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Public Enemy #1 | Timeline

John Dillinger Timeline

William J. Helmer

June 22:  John Herbert Dillinger is born in Indianapolis. His father, John Wilson Dillinger, owns a grocery store. 

Prohibition begins. The 18th Amendment is ratified by 36 states, making it illegal to produce, transport, or sell alcohol.

John Wilson Dillinger moves his family to a farm in Mooresville, Indiana.

December 4: After only five months in the Navy, twenty-year-old Dillinger goes AWOL.

April 12: Dillinger marries 16-year-old Beryl Hovious. 

May:  J. Edgar Hoover is appointed acting director of the Bureau of Investigation. His appointment will become permanent in January, 1925.

September 6: Dillinger and Ed Singleton rob Frank Morgan, a Mooresville grocer. Although Dillinger strikes him with an iron bolt wrapped in cloth, Morgan is not seriously hurt.

September 16: Dillinger arrives at the Indiana State Reformatory in Pendleton to serve 10 to 20 years for assaulting and robbing Frank Morgan. Singleton receives 2 to 14 years.

February 14: Seven men are killed by unidentified mobsters in Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Al Capone is blamed for the incident, but the case is never solved.

May 13-15: Mafia leaders from the Midwest and East Coast meet in Atlantic City to develop a system of arbitration. They solidify networks made through bootlegging and become a national organization.

June 20: Beryl Hovious divorces Dillinger on the ground that he is a convicted felon. He is devastated.

July 15: An embittered Dillinger is sent to the Indiana State Prison, to live among more hardened criminals, upon his own request.

October 24: The Stock Market crashes on Wall Street. The Great Depression begins.

April 24: The first list of public enemies is published by the Chicago Crime Commission -- with Al Capone in first place.

Hollywood's version of gangster life captivates the nation in the first of many Depression-era crime movies, Little Caesar.

October 24: Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for income tax evasion.

James Cagney becomes a Hollywood star for his definitive performance as criminal Tommy Powers in the wildly successful gangster film, The Public Enemy

March 1:  Charles Lindbergh's infant son is kidnapped. The D.O.I. rejects Capone's offers of help in finding him. From prison, Capone says he is sure that no organized crime gang committed the crime.

June 22: The "Lindbergh Law" is passed, making it a federal crime to transport a kidnapped person across state lines for ransom. July 1: The Justice Department Bureau of Investigation is officially renamed the U.S. Bureau of Investigation.

March 4: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States.

May 22: Dillinger's stepmother is dying and he is released on parole from Michigan City Prison, thanks to a petition signed by 184 Mooresville residents. By the time he arrives home, his stepmother is already dead.

June 10: Dillinger robs his first bank, in New Carlisle, Ohio. He takes $10,600.

June 17: Men armed with machine guns try to free prison escapee Frank Nash from special agents who have recaptured him, in the Kansas City Massacre. Nash is killed, as are one special agent and three other law enforcement officials.  Pretty Boy Floyd and two accomplices are blamed, but the crime remains unsolved to this day.

July 27: President Roosevelt meets with Attorney General Homer S. Cummings to discuss a "super-police force" to fight interstate crime. He says he will use the Bureau of Investigation.

The American Catholic Bishops call for Hollywood to stop producing offensive films glorifying gangster life, in an effort that will create the Legion of Decency in April 1934 and a nationwide pledge by concerned Catholics to boycott gangster movies.

August 10: The Bureau of Investigation is expanded and renamed the Division of Investigation (D.O.I.).

September 22: After committing several robberies, Dillinger is arrested in Dayton, Ohio, and sent to the Allen County Jail in Lima, Ohio.

September 26: Using guns smuggled in by Dillinger, ten men escape from the Indiana State Prison. Among them are Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, John Hamilton, Walter Dietrich, and Russell Clark, who will later form the Dillinger gang.

October 12: Pierpont, Makley, and Clark free Dillinger from jail in Lima, Ohio. Pierpont kills Sheriff Jesse Sarber in the process.

October 23: The Dillinger gang robs Central National Bank in Greencastle, Indiana. They take $75,000.

December 5: Prohibition is repealed by the 21st Amendment.

December 16: The Chicago Police Department forms the "Dillinger Squad." It comprises 40 men and is led by Captain John Stege.

December 20: The Dillinger gang goes to Florida for a vacation. Dillinger brings his girlfriend, Evelyn "Billie" Frechette.

January 1: A former U.S. Army fort on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay becomes a showcase federal prison for the country's most notorious criminals.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police joins the protest against gangster pictures, and calls on the entertainment industry to help fight the war on crime. Within months, Hollywood agrees to enforce Production Code standards, effectively ending the output of gangster films.

January 15: While robbing the First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana, Dillinger is confronted by Officer William O'Malley, who shoots him several times. Because he is wearing a bulletproof vest, Dillinger is unharmed. In the confusion, O'Malley is shot and killed.

January 25: The Dillinger gang is arrested in Tucson, Arizona. Pierpont, Makley, and Clark are extradited to Ohio for the murder of Sheriff Sarber. Dillinger is extradited to Indiana for the murder of O'Malley.

January 30: Dillinger arrives at the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana, where reporters are captivated by his charisma and sense of humor. Dillinger poses for a photo with Prosecutor Robert Estill, and places his arm on Estill's shoulder. This scandalous photo will eventually ruin Estill's career.

March 3: Dillinger escapes from Crown Point with the help of a wooden gun he claims to have carved from a washboard -- and cash payments made by his lawyer, Louis Piquett. Herbert Youngblood, an African American prisoner, escapes with him. Dillinger drives to Chicago in Sheriff Lillian Holley's car. By driving across state lines in a stolen vehicle, Dillinger commits a federal crime, which allows the Division of Investigation to pursue him.

March 16: Herbert Youngblood is killed by police in Port Huron, Michigan.

March 24: Pierpont and Makley are sentenced to the electric chair for the murder of Sheriff Jesse Sarber. Clark is sentenced to life in prison.

April 5-8: Dillinger and Frechette visit his family in Mooresville. Division of Investigation special agents observe the family event, but fail to capture Dillinger.

April 9: Frechette is captured by special agents at a Chicago restaurant. Dillinger reluctantly decides that a rescue attempt is impossible.

April 22: The Dillinger gang escapes from a shoot-out with D.O.I. special agents in Little Bohemia, Wisconsin.  Baby Face Nelson kills one special agent and wounds two other men. The special agents accidentally kill a tavern customer, and wound two others.

May 18: President Roosevelt signs a bill giving more power to the federal government to fight crime.

May 23: Frechette is sentenced to two years in federal prison for harboring Dillinger.

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker are killed in a police ambush on a country road in Louisiana.

May 27: Dillinger and Homer Van Meter (a close friend and member of the Dillinger gang) undergo plastic surgery in Chicago at the home of bar owner Jimmy Probasco. They spend the next month at his house recovering from the operations.

June 6: President Roosevelt allows the Justice Department to offer reward money for criminals.

June 18: Congress gives D.O.I. agents full arrest powers, and allows them to carry firearms without obtaining special permission.

June 22: Dillinger is informally named America's first Public Enemy Number One in a speech given by U.S. Attorney General Homer S. Cummings. Dillinger celebrates his 31st birthday by going out with Polly Hamilton, his new girlfriend.

June 23: The U.S. Justice Department offers a $10,000 reward for the arrest of Dillinger, and a $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

June 30: The Dillinger gang robs a bank in South Bend, Indiana. They take $30,000.

July 4: Dillinger moves into the apartment of Anna Sage, who owns several brothels.

July 19: Sage, who is facing deportation back to her native Romania, meets with Melvin Purvis, head of the Chicago D.O.I. office. She promises to turn over Dillinger if she's allowed to stay in the United States. Purvis says he cannot guarantee to stop her deportation proceedings, but agrees to do all he can.

July 22: Dillinger is killed in an ambush by D.O.I. special agents while leaving the Biograph Theatre in Chicago with Sage and Hamilton.

July 25: John Herbert Dillinger is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. After a Christian ceremony, he is laid to rest in the Dillinger family plot.

August 23: Fifty-two prisoners arrive at Alcatraz. Among them is Al Capone.

October 22: At a farm near Clarkson, Ohio, Pretty Boy Floyd is killed by D.O.I. special agents, with Melvin Purvis leading the group.

November 27: In a gun battle with special agents near Barrington, Illinois, Baby Face Nelson is severely wounded. He dies several hours later at a house in Niles Center, Illinois, now known as Skokie.

July 1: The Division of Investigation is renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National FBI Academy is established.

In Hollywood, former gangster portrayer James Cagney switches sides and appears in the first Hollywood film to heroize the government's fight against crime, the instant classic G-Men.


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