During the 1930s everyone knew the name of the infamous gangster John Dillinger. Deemed "Public Enemy Number One" by the FBI, Dillinger's first arrest happened in 1924 when, at the age of 20, he and another man assaulted a local grocer. After many years in and out of prison, in 1933 Dillinger established his own gang who soon became skilled bank robbers.
On January 21, 1934, John Dillinger and three of his gang members arrived in Tucson. The three gang members that came with Dillinger were Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley and Russell "Art" Clark. The gang had rented a house at 927 North Second Avenue. The floors of the house had just been waxed so the gang decided to spend a night at the Hotel Congress. On January 23, 1934 at 7:20 a.m., there was a fire at the Hotel Congress. A few men staying on the third floor were very worried about their luggage. When the fireman rescued the men's luggage, the men tipped the fireman $12. The fireman noticed that the luggage was heavy. The firemen wondered about the men who had given them such a big tip, so they checked True Detective Mysteries magazine and identified the men as Dillinger gang members. The firemen then alerted the Tucson Police.
Dillinger and his gang were arrested on January 25, 1934. The gang members were arrested at different locations and times. Makley was arrested while he drove to Grabe Electric on Congress. Clark was arrested at 927 North Second Avenue around 11 a.m. Pierpont was stopped while driving and told he needed to go to Tucson Police Department to clear papers because of his Florida license plate. Pierpont drove to the police department and was arrested there. Dillinger was arrested at 927 North Second Avenue at 6:30 p.m.
After the Tucson arrest, Dillinger was transferred to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana, from which he escaped a month later.
You will find various dates for Dillinger's arrest and the Congress Hotel fire in books and articles on Dillinger. These dates were verified by checking older Tucson newspapers. Also different addresses are given for the house where Dillinger was captured; the 927 North 2nd Avenue address appears in the 1934 Tucson newspapers.
The Pima County Public Library's Joel D. Valdez Main Library has a copy of the article about Dillinger's capture from True Detective Mysteries magazine from June 1934. A copy of the article from True Detective Mysteries magazine is located in the Joel D. Valdez Main Library's third floor Vertical File under "Dillinger."
Tucson Police Department still has a few of the guns owned by the Dillinger gang. The guns are on display at Police Department Headquarters ***
See also: Dillinger Days
Gale in Context: Biography | John Dillinger
Arizona Daily Star. January 26, 1934, Page 1.
"Clark! Makley! Pierpont!" True Detective Mysteries. June 1934.
“Public Enemy No. 1.” Tucson Citizen. January 20, 2005. Calendar section, Page L22.
Sonnichsen, C. L. (Charles Leland). Tucson the Life and Times of an American City. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. c1987. Pages 254-257.
"Telephone Girl Holds Post as Congress Burns." Arizona Daily Star. January 24, 1934. Page 1.
Tucson Citizen. January 26, 1934. Page 1.
*** "Tucson Police still have two Dillinger Tommy guns." Arizona Daily Star, January 25, 1987. Page B3.
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