Obit of the Day (Historical): John Dillinger (1934)
It was a hot day in Chicago on July 22, 1934. So John Dillinger along with his girlfriend Polly Hamilton, brothel owner Anna Sage and another woman headed to the air-conditioned Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The feature film was Manhattan Melodrama, starring William Powell, Clark Gable, and Myrna Loy.
The foursome left the theater at about 10:30 p.m. FBI agent Melvin Purvis, hiding in the shadows of a nearby alley lit a cigarette - a signal for his team to apprehend “Public Enemy #1.” As they approached Dillinger, shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, Dillinger was lying dead in the middle of the street.
Ms. Sage*, a Romanian immigrant facing deportation had told the FBI where Dillinger would be. She hoped by helping the FBI some of her past indiscretions might be overlooked and she could remain in the United States. She was deported anyway.
The Dillinger killing was huge for the Bureau. For nine months Dillinger and his gang ran rampant through the Midwest robbing banks and police arsenals and leaving a trail of bodies along the way. Ten men were killed and another seven were wounded by Dillinger or his men. By the time of his death, Dillinger was nearly taunting the FBI by living out in the open on Chicago’s North Side.
The public saw Dillinger differently. By choosing banks as his main targets, Dillinger was a folk hero hurting the industry that most felt cause the worst of the Great Depression. While Dillinger’s body lay in the middle of Lincoln Avenue, local residents and bystanders ran out to dip their handkerchiefs in the deceased criminal’s blood.
Dillinger’s body was brought to the morgue where the FBI allowed the press to take photographs and visitors to see the body. It was considered a deterrant for other potential criminals.
John Dillinger, who died on July 22, 1934, was one month past his 31st birthday.
Sources: FBI and Chicago Tribune
(Image of officials holding the body of John Dillinger is courtesy of robinsonlibrary.com)
* Sage was often referred to as “The Woman in Red” but she was, in fact, wearing orange.
Edited and re-posted from July 22, 2011.