extensively photographed. For the next 24 hours, a crowd of curious individuals walked through the morgue to try to see the now dead Dillinger The chief medical examiner finally complained that this throng was interfering with his work and police deputies were on site to turn away the crowds. There were many stories of people dipping their clothing into the pools of blood that had accumulated, as Dillinger lay in the street in order to have keepsakes of the historic episode.

Dillinger is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. His gravestone is often vandalized by people removing pieces as keepsakes.

Public domain photo courtesy Celebritymorgue

Dillinger Informational Video

Learn about John Dillinger and his gang, that hid at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin.

Any Thoughts on John Dillinger? - Feel free to comment here. Thanks for visiting.

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    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 

      5 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      A great lens, so informative and interesting! Thank you very much for sharing.

    • tobydavis profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoyed the Johnny Depp movie about his life. Don't know how realistic it was. An interesting lens about an iconic figure in American History, be he a good or a bad one.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      He robbed and he killed. The fact that anyone would regard him as hero is a very sad statement about our society.

    • RawBill1 profile image


      6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I had heard of John Dillinger before but had no idea who he was or what he did. Now I know! I recently saw the 1960s film about Bonnie and Clyde though which was interesting.

    • jdwheeler profile image


      6 years ago

      Any time the Dillinger movie is on (either 70's one or Johnny Depp one), I try to watch it. Such an interesting story.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A very interesting guy no matter how one may feel about him!

    • potovanja profile image


      6 years ago

      Great hystorical info. Thank you for visit my...Super lens...

    • OrlandoTipster profile image


      6 years ago

      This little bio on Dillinger

    • esvoytko lm profile image

      esvoytko lm 

      6 years ago

      That quote is pretty awesome. Great lens!

    • medassistant85 profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice Squidoo page. I learned my family is kinned to Jesse James the notorious train robber.

    • succesful-dylan profile image


      6 years ago

      Cool gangser story

    • avigarret profile image


      6 years ago

      I find that he looks a little like Billy Bob Thornton but maybe that's just me.

      I never heard of John Dillinger before but I found his case fascinating, and will love to see a movie based on his character.

      Another gem from Twmarsh.

    • domjohnson lm profile image

      domjohnson lm 

      6 years ago

      Although he was a bad man he wasn't as evil as some of the minor crimanals that are around today.

      Even criminals in those days had some morals.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Fascinating story!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      An interesting, colorful character, but a very bad man nonetheless. I enjoyed your lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      loved him; RIP

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 

      7 years ago

      Growing up in Chicagoland, everybody saw the Biography, site of Dillinger's demise. Thanks for doing this story!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A brilliant lens on a brilliant man.

      I can't say I was fond of the plot in "Public Enemies," though I think they did a great job in terms of acting--but I digress.

    • jackieb99 profile image


      7 years ago

      He seems like a cool dude.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What movies are made of

    • joanv334 profile image


      7 years ago

      Hello, thanks for sharing!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      very interesting story about JD. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      the locations in dillinger slept here are based on my hometown of mahtomedi, mn i live near several of those locations and a friend of mine used to live in the house mentioned as a speakeasy on warner rd. also my girlfriends grandpa is in the book he was a st paul cop in the 30's. awesome to see this here. i have the book too

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 

      8 years ago


      It is a new year and I am still getting to bless lens. I miss this one before but not now! Blessed :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Lens, thanks for the insight

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Never would have thought to do this guy, very interesting. thumbs up

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      To the best of my knowledge John Dillinger never killed anyone. He was no angel, but I don't believe he deserved to be ambushed. An FBI agent could have walked up behind him and placed a gun in his back and he could have been taken prisoner. An interesting fact, in Toronto they were doing up one of the many newly renovated theaters in the city. It was either the Plantages or The Winter Garden. Restored to their former glory, they needed original seats, they got them from The Biograph Theater, outside of which John Dillinger was killed. Therefor one of those seats in the renovated theater is the seat John Dillinger sat in before being killed. Also Clark Gable always felt guilty about John Dillinger, he was in the movie Dillinger went to see. Thanks for the lens.

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 

      8 years ago

      What a ridiculous way for him to die. What a life.

    • hlkljgk profile image


      8 years ago from Western Mass

      great lens. i used to work at a restaurant that had a small dining room called the dillinger room - it was actually a jail cell...

    • AlaskaHydro LM profile image

      AlaskaHydro LM 

      8 years ago

      I love Dillinger. He is the archetype of the American underdog hero. I really like how he made J. Edgar Hoover look like an incompetent bureaucrat over and over.


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