Mobsters – History on some of the most infamous gangsters. (Part 1)ToT#007

Written by on October 2, 2017

This is part one of a two part series on mobsters. Today we discuss John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde.

Definition:  Mobster

A member of a group of violent criminals; a gangster.

As opposed to individual criminals, members of crime syndicates and gangs belong to a large, structured criminal organization. Someone who belongs to such a group is a mobster or a gangster. The term mobster comes from mob, another name for the Mafia, an Italian organized crime group. Originally mob meant just “a large group of people” or “the common people,” from the Latin phrase mobile vulgus, “fickle common people.”


Definition: Difference between gangsters and mobsters:

The word refers to ANY people who make a living from (or make money ) from crime in an organized manner by being part of a gang (group) of criminals.


First known use of the word in print:  1917

This does not mean that this was the first time in the speaking of the word, it is the first time known to be used in print.


The time period that mobsters began:

During the Great Depression, people turned to unethical and illegal ways of obtaining money for survival. Greed and fame fueled their efforts.


John Dillinger

John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

He started out with just petty theft. While serving time in jail, the other inmates taught him how to plan and organize his robberies. After he escaped from jail, he formed a gang and went to Chicago to carry out a series of robberies.

He was nicknamed “Jack Rabbit” for his quick getaways and graceful execution of the robberies.

The FBI labeled him America’s first “Public Enemy No. 1” and placed a $10,000 reward on his head. They did this on his birthday.

John Dillinger robbed his last bank on June 30, 1934, the Merchant’s National Bank in South Bend, Indiana. They got away with around 30,000 from this heist.

He was eventually betrayed by a friend, Anna Sage. She had been into some trouble with the INS and was facing deportation. She arranged a deal with agent Purvis where she would help in the capture of Dillinger in exchange her citizenship.

Fearing much if the Chicago Police force had been compromised. Purvis assembled a team of FBI agents and police from other areas to take out Dillinger.

On Sunday, July 22, 1934, at 5 p.m., Dillinger and Sage went to see a film at the Biograph Theater. Sage informed the FBI that they were planning on going.

Purvis was waiting outside the theater doors when the movie let out. Dillinger looked Pervis directly in the eyes when he passed, but showed no signs of suspicion or recognition. Purvis gave the signal by lighting a cigar and pulled his gun yelling “Stick’em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded!” Dillinger tried to draw a gun from his pocket while attempting to run. He made it to an alley where he was fatally shot.

The bullet entered at the base of his neck, hitting the second vertebra and exited blow his right eye. They buried John Dillinger at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis on July 25, 1934.


Interesting and little known facts about John Dillinger:

-Dillinger Served in the Navy.

Dillinger stole a car at the age of 20. After a confrontation with police, he enlisted in the Navy to avoid arrest. Dillinger hated being told what to do and was placed in solitary confinement several times. He deserted in December 1923


-Dillinger spent most of his adult life in prison.

Dillinger was sent to prison in 1924 serving eight and a half years due to a botched robbery on a grocer. While serving his time, he learned everything he could from the other inmates on the tricks of the trade. In May 1933, Dillinger won parole and a few days later met up with a gang in Indianapolis and started robbing restaurants and grocery stores. Only a few weeks beyond that, they moved to banks


-Dillinger busted his fellow gang members of out of jail.

Dillinger wanted to form a high profile bank robbing gang, so in September of 1933, Dillinger hid three .38 pistols in a crate of thread the was being shipped to the jail’s shirt making factory.

10 convicts including “Handsome” Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, John Hamilton, and other experienced robbers escaped. A few days before their escape, Dillinger had been arrested. Pierpoint and two other men walked through the front doors of the police station, gunned down the sheriff and busted Dillinger out.


-Dillinger built his arsenal by robbing police stations.

In October 1933, just after being busted out of jail, Dillinger and his gang robbed two police stations in Auburn and Peru, Indiana. They stole items such as Thompson submachine guns, shotguns, rifles, tear gas guns, bullet proof vests and more than a dozen pistols.


-Dillinger was a nationwide celebrity.

Dillinger became as famous a Hollywood actor. There was a lottery in Indianapolis on when he would be captured that became so large that they had to shut it down.

Dillingers father was offered several speaking engagements.

When Dillinger was arrested in Tucson, people filed through the jail just to get a look at him.

Businesses used him in their advertising campaigns.

“Dillinger Chooses the 1934 Hudson For His Personal Use.”

“Will they catch John Dillinger? Not until they get him out of a Ford V8!”


-He escaped from jail using a wooden gun.

Dillinger was arrested in Tucson, Arizona in January 1934, and was then extradited to the “escape proof” jail in crown point to await trial. He escaped within a month using a wooden gun that he claimed was made from a block of wood, a razor handle and black shoe polish to fool the guards into complying. From there, he got ahold of a Thompson submachine gun and made his way to the prison garage where he stole the sheriff’s car and drove to Chicago. Three days later, he teamed up with “Baby Face” Nelson to rob a bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


-Dillinger underwent facial reconstructive surgery to hide his identity.

By May 1934, Dillinger was so recognizable the he decided to undergo facial reconstructive surgery. He hired two underground plastic surgeons, Wilhelm Loeser and Harold Bernard Cassidy for $5000 to do the job. The removed scars, moles, filled in his cleft chin and burnt off his fingerprints. The procedure was excruciating for Dillinger and when it was finished he wasn’t satisfied. He looked in the mirror and exclaimed “Hell, I don’t look any different than I did!”


-The federal government spent more money trying to catch him than he stole.

Stole, $500,000 (roughly $7 million in modern day currency)

The FBI spent $2m to catch him.


-His body was viewed by thousands of spectators.

People dipped their handkerchiefs in Dillinger’s blood at the crime scene for souvenirs.

5000 people appeared at the cemetery for his burial even though it was supposed to private.

His casket was encased in cement to prevent grave robbers.

They had to replace his headstone due to people taking pieces at souveniers.


Bonnie and Clyde

Clyde Chester Barrow was born on March 24, 1909, in Telico, Texas..

He wanted to be a musician, learning to play both the guitar and saxophone.

Clyde took to a life of crime early under the influence of his brother. He started with petty theft, the cars and then went to armed robbery. By the age of 20 in 1929, he was a fugitive from the law.

He met Bonnie Elizabeth Parker in January 1930. She was a waitress at the time.

She was born October 1, 1910 in Rowena Texas. At 4 years old her father passed and her mother moved her to Dallas. She was extremely smart and excelled in school. She aspired to be an actress.

Her and Clyde hit it off well, it was put to a halt when Clyde was imprisoned for several counts of auto theft.

Clyde was overtaken by heartache and turned his thoughts to escape. On March 11, 1930, Bonnie smuggled a gun into prison for him and he escaped with his cellmates.

A week later they were recaptured and clyde was sentenced to 14 years hard labor at Eastham State Farm where he was sexually assaulted multiple times by another inmate.

Clyde had his big toe and part of another cut off by an axe in an “accident” geared toward the idea that it might relieve him from his work detail. It left him with a limp the rest of his life.

His efforts proved to be in vain as unbeknownst to him, his mother had convinced the judge to grant him parole a few days prior. He was released two weeks later, in February 1932.

Bonnie and Clyde reunited and Clyde started robbing banks and small businesses. By 1933, they were wanted on several counts of murder including law enforcement officials.

In January 1934 Clyde was the mastermind of an Eastham jail break to free a former friend, Henry Methvin. Along with him, several other escaped, killing a prison guard in the process. They formed the Barrow gang.

Methvin and Clyde killed two highway patrolmen on April 1, 1934, in Grapevine, Texas.

with Texas Ranger, captain Frank Hamer in pursuit.

Bonnie and Clyde took refuge at Methvin’s family farm in Bienville Parish. Methvin’s father took a deal with law enforcement to turn them in for amnesty for his son. On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde saw Methvin’s father broken down on the side of the road while driving and stopped to help him. It turned out to be a trap and the police opened fire on them. Bonnie and Clyde were killed.

People took locks of hair and other items as souvenirs and though the wished to be buried together, they were buried in separate cemeteries.


Interesting and little known facts about Bonnie and Clyde:

-Bonnie and Clyde didn’t spend much time robbing banks.

Despite what movies portray, they robbed less than 15 banks and some of those were multiple instances of the same bank. Bonnie sometimes drove the getaway car, but often she wasn’t involved. Restaurants and individual people were their main targets.


-Bonnie didn’t smoke cigars.

Her most famous picture portrays her holding a pistol with her foot propped on the bumper of a ford and a cigar in her mouth. The cigar was only a prop for the photo.


-Bonnie died a married woman – but not to Clyde.

Bonnie got married to another man at the age of 16. He turned out to be a miserable human and would often disappear for long periods of time. He was in prison at the time of Bonnie’s death. She still had the ring on her finger when she died as it is hard for a fugitive to get a divorce.


-Bonnie and Clyde both had trouble walking.

Clyde cut his toes off in an attempt to get out of work in prison.

Bonnie had her legs severely burned by battery acid after a wreck while Clyde was driving recklessly. Often, Clyde would carry her around due to the injury.


-Bonnie and Clyde were devoted to their families.

Bonnie and Clyde would make frequent trips back to visit their families. Often multiple times a month. They would put a note in a coke bottle and toss it into their family’s yards while driving by to let them know when and where to meet.


– Bonnie and Clyde were unwilling killers who released more people than they hurt.

They would kill anyone that got in their way, but they didn’t like it. Often, they would just kidnap a hostage to get away and then release them down the road…sometimes even giving the money to get back home.


-Bonnie and Clyde were difficult to embalm…and they knew their embalmer.
Due to the massive amounts of bullet holes left in them after the shootout. It was difficult to keep embalming fluid in them. Clyde had 17 bullet holes and Bonnie had 26.

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