Twenty-three people died of the heat on this date, but the death that drew the most attention was that of a 31-year-old Indiana man who, on his birthday a month earlier, had been declared Public Enemy No. 1 by the FBI.
At the time of his death, handsome, daring bank robber John Herbert Dillinger was as famous as anyone in America.In little more than a year, Dillinger had robbed several banks, escaped from two jails, eluded police traps and killed at least one police officer.
Despite Justice Department rewards totaling $15,000, he had lived an unnoticed and relatively normal life on Chicago's North Side. He often had dinner at the Seminary Restaurant at Lincoln and Fullerton Avenues. He went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field and pulled one of his trademark bravado stunts by saying hello to his lawyer, who was chatting with a police officer.
Dillinger's girlfriend was a red-haired waitress named Polly Hamilton. Her landlady, Anna Sage, who was to become known legendarily--though inaccurately--as "the Woman in Red," was Dillinger's confidant and knew his identity.
In the heat of that July, movie houses advertised that they were "air-cooled." Perhaps that's what made Dillinger decide to take Hamilton and Sage to a movie that evening. If so, there were 24 heat-related deaths that day.
Dillinger told the women he wanted to go to the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue where " Manhattan Melodrama," starring William Powell and Clark Gable, was playing. Sage told the law.
Sage, who had come to America from Romania as Ana Cumpanas, was a successful operator of houses of prostitution. Deportation proceedings had been started against her, but when Dillinger admitted his identity to her, she must have thought she had been given a ticket to remain in this country.
Dillinger and the two women--Sage in an orange skirt that looked red in the light of the marquee--left the Biograph about 10:30 p.m. More than 20 law-enforcement officers were waiting. As the three walked south on Lincoln, Dillinger realized he was walking into a trap and bolted for the alley. Shots rang out. One bullet hit Dillinger in the back of the neck and exited through his right eye. That shot killed him.
Sage died in 1947 in Romania, to which she had been deported.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun