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Tucson's Dillinger Days might not exist without Hotel Congress fire
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Tucson's Dillinger Days might not exist without Hotel Congress fire

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John Dillinger, played by Jonathan Mincks, shoots at detectives during Dillinger Days at Hotel Congress.

Dillinger Days is upon us once again; that one time of year where fans of ‘30s fashion and history slip into their Hooverette dresses and pinstripe suits and celebrate the capture of Public Enemy No. 1, Mr. John Dillinger, by the Tucson Police Department.

The event leans more toward fan fiction. The re-enactments, with all of the gun fighting and tough talk, are fun to watch, but Dillinger was actually nowhere near the hotel when he was arrested, according to a 1934 article in the Arizona Daily Star. Each member of the gang was apprehended separately in different parts of town. Not a shot was fired.

That being said, the hotel did play an integral role in their captures.

Had a fire not broken out in the hotel basement, spreading to the third floor, where Dillinger gang members Charles Makley and Russell Clark were staying, Makley and Clark would have never tipped the firefighters who went back into the hotel to retrieve their bags, as explained in the Star.

The firefighters would not have put two and two together while reading about the Dillinger Gang in a detective magazine the next day, prompting them to alert the police, and chances are Dillinger and his crew would have passed through Tucson without incident.

It’s something to think about when you’re walking among the rows of vintage cars and firetrucks, enjoying food and drink and watching the Dillinger Gang attempt to shoot their way out of downtown Tucson.

Dillinger Days is a free event and starts at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 16. For more information, visit

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