Steve Grismer from the Dayton Police History Foundation, Inc. visited the New Carlisle Library on Wednesday, July 19th at 4 p.m. to give an in-depth history of John Dillinger. Dillinger has local connections because the first bank he ever robbed was in New Carlisle.
Grismer started his program by giving some prelim information about the Dayton Police History Foundation and gave a shout out to the “Dillinger Gang” which included Ren K. Hudson, Walter “Butch” Smith, Sandy Jones, and Larry Wack. He also gave some background information on the Dayton Police Force including that this year is the 150th anniversary of the departments existence and that the Dayton Police Force is the 3rd oldest police department in the state of Ohio, only behind Cincinnati and Cleveland. He also mentioned that in 2008, the Dayton Police History Exhibit was held at Carillon Park and was the largest temporary exhibit they have ever had. During the short time it was open, 20,000 kids visited on school groups and the exact number of visitors is still unknown.
Grismer began his talk on Dillinger by going all the way back to the beginning of Dillinger’s life. On June 22nd, 1903 Dillinger was born in a small town in Indiana. Meanwhile in Dayton, the city was growing and was named the “city of 1,000 factories”. As Dayton grew, so did Dillinger and he became a troubled teen. By 1910, he was frequently in trouble with the law and had dropped out of school. In 1922, he joined the Navy, but deserted soon after and was caught for auto-theft later that same year. In 1924, he married the only wife he would ever have and divorced her soon after. He was caught that same year for his first grocery store holdup in Mooresville, Indiana. He was sentenced to 10-20 years in Indiana’s State Prison where he was cellmates with Jim Jenkins. Jenkins had a sister, Mary Longnaker, who visited him often and who Dillinger took a liking to.
Dillinger ended up in prison for only nine years and was released on May 10th, 1933. That day he drove all the way from the Indiana State Prison to Dayton, where Longnaker lived. He claimed to be Longnaker’s brother to get a room at the boarding house where she was staying. This was right in the height of the Great Depression and bank robberies were becoming increasingly normal as it was very profitable.
On June 21st, 1933, Dillinger along with three members of his gang entered the bank right here in New Carlisle and staked out the bank. At 7:30 a.m., four workers entered the bank where Dillinger and his gang forced them to open the vault. They left the four workers tied up in the vault and left with $10,000 out the back entrance where a getaway car was waiting. They threw nails on the road behind their car to ensure that they could not be chased. With this, Dillinger had completed his first successful bank heist.
His eventually downfall would be brought on by his love for Longnaker and her big mouth. Longnaker would tell her landlady all about her criminal boyfriend and the landlady told the police in secret. Dillinger became more bold with his robberies and bragged to Longnacker that “business was getting better”. On September 8th, 1933, the police moved into the boarding house in the room below Longnaker because they knew Dillinger liked to visit her. By September 22nd, Dillinger had not come back and the police left to spend a night at home. Dillinger showed up later that night, but the landlady called the police that he had been spotted. Soon the boarding house was surrounded and a five member officer team is credited for his arrest.
When he was first brought into jail, he was uncooperative and claimed to be a farmer who hid all the money he earned because he did not trust banks. They sent his photo and fingerprints to states all over the country and they began having jurisdiction issues because every county he had every robbed wanted to charge him with a crime.
Soon after, he was moved from the Montgomery County jail to the Allen County jail in Lima to be tried for the Bluffton Bank Robbery. The sheriff in Allen County thought Dillinger was just some punk and did not take the warnings seriously that there was a good chance someone would try to break him out. Just like he was warned about, members of his gang broke into the jail, shot the sheriff, and disappeared with Dillinger.
The next time Dillinger was arrested was in Arizona, but he escaped that jail as well using a piece of wood he had shaped into a gun and dyed black with shoe polish. The next time Dillinger was seen was in a gun battle in Wisconsin. At this point, President J. Edgar Hoover announced that Dillinger was Public Enemy Number 1. With his picture all over the country, Dillinger tried to have plastic surgery to disguise his appearance, but it was a failed attempt.
Though Dillinger had mailed letters to Longnaker, she had moved onto another man. By then, Dillinger had plenty of “fans” and moved on to seeing other women. On July 22nd, 1934, he took two women on a date to the theater, one really liked him, the other had set him up. As he left the Biograph Theatre in Chicago around 10:30 p.m. he was shot by police twice and was instantly killed. Just like that, his just over a year-long crime spree came to an end. Dillinger is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
After giving this full history, Grismer had two extra postscripts stories to share with the audience. The first was about the five police officers that are credited with arresting Dillinger in Dayton. The second was more information about Mary Longnaker after her affair with Dillinger. She never used her connection with Dillinger as a way to gain notoriety and ended up marrying three times. She died in 1991 at Good Samaritan Hospital.
After the program, Grismer talked about a future project that the Dayton Police History Foundation is trying to get off the ground. This project is The Dayton Metropolitan Police Museum. This museum would include exhibits such as Early Law Enforcement, The Gangster Era in Dayton, Crime and Punishment, and Modern Police Force. They would also include artifacts from police history including the handcuffs used to arrest Dillinger. They are still in the early stages of planning, but more information will be given out soon.