Infamous America covers the lives, careers, and crimes of the most notorious gangsters, mobsters, and assassins in American history. The leader of the Dillinger Gang, John Dillinger robbed at least 24 banks and four police stations and evaded police spectacularly. He was a national icon, a Robin Hood figure fit for the screen, and totally sensationalized by the media. He's also the reason the FBI was ever formed in America.
There's an old Clark Gable film mostly forgotten today called Manhattan Melodrama. If it's remembered at all, it's not because of the plot where two childhood friends grow up to be a gangster and a district attorney. It is not because of the cast, which included the first pairing of William Powell and Myrna Loy, who would go on to start together in the immensely popular Thin Man series of films. It's because of what happened after the 8:30 p.m. Showing at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Illinois, on July 22nd, 1934. That night, the captivating journey of the most infamous gangster in America came to an end. For a little more than a year, John Dillinger and his gang of bank robbers kept the country on the edge of its seat. They pillaged dozens of banks across numerous states. They shot it out with local law enforcement and federal agents mhm, and it seemed no prison was secure enough to hold them, The Indianapolis Star newspaper wrote. The entire crime fighting resources of the nation have been united for months against one man, and he has continued to strike and vanish. It will with apparent immunity. Every policeman in every school child of the Middle West has Dillinger's facial characteristics graven in his mind. And yet John Dillinger is as loose and as free as ever. Dillinger's ability, thus, to shoot and run away and live to shoot another day has led the public to believe he is a mastermind, a super criminal of brilliant intellect. And he might have been. There were other Gangsters in America and criminals of every stripe in description, but there was only one John Dillinger member from Black Barrel Media. This is Season four of infamous America. I'm your host, Chris Wimmer, and this season we're telling the story of the most notorious bank robber in modern American history. It's the portrait of public enemy number one John Dillinger. This is Chapter one birth of a criminal. John Dillinger stood in front of a judge in an Indianapolis courtroom. He exhibited an obvious disdain for the court, crossing his arms and doing two things no defendant would usually dare to do before a judge chewing gum and wearing his cap indoors, He had been brought in for leading a gang of thugs who were stealing anything they could get their hands on, often watermelons to eat or buckets of cold to sell for profit. The judge ordered him to straighten up, which John did with typical contempt, moving so deliberately slow that the furious judge announced, Your mind is crippled. John was 10 years old. Mhm. Instead of correcting his behavior, the young criminal and his crew of misfits Children kept going. They once tied an unpopular kid to a sawmill carrier. They tackled like cartoon villains. They let the kids scream and flail helplessly until the enormous blade was just inches from the child's head. And then they let him go. His behavior as a child was somewhat reminiscent of another infamous criminal from a couple generations earlier. Billy the Kid. John seemed a little more mean spirited, but like Billy, most people saw him as a typical rambunctious boy. His Sunday school teacher said. Johnny was mischievous, just like the rest of them, but he was such a healthy, normal specimen of a boy that you couldn't help liking him. He always tipped his hat to me. Dillinger would display this kind of dual persona for the rest of his life. He was perfectly willing to rob Banks and take hostages and get into gunfights. But he could also be jovial and good natured and well mannered, just like Billy. But it wasn't Billy the kid he idolized. It was another Old West outlaw, the most famous bank robber in American history, until Dillinger came along Jesse James. And like Jesse, it took time for Dillinger to evolve into the swaggering, cocky, larger than life character that he's remembered as today. The evolution began in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 22nd 19 oh three. Yeah, when Dillinger was born on the 22nd, he did not yet have a name. His family debated five options. His older sister, Audrey, noted them in her journal. Harold, Alfred, Harry, Theodore and John. Ultimately, the family christened the newborn John Herbert Dillinger John after his father, Audrey, also noted that he looked just like John Senior, with black hair and dark eyes. And like his future idol, Jesse James, John Junior's family experienced loss and upheaval when he was very young. When John was three years old, his mother died from a stroke. When Jesse was three, his father left the family to find gold in California and never returned mhm. Yeah, John's sister, Audrey, moved back home with her husband to help care for her younger brother. She was 13 years older than John, and by the time she moved back into the family home, she was married and pregnant. Audrey's family rapidly grew to include seven Children, and they were finally forced to get their own home. Then John Senior remarried and began to have a brood of Children with his new wife. As John grew into the 10 year old, who would stand in front of a judge for the first time, he was surrounded by nieces and nephews and step siblings. Yet he was somewhat alone. His mother was dead, his sister was managing her own family, and his father had a new wife and three small Children to care for. John Jr initially resented his stepmother, and with this combination of factors, it might not be surprising that he ran away from home numerous times, But he always came back. He eventually formed a bond with his stepmother, but the death of his birth mother always haunted him, he said Later in life, I only wish I had a mother to worry over me, but she died when I was three. I guess that's why I was such a bad boy. And so John Dillinger developed into a boy who was a petty thief and who tortured other kids with threats of extreme bodily harm and who dreamed of clever pranks that were beyond the capacity of the rest of his friends. John convinced some of his buddies to help him tie one end of a rope to his neighbors, Rose Trellis and the other end to a streetcar. When the streetcar pulled away, it yanked the Rose trellis and sent it flying through the air. When John Senior confronted his son about the act, John Jr was indignant, he said. So what if I did wreck his roses? The old bastard's mean anyhow. By the age of 10, John Dillinger proved he was smart and creative and a troublemaker. It was a wonderful recipe for what was to come Mhm