Hollywood Hoods: “The Public Enemy” (1931)

Hosted by Richard O Jones, True Crime Historian

Tuesday March 3, 7 pm

Miami Hamilton Downtown, 221 High Street

In addition to the rise of organized crime in America, the Prohibition Era is also responsible for spawning the gangster film genre. Our “Hollywood Hoods” series explores three early gangster genre hits and discusses their foundation in reality. Each event includes an introduction by True Crime Historian Richard O Jones and a post-screening discussion of themes, motifs and impacts.

Our first featured film is 1931 classic The Public Enemy (83 mins), starring James Cagney.The Public Enemy poster copy (1)

Although he rose to prominence as a song and dance man and starred in many romantic comedies, James Cagney came to typify Hollywood’s American gangster. The Public Enemy is the film that started it. Made from an unpublished novel by two of Al Capone’s thugs, the characters are based on real people.

  • free, public event
  • refreshments provided!

Business & Ordinary Life in the 1920s & 1930s

Susan Spellman

Associate Professor of History, Miami University Hamilton

Tuesday, February 24, 7pm. Miami University Hamilton Downtown Center, 221 High Street.

svsIn the 1920s and 1930s big changes came to local and national businesses. As chain stores and giant enterprises sought to control the American business landscape, Mom and Pop fought to keep their place in American neighborhoods. Economic dominance was at stake in this struggle, and so was the very definition of the “American Dream.

  • Free public event
  • Reception to follow

Public Enemies: Hamilton’s Little Chicago Era and its Consequences

Dear folks:

Another exciting season of events has arrived at the Colligan History Project, exploring Hamilton in the era of John Dillinger and the interwar golden years of outlawry and gangsterism! Many local residents still remember legendary accounts of Hamilton’s “Little Chicago” years, and our aim this season is to delve into such lore to distinguish fact from myth. We’ll discover the topic from a number of angles, including Film Noir and a unique live historical performance of Dillinger himself. First up, Miami Hamilton historian Susan Spellman examines the “Mom & Pop” struggles of small businesses in the 1920s and 1930s, an era of great economic upheaval.

  • Click below for season schedule poster:

Spring 2015 Poster

Spring Schedule: Text Only

Announcing our Spring 2015 Schedule of Events

d8e0ea85-2589-4e4e-b12f-1c17285d280bThis fall, the Michael J. Colligan History Project enters new territory with Public Enemies: Hamilton’s “Little Chicago” Era & Its Consequences, exploring the underworld of John Dillinger and his contemporaries from a time when Hamilton was legendary for its vice and criminality.

We begin with hometown Hamilton between the World Wars. Miami University Hamilton’s own Susan Spellman explores “Business & Ordinary Life in the 1920s and 1930s,” drawing on research from her forthcoming book on business history. Renowned local reporter and crime historian Richard O Jones introduces three classic film noirs in our series “Hollywood Hoods.” Loyola University’s Elliott Gorn puts legendary outlaw John Dillinger on the map of depression-era America, while Jeremy Meier returns to the Colligan, bringing Dillinger to life on stage. Finally, Hamilton’s official historian Jim Blount considers the Little Chicago mystique and the history behind it. (Click below for schedule).


We look forward to seeing you all soon. In the meantime, enjoy a very happy holidays!

Matthew Smith,

Assistant Director, Michael J. Colligan History Project

Seasons Greetings!

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge (1927).

Dear Folks:

As we look forward to another year, all of us at the Michael J. Colligan History Project thank you, our audiences, friends, and supporters and wish you a very happy holiday season. We look forward to welcoming you all again in the New Year!

Following this fall’s exploration of “Ohio and the Civil War,” we look forward to bringing you our spring 2015 program of events, entitled “Public Enemies: Hamilton’s ‘Little Chicago Era & its Consequences.” This promises to be a popular topic, with local historical interest mixed in with an overview of the dark exploits of John Dillinger and other notorious outlaws and gangsters. Stay posted for our forthcoming schedule later this week!

Meanwhile, please enjoy the following pictures from our recent event, courtesy of our man with the camera, videographer Craig Rouse.

Kelli Johnson speaks at our opening fall event 9.16.14

Kelli Johnson speaks at our opening fall event 9.16.14

Morgan's Raid Panel (l-r):  David L. Mowery, Jim Blount, G. Michael Pratt, Lester Horwitz. 10.7.14.

Morgan’s Raid Panel (l-r): David L. Mowery, Jim Blount, G. Michael Pratt, Lester Horwitz. 10.7.14.

James M. McPherson receives John E. Dolibois History Prize. 10.29.14.

James M. McPherson receives John E. Dolibois History Prize. 10.29.14.

John E. Dolibois History Prize platform (l-r): G. Michael Pratt, James M. Mcpherson, Mike Dingledein, Curtis Ellison. 10.29.14.

John E. Dolibois History Prize platform (l-r): G. Michael Pratt, James M. Mcpherson, Mike Dingledein, Curtis Ellison. 10.29.14.

Jay Ungar & Molly Mason perform (Rick Good on banjo). 11.13.14.

Jay Ungar & Molly Mason perform (Rick Good on banjo). 11.13.14.

Ungar & Mason on stage. 11.13.14.

Ungar & Mason on stage. 11.13.14.

The 2014 John E. Dolibois History Prize: James McPherson

McPhersonjpegOhioans on Slavery and Emancipation in the Civil War

James M. McPherson

George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Emeritus, Princeton University

Wednesday 29 October, 7.30 pm, Parrish Auditorium

Ohioans played a more important role in the Civil War than residents of perhaps any other Union state. Three of four principal generals who led the North grew up in Ohio and went to West Point, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Philip H. Sheridan. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton were Ohioans, while Senators Benjamin Wade and John Sherman and Representatives James Ashley and John A. Bingham were important Congressional leaders in the drive for abolition of slavery.

Ohio also furnished prominent opponents of these policies, notably Clement L. Vallandigham, George L. Pendleton, and Samuel S. Cox. The story of these and other Ohioans in military and political actions of the war brings special attention to issues of slavery and its abolition.

  • Free public event
  • Reception to follow

Memorializing John Hunt Morgan & the 1863 Ohio-Indiana Raid

With Jim Blount, Hamilton Historian; Lester Horwitz and David L. Mowery, independent scholars; G. Michael Pratt, Professor of Anthropology, Miami University; Matthew Smith, Colligan History Project (moderator).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 7.30 pm

Harry T. Wilks Conference Center, Miami University Hamilton


John Hunt Morgan

The Colligan’s new season “Hard Road to Liberty: Ohio and the Civil War got off to a flying start last Tuesday, with Kelli Johnson’s innovative and gripping discussion, The Fight Against Slavery: Lessons From History to a packed-out audience at Miami Hamilton’s Downtown Center! On October 7, the Colligan returns to the Wilks Conference Center for a round-table discussion on the legacy of John Hunt Morgan.

The John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail memorializing the route of Confederate General Morgan and his “Raiders” in July of 1863 features markers at 56 sites in Ohio alone, connecting with trails in Indiana and Kentucky. A panel of Civil War experts explores the making of this trail, its sponsors, and how the only Civil War action on Ohio soil is remembered today.

  • Free public event. Reception to follow.
  • Conferral of a special Jim Blount History Educator Award upon Richard O Jones