1934 was quite a year, especially for the FBI. In just one year, the FBI managed to take down several notorious criminals, including John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson and Charles ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd. The most major events in 1934 were certainly the shooting of Bonnie and Clyde in April 1934 and John Dillinger in July 1934.

1934 also saw the births of many famous athletes, from rugby and cricket to baseball and American football, as well as some Soviet cosmonauts who would go on to break records for their efforts in space. Check out all the key events from that year below and our archive of 1934 newspapers to find out more.

1934 Timeline

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January 1: Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco, USA was officially opened as a federal prison.

January 1: Nazi Germany passed the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, which ensured the compulsory sterilisation of anyone believed to have a supposed genetic disorder. This was one of the biggest 1934 historical events to take place, as it saw over 400,000 people sterilised against their will during the Nazi regime.

January 5: Fenway Park, Boston baseball stadium and home of the Boston Red Sox, goes up in flames for the second time (the first being in 1926).

January 8: 5-time Tour de France winner, Jacques Anquetil was born in Mont-Saint-Aignan, France.

January 12: Mick ‘Sully’ Sullivan was born in Pudsey, West Yorkshire. Sully was an English rugby player and was one of the most respected rugby players for around a decade from 1954 – 1963.

January 14: Bart Starr was born in Alabama, USA. Starr was an American Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and a coach for the Green Bay Packers.

January 15: The Dillinger Gang robbed $20,000 from First National Bank in Indiana, USA.

January 20: English actor Tom Baker was born in Liverpool, England. Baker is most known for playing the fourth Doctor in Doctor Who.

January 30: US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Gold Reserve Act, devaluing the US dollar in relation to gold by 59% compared to the value set by the Gold Act of 1900.

1934 events

Wanted poster for John Dillinger, Leader of the Dillinger Gang
Image: Flickr

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February 9: Michigan temperatures break the state record reaching a freezing -46°C. This remains the coldest state record to this day.

February 12: The Austrian Civil War began, also known as the four-day February Uprising, with conflict between Fascist and Socialist forces in Austria. 

February 13: SS Chelyuskin, a Soviet steamship, sunk in the Arctic Ocean.

February 17: The very first high school driving education course was offered at an American high school in Pennsylvania. 

February 18: Audre Lorde was born in New York City, New York, USA. She was a writer, feminist and civil rights activist.

February 18: Bobby Taylor, the music producer who discovered “The Jackson 5”, was born in Washington, D.C.

February 22: Directed by Frank Capra, It Happened One Night opens at Radio City Music Hall, New York City. Starring Clark Gable and Claudette, the film was the first to win the “Big Five” Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing).

February 23: Edward Elgar, composer of Coronation Ode and Pomp and Circumstance dies of colorectal cancer aged 76.

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March 3: John Dillinger breaks out of jail after being imprisoned for the murder of a policeman during a Dillinger gang bank robbery.

March 5: Economist and Nobel laureate (2002), Daniel Kahneman was born in Tel Aviv, British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel).

March 5: English comedian and actor Nicholas Smith was born in Banstead, Surrey. He was most famous for his role in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?, playing Mr Rumbold.

March 6: English TV presenter, John Noakes was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Noakes was most known for co-presenting the beloved BBC children’s TV programme Blue Peter, as he is the longest ever serving presenter of the show.

March 9: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was born in Klushino, Soviet Union (now known as Russia). He was the first human to journey into space, which was a major achievement in the Space Race.

March 12: Future President of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito was freed from prison following his conviction in 1928 for disrupting a meeting of the Yugoslav Social-Democratic Party.

March 14: American astronaut Eugene Cernan was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA. During the Apollo 17 mission, Cernan became the eleventh man to walk on the Moon.

March 21: A fire in Hakodate, Japan, kills over 2,000 people and injures a further 9,500. Now known as the Great Fire of Hakodate, it is one of the worst city fires in Japanese history.

March 22: The first Masters golf tournament took place, with American Horton Smith winning and taking the first prize of $1,500.

March 25: Gloria Steinem was born in Ohio, USA. Steinem is a feminist journalist and social-political activist, who is often dubbed the world’s most famous feminist.

March 26: Britain introduced legislation in the 1934 Road Traffic Act that made driving tests compulsory, although they remained initially voluntary to avoid a rush of candidates. The test remained voluntary until 1st June 1935 when it became mandatory for everyone who had begun driving on or after 1st April 1934 to have passed the test.

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April 1: Clyde Barrow (as in Bonnie and Clyde) killed two highway patrolmen at the intersection of Route 114 in Texas, USA. 

April 7: Mahatma Gandhi suspended his campaign of civil disobedience in India.

April 16: The 38th Boston Marathon was won by Canadian Dave Komonen in 2:32:53.8.

April 19: American actress and diplomat Shirley Temple appears in her first feature-length film, Stand Up and Cheer!

April 22: The US Division of Investigation (now known as the FBI) botches an operation aiming to capture John Dillinger and his gang in Wisconsin, USA, resulting in two dead and four injured.

April 28: American author Lois Duncan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Duncan is most known as a young adult novelist, having written I Know What You Did Last Summer.

April 28: US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Homeowners Refinancing Act, which aimed to help those in danger of losing their homes during the Great Depression.

major events in 1934

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the famous criminal couple known as Bonnie and Clyde
Image: Flickr

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May 3: English boxer Henry Cooper was born in London, England. Cooper was a heavyweight boxer most famous for his fight with a young Muhammad Ali in 1963.

May 12: Jazz musician and composer, Duke Ellington has his song Cocktails for Two hit number one.

May 13: American baseball left fielder Leon Wagner was born in Tennessee, USA. Wagner played for various teams throughout his career, including the San Francisco Giants and the LA Angels.

May 14: American golfer Mason Rudolph was born in Tennessee, USA. Rudolph was a member of the winning US team at the 1971 Ryder Cup.

May 23: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (criminal couple known as Bonnie and Clyde) were killed on a highway in Louisiana, USA. Six lawmen, known as the Gibsland Posse, lured Bonnie and Clyde’s vehicle into a trap and ambushed them, with Clyde dying instantly from a gunshot to the head.

May 30: Alexei Leonov was born in Moscow, Russia. Leonov was a Soviet and Russian cosmonaut, who became the first person to conduct a spacewalk in 1965, which is a monumental day in the 1960s Space Race.

major events in 1934

Front page from The Daily Telegraph, March 19 1965
Alexei Leonov (born May 30 1934) features on this front page as he broke headlines conducting the first spacewalk.

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June 1: American singer, actor and TV personality Pat Boone was born in Florida, USA. Boone sold more than 45 million records, had 38 Top 40 hits and was the second-biggest artist in the 1950s, second to Elvis Presley.

June 4: One of the most significant 1934 events was Dr Frederick Banting, a Canadian medical scientist who co-discovered insulin, being knighted by King George V. Banting remains to this day the youngest Nobel laureate in the fields of physiology or medicine having received the Nobel Prize aged 32.

June 9: American soul singer Jackie Wilson was born in Michigan, USA. Wilson is most known for his song (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, which was a No. 6 pop hit in 1967.

June 9: Disney’s The Wise Little Hen cartoon featured the first appearance of Donald Duck.

June 22: Gangster John Dillinger was named USA’s Public Enemy No. 1 by the FBI, succeeding Al Capone, who was declared Public Enemy No. 1 in 1930.

June 23: The US Department of Justice offers a $10,000 reward for the arrest of John Dillinger and a $5,000 reward for any information.

June 30: The Night of the Long Knives (also known as Operation Hummingbird) took place in Nazi Germany when Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered a series of around 90 political executions.

June 30: The Dillinger Gang robbed another bank, taking $30,000.

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July 1: The Brookfield Zoo opens in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

July 4: Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist, patented the idea for a nuclear fission reactor. Szilard was instrumental in beginning the Manhattan Project, as he wrote the 1939 letter for Albert Einstein’s signature that urged the US to build an atomic bomb.

July 4: Marie Curie, the Polish-French scientist who discovered radium, died aged 66. Curie was notably the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, once in 1903 and again in 1911.

July 4: English actor and screenwriter Colin Welland was born in Liverpool, England. Welland is most famous for writing the 2012 hit film Chariots of Fire.

July 6: Elizabeth Ryan won her twelfth Wimbledon women’s doubles title. Ryan holds the record to this day of the most titles won in the history of Wimbledon Ladies’ Doubles.

July 10: 32nd US President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first sitting US President to visit South America, as he visited Colombia informally en route to his Hawaiian holiday. 

July 11: US President FDR became the first US President to travel through the Panama Canal.

July 13: Baseball legend Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run.

July 13: New Zealand suffragette Kate Sheppard died aged 87. Sheppard was widely considered the most prominent activist in New Zealand’s suffragette movement. 

July 16: American football player and coach George Perles was born in Michigan, USA.

July 16: America’s first female FBI agent Alaska P. Davidson died aged 66.

July 22: American actress Louise Fletcher was born in Alabama, USA. She is most known for her role in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

July 22: American gangster John Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI Agents as he left the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

1934 newspapers

Marie Curie
Image: Wikimedia

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August 2: Paul von Hindenburg died of lung cancer aged 86. Hindenburg was President of Germany from 1925 until his death and played a key role during his Presidency in Nazi Germany, appointing Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.

August 2: Following the death of President Hindenburg, Adolf Hitler united the offices of the German Chancellor and the President, declaring himself ‘Führer’ (leader).

August 7: American tennis player Renée Richards was born in New York City, USA. After her gender reassignment was outed in 1976, Richards sued the United States Tennis Association (UTSA) for discrimination by gender. Richards won the case in 1977, as Judge Alfred M. Ascione ruled ‘this person is now female’.

August 9: American actress Cynthia Harris was born in New York City, USA. She was best known for her roles in Edward & Mrs Simpson and Mad About You. Harris died aged 87 in October 2021.

August 18: Baseball player Roberto Clemente was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Clemente played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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September 4: Economist and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences Clive Granger was born in Swansea, Wales.

September 19: Manager for The Beatles Brian Epstein was born in Liverpool, England.

September 19: Following the kidnapping of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby in 1932, Bruno Hauptmann is arrested.

September 21: A typhoon hit Honshu Island, Japan, and kills an estimated 4,000 people.

September 23: Footballer John Mortimore was born in Farnborough, England. Mortimore played 279 games for Chelsea, scoring 10 goals between 1956 – 1965.

September 24: Over 2,500 baseball fans see Babe Ruth’s farewell appearance for the New York Yankees.

September 25: Baseball player Lou Gehrig plays his 1,500th consecutive game.

September 26: Marxist historian Raphael Samuel was born in London, England.

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October 1: Adolf Hitler expanded the German army and navy, a direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

October 2: American baseball pitcher Earl Wilson was born in Louisiana, USA. Wilson played eleven seasons of Major League Baseball, primarily for the Boston Red Sox.

October 4: American footballer for the New York Giants Sam Huff was born in West Virginia, USA.

October 8: English footballer Gerry Hitchens was born in Staffordshire, England. Hitchens played for England in the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

October 8: After being arrested on 19th September 1934, Bruno Hauptmann was indicted for the murder of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s son in 1932.

October 9: Alexander I King of Yugoslavia was assassinated in Marseille by a member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO)

October 16: The Long March, a military retreat by the Chinese Red Army, began and lasted over 1 year. This was a series of marches that reportedly traversed a total of more than 9,000 km (5,600 miles).

October 22: Infamous bank robber Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd was shot and killed by FBI Agents in Ohio, USA.

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November 3: English cricket batsman Derek Richardson was born in Hereford, Herefordshire.

November 7: Arthur L. Mitchell became the first African American Democratic US congressman.

November 10: American baseball player Norm Cash was born in Texas, USA. Cash was a first baseman and played for the Detroit Tigers from 1960 – 1974.

November 12: Notorious murderer and cult leader of the Manson Family, Charles Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. 

November 20: Lillian Hellman’s play Children’s Hour premiered in New York City, USA.

November 21: Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes premiered in New York City, USA, and went on to run for 420 performances.

November 27: Baby Face Nelson, a famed bank robber, died in a shoot-out with the FBI in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Nelson was a partner of John Dillinger’s and was known for killing more FBI agents than any other person.

November 30: American athlete Steve Hamilton was born in Kentucky, USA. Hamilton was both a baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees and a basketball forward for the Minneapolis Lakers (now known as the LA Lakers).

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December 1: First Secretary of Leningrad Sergei Kirov was assassinated, which gives Soviet General Secretary Joseph Stalin an excuse to begin his Great Purge in 1936.

December 3: Soviet cosmonaut Viktor Vasilyevich Gorbatko was born in the Soviet Union (now known as Russia).

December 7: Aviator Wiley Post discovered the jet stream as he eventually flew as high as 50,000 ft (15,000 m).

December 9: Dame Judi Dench was born in Heworth, York. Dench is regarded as one of the best British actresses in history, as she has won an Oscar, a Tony, four television and six film BAFTAs, seven Laurence Olivier Awards and two Golden Globes.

December 18: Richard John Bingham (commonly referred to as Lord Lucan) was born in London. Bingham was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat who disappeared after being suspected of murder and is now presumed dead.

December 19: The first female President of India (2007 – 2012) Pratibha Patil was born in Nadgaon, India.

December 28: Dame Maggie Smith was born in Ilford, London. Smith is most known for her role as Professor McGonagall in the film adaptations of Harry Potter. She has won two Oscars, five BAFTAs, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes and is one of only 14 actresses to have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting (winning an Academy Award, Emmy and Tony in acting).

December 28: Starring Shirley Temple, the film Bright Eyes premiered.

December 28: The first Women’s cricket Test match began between England and Australia in Australia.

December 31: Aviator Helen Richey became the first woman to pilot an airmail transport.

1934 historical events

Judi Dench
Image: Wikimedia

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The Movements of the John Dillinger Gang

The Dillinger Gang was the name given to a group of bank robbers in America led by none other than John Dillinger.

During a bank robbery in January 1934, as John Dillinger left the bank, Officer O’Malley fired four times at Dillinger. Dillinger fired back, killing Officer O’Malley with eight gunshots to the chest. Dillinger was later charged with his murder. Shortly after this robbery, the police captured the gang members one-by-one, eventually catching Dillinger last. Dillinger was extradited to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point for the murder of Officer O’Malley.

In early March 1934, Dillinger escaped from Crown Point jail, as he produced a pistol during their morning exercises. He caught the deputies and guards by surprise and managed to escape the prison without firing a single shot. In June, Dillinger was named America’s Public Enemy No. 1, with the US Department of Justice offering a $10,000 reward for his arrest. 

On 22nd July 1934, John Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI Agents in a skirmish outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

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The Deaths of Bonnie and Clyde

Following Clyde murdering two highway patrolmen in Texas, USA, in April of 1934, a mass manhunt began for the criminal couple. A group of patrolmen, known as the Gibsland Posse, had studied their movements and discovered they moved in a circle around the edges of five midwestern states to prevent officers from pursuing them over state lines into another jurisdiction.

With in-depth knowledge of their typical movements, the Gibsland Posse hatched a plan and set up an ambush along the Louisiana State Highway. On the morning of 23rd May 1934, the posse remained concealed in their hiding spots when they saw Clyde driving a car at high speed towards them. The posse had persuaded Ivy Methvin, father of Barrow Gang member Henry Methvin, to position his car on the side of the road in an attempt to lure Clyde into stopping his vehicle and getting out to talk to Henry.

When Clyde fell into the trap, the posse opened fire before the car had even fully stopped. Clyde was killed instantly by a headshot. The posse proceeded to fire over 100 rounds into the car, emptying their weapons as they were determined not to take any chances. The coroner reported seventeen entrance wounds on Clyde’s body and twenty-six on Bonnie’s, including several headshots each.

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Hitler Becoming Dictator of Germany

Paul von Hindenburg was President of Germany from 1925 up until his death on 2nd August 1934. The day before his death Hitler had heard that he was on his deathbed and had the cabinet pass the Law Concerning the Highest State Office of the Reich. This new law meant that, upon Hindenburg’s death, the role of President of Germany would be abolished and its powers merged with those of the Chancellor (the position that Hitler was currently in). Hitler created the new title of Führer und Reichskanzler (which means Leader and Chancellor of the Reich).

Mere hours after Hindenburg’s death on 2nd August 1934, it was announced that, as a direct result of this law created by Hitler, Hitler became both the head of state and head of government for Germany, making him the absolute dictator of Germany. On 19th August 1934, Hitler held the 1934 German referendum to see if the German people approved of Hitler taking the position of Führer. The result of this referendum was 90% in favour of Hitler becoming the dictator of Germany.

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