Dillinger program set for Thursday night at museum

Friday, January 10, 2020

James Champion of Greencastle will present a program on John Dillinger Thursday, Jan. 16 at the Putnam County Museum.

The 6:30 p.m. program is free and open to the public.

Champion has done new and continuing research on Dillinger, who robbed Central National Bank on the courthouse square in Greencastle on Oct. 23, 1933.

History notes that the heist at Central National Bank was the most lucrative of the 11 pulled during Dillinger’s relatively short but infamous 15-month bank robbery career.

Without firing a shot and in less than 10 minutes, the 31-year-old Dillinger and his gang -- Harry Copeland, 38, Harry Pierpont (a one-time resident of Clay County), 31, and Charles “Fat Charley“ Makley, 44 -- made off with $75,000 in cash and negotiable bonds that day.

According to the website Dollar Times, $75,000 in 1933 adjusted for inflation is equal to in excess of $1.4 million today.

Dillinger remains “one of the Putnam County connections we are asked about more often than not,” Putnam County Museum Executive Director Lisa Mock said. “It’s our notoriety in some peoples’ minds.”

So much so that the museum now has a new life-size cardboard cutout of Dillinger with which visitors are invited to take photos or selifes.

Champion holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in library science. He has conducted new research on Dillinger and will present his findings at Thursday’s presentation.

Amazed at the interest in Dillinger to this day -- going on 87 years since the robbery -- Mock looks for a good turnout.

“If everybody who ever said to me, ‘my great-uncle changed a flat tire for Dillinger’ (on his way out of Greencastle) shows up, we’ll have a big crowd”

The Putnam County Museum is located at 1105 N. Jackson St. in Greencastle.

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