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FBI’s Most Wanted Escapes Jail With Wooden Gun 80 Years Ago

We take a look back at what was making the news in our “History Through Headlines” segment.

  • “History Through Headlines”

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    Photo: Tony Stewart

    Dillinger is led through the Crown Point, Indiana jail.

  • “History Through Headlines”

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    Photo: Tony Stewart

    Crown Point, Indiana jail after Dillinger escaped.

  • “History Through Headlines”

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    Photo: Tony Stewart

    Notorious robber John Dillinger being transported by officials.

The year was 1934. Shirley Temple appeared in her first movie, “Stand Up and Cheer.” Duke Ellington climbed to the top with his #1 Hit “Cocktails for Two.” FDR was in his first term as President, and the FBI’s Most Wanted carved his own weapon to escape an Indiana jail.

The headline reads, “Dillinger Is A Peek A Boo Expert.” Indiana gangster John Dillinger escaped from a Crown Point, Indiana jail with a wooden gun 80 years ago. Author of the book “Dillinger: The Hidden Truth Re-loaded” Tony Stewart says the jail break led the FBI to call him public enemy number one.

“People never saw the gun he stuck it in their side in their ribs and he threatened, I’m getting out of here one way or another or I’ll kill you if I have to. What he did was each time he grabbed a guard, he’d put them in a cell and lock them up and he ended up locking ten guards and a dozen trustees.”

Dillinger was born in Indianapolis, but his family moved to Mooresville when Dillinger was 16 and started getting in trouble. They wanted to move away from the bad crowds. The house is still there and lived in by Dillinger’s great nephew.

Stewart says Dillinger – the notorious robber – was portrayed by many people as a kind of hero.

“It was during the time of the great depression, so people were in hard times and a lot of the banks foreclosed and took farms and homes and a lot of people’s life savings. Here’s these banks taking everything away from them and here’s a guy fighting back taking from the banks.”

He robbed six banks in Indiana, including one of his biggest in Greencastle. He and his gang took more than $74,000 in cash and bonds from the Central National Bank Trust Co.

He was killed by agents outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago later that July 80 years ago. He was 31 years old.

Joe Hren

Anchor, Indiana Newsdesk - WTIU & WFIU News. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_Hren

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