Is this the infamous wooden pistol that John Dillinger made to break out of prison in 1934? The person who paid $19,120 for it at an auction in December 2009 probably thinks so. I like that it has "Colt 38" carved into the side. The Great Escape prisoners also put markings (e.g., "Made in Stalag Luft III") on the escape tools they fabricated. A nice touch!
Probably the Single Most Iconic Item Associated with John Dillinger is the Legendary "Wooden Gun" He Carved and Used to Escape from the Crown Point, Indiana Jail, March 3, 1934. In reality there are three 'wooden guns', including this example, that can lay claim, all with some degree of credibility, to being the one Dillinger used is his remarkable escape. This example was part of the personal effects of Dillinger's younger brother Hubert, and has been in the possession of Frances Helen's family since his death in 1974. Another example is in the possession of the Dillinger Museum in Hammond, Indiana, while still another is in the possession of another branch of the family. While it will probably never be known which, if indeed any, of these three examples is the one he actually used, aside from it having a traceable lineage through the Dillinger family, this example exhibits several other details which lend strong credence to the family's belief that this is, in fact, the original specimen. 5.75" overall, the blackened finish is clearly affected by a dye, such as shoe blacking, rather than a paint and it does, indeed appear to have been fabricated from the leg of something such as a washboard. The general impression, based on the barrel form, is that of an automatic pistol. There are tiny brads in place on top at the front and back giving the impression of sights, with an incised line between them. A notched area at the back approximates a hammer. The front/muzzle has a .25" copper tube inserted to simulate a barrel. Crudely carved on the right side "Colt 38" and on the left, clearly in keeping with Dillinger's sense of humor and irony, "Pat Mar 3, 1934" the date of Dillinger's escape. Accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance and lineage from Frances Helen Thompson (Dillinger).John Dillinger's Wooden Gun
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects
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