John Dillinger’s fake escape pistol

I have often opined that truly creative problem solving comes from limiting one’s options, rather than expanding them. Which is why prisoner’s inventions fascinate me so much. (If you’ve not had a chance to browse Angelo’s Prisoners’ Inventions book, BTW, I highly recommend it–it’s not about shivs or improvised weapons, but about how prisoners make game pieces, heat water, control the climate in their cells, etc., etc. using only the odds and ends they are permitted by, or can slip past the attention of, the state.) Compare an object like this prop handgun, which was reportedly used by John Dillinger in his escape from the Crown Point, Indiana Jail in 1934, to, say, a modern-day toothbrush handle, or a Nike sneaker, designed by a professional working with a CAD-CAM system, industrial machine tooling, and a smorgasboard of rainbow-colored polymers and elastomers, most of which add no functional value at all, and are employed just to make a product stand out from competitors on the shelf. Granted, an escaping prisoner and a product designer have wildly different goals, but if asked “who is doing more creative, original problem-solving,” I know how I’d answer. [via Boing Boing]


2 thoughts on “John Dillinger’s fake escape pistol

  1. The difference between the wooden gun and the modern shoe is not one of creativity, or resources for that matter. If Dillinger had access to lathes and metal materials he probably wouldn’t have created anything much different. He didn’t need something that would hold up to scrutiny he just need something quick and dirty to fool someone for a few seconds.

    The shoe designer on the other hand has to get the attention of a customer and keep it. And then convince you to shell out money.


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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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