Home / Collections / Podcast & Blog » The Gun that Wounded John Dillinger


Collections Up Close

July 2, 2009

The Gun that Wounded John Dillinger

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — Matt Anderson @ 10:59 am

Gun that shot Dillinger

With all of the excitement over the new John Dillinger movie, Public Enemies, we remember that the notorious gangster spent time in St. Paul. In those days of crime and depression, St. Paul had something of a truce with criminals: so long as the gangsters didn’t tear up the city, local authorities would not bother them. The city became a popular place to hide between sprees.

John Dillinger came to the Twin Cities in March 1934 after robbing a bank in Mason City, Iowa. He and his girlfriend, Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, rented a room at the Lincoln Court Apartments in St. Paul. The apartment manager grew suspicious of the couple, and reported them to the FBI. On March 31 two FBI agents, joined by Detective Henry Cummings of the St. Paul Police Department, knocked on the apartment door. Frechette stalled, an accomplice stumbled onto the scene, and a gunfight erupted. Dillinger burst into the hallway with a blazing machine gun and fled down a back stairway, but not before being hit in the leg by Detective Cummings.

Dillinger escaped, but his time was short. The FBI caught up with him in Chicago and killed their most-wanted man in an ambush on July 22. Detective Cummings, a 26-year veteran of the St. Paul force, retired shortly after the Lincoln Court duel. After he died, Cummings’s heirs donated his Model 1905 Smith & Wesson Hand-Ejector revolver to the Minnesota Historical Society. This .38 gun is the very weapon Cummings fired at Dillinger on that fateful day. Today it is a vivid link to an exciting – if not terribly proud – chapter of Minnesota history.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

John DillingerEvelyn Frechette

Learn More:

Bookmark and Share

6 Responses to “The Gun that Wounded John Dillinger”

  1. Patrick Coleman Says:

    Quick St. Small story: Famed local novelist, Shannon Olson, now lives in the infamous Dillinger shootout apartment.

  2. Matt Anderson Says:

    I finally saw Public Enemies last night. As usual with historical dramas, the movie compresses events for the sake of brevity. Consequently, there are no scenes in Minnesota (though St. Paul and the Hamm kidnapping get name-dropped). Johnny Depp gives a characteristically strong performance, making this recommended viewing.

  3. Christopher Welter Says:

    Following Patrick’s historical tidbit, not far from the apartment complex was a movie theater Dillinger and Frechette frequented, where the current Blockbuster video store resides at Lexington and Grand (as pointed out by Paul Maccabee).

  4. mike Says:

    Nice read. I found your website on google and i have your page bookmarked on my favorite read list!
    I’m a fan of your blog. Keep up the great work

  5. Greg McManus Says:

    I am one of the Grandsons of Detective Henry Cummings. Actually, his service revover ran out of bullets and Grandpa used his Colt 25 that he had under his pant cuff to shoot Dillinger in the leg before he escaped. I have that Colt and the authetication from Colt.

    My Uncle Daniel Cummings is quoted in our family history book that the Colt 25 was the one used.

    Lori Williamson reply on February 3rd, 2012:

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is very interesting, although different than the story we were told when the gun was donated to us.
    Thanks again!
    Lori Williamson, Collections Department

An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs