- Early Years as a Military Prison. In 1775, Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala (1745-97) mapped and named rugged Alcatraz Island, christening it La Isla de los Alcatraces, or Island of the Pelicans, due to its large population of sea birds.
- Doing Time as a Federal Prison: 1934-63. In 1933, the Army relinquished Alcatraz to the U.S. Justice Department, which wanted a federal prison that could house a criminal population too difficult or dangerous to be handled by other U.S. penitentiaries.
- Famous Inmates. Among those who did time at The Rock was the notorious Prohibition-era gangster Al “Scarface” Capone, who spent four-and-a-half years there during the 1930s.
- Escape Attempts from Alcatraz. Over the years, there were 14 known attempts to escape from Alcatraz, involving 36 inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that of these would-be escapees, 23 were captured, six were shot and killed during their attempted getaways, two drowned and five went missing and were presumed drowned.
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- Al Capone played banjo in the inmate band. The notorious gangster and mob boss was among the first prisoners to occupy the new Alcatraz federal prison in August 1934.
- There were no confirmed prisoner escapes from Alcatraz. A total of 36 inmates put the supposedly “escape-proof” Alcatraz to the test. Of those convicts, 23 were captured, six were shot to death and two drowned.
- Alcatraz is named for sea birds. Before criminals became its denizens, the windswept island was home to large colonies of brown pelicans. When Spanish Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala became the first known European to sail through the Golden Gate in 1775, he christened the rocky outcrop “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” meaning “Island of the Pelicans.”
- In spite of his nickname, the “Birdman of Alcatraz” had no birds in the prison. While Robert Stroud was serving a manslaughter sentence for killing a bartender in a brawl, he fatally stabbed a guard at Leavenworth Prison in 1916.
Apr 02, 2019 · At the time, Alcatraz was a military prison (it became a federal penitentiary in 1934). Conditions there were primitive and harsh, with poor sanitation and ventilation and considerable fire risk....
Aug 10, 2020 · In 1934, Alcatraz was fortified into a high-security federal penitentiary designed to hold the most dangerous prisoners in the U.S. penal system, especially those with a penchant for escape attempts.
In 1969, a group of rebel activists took over America’s most notorious prison for more than 19 months. Since the mid-1960s, American Indians had been on a mission to break into Alcatraz.
- Capone’s Early Years in New York
- Capone Meets Johnny Torrio
- Capone in Chicago
- Capone’s Reputation
- St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
- Prison Time
- Final Days
Alphonse Capone (1899–1947) was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of recent Italian immigrants Gabriele and Teresina Capone. A poor family that came to America seeking a better life, the Capones and their eight children lived a typical immigrant lifestyle in a New York tenement. Capone’s father was as a barber, and his mother was a seamstress. There was nothing in Capone’s childhood or family life that could have predicted his rise to infamy as America’s most notorious gangster.Capone was a...
Torrio was running a numbers and gambling operation near Capone’s home when Capone began running small errands for him. Although Torrio left Brooklyn for Chicago in 1909, the two remained close. Early on, Capone stuck to legitimate employment, working in a munitions factory and as a paper cutter. He did spend some time among the street gangs in Brooklyn, but aside from occasional scrapes, his gang activities were mostly uneventful.In 1917, Torrio introduced Capone to the gangster Frankie Yale...
When Capone was 19, he married Mae Coughlin just weeks after the birth of their child, Albert Francis. His former boss and friend Johnny Torrio was the boy’s godfather. Now a husband and a father, Capone wanted to do right by his family, so he moved to Baltimore where he took an honest job as a bookkeeper for a construction company. But when Capone’s father died of a heart attack in 1920, Torrio invited him to come to Chicago. Capone jumped at the opportunity.In Chicago, Torrio was presiding...
After an attempt on his life in 1925 by rival mobsters, Torrio decided to leave the business and return to Italy, turning over the entire operation to Capone. Scarface again ignored his mentor’s advice to maintain a low profile and instead, moved his headquarters to a plush suite in the Metropole Hotel in downtown Chicago. From there, he began living a luxurious and public lifestyle, spending money lavishly, although always in cash to avoid a trail. Newspapers of the time estimated Capone’s o...
By early 1929 Capone dominated the illegal liquor trade in Chicago. But other racketeers vied for a piece of the profitable bootlegging business, and among them was Capone’s long-time rival “Bugs” Moran. Moran had previously tried to assassinate both Torrio and Capone, and now he was after Capone’s top hit man, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn. Capone and McGurn decided to kill Moran. On February 14, 1929, posing as police, McGurn’s gunmen assassinated seven of Moran’s men in cold blood in a North S...
In response to the public outcry over the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, President Herbert Hoover ordered the federal government to step up its efforts to get Capone on income-tax evasion. The Supreme Court had ruled in 1927 that income gained on illegal activities was taxable, which gave the government a strong case for prosecuting Capone. On June 5, 1931 the U.S. government finally indicted Capone on 22 counts of income-tax evasion.Although the government had solid evidence against him, Capo...
Capone spent the first two years of his incarceration in a federal prison in Atlanta. After he was caught bribing guards, however, Capone was sent to the notorious island prison Alcatraz in 1934. Isolated there from the outside world, he could no longer wield his still considerable influence. Moreover, he began suffering from poor health. Capone had contracted syphilis as a young man, and he now suffered from neurosyphilis, causing dementia. After serving six-and-a-half years, Capone was rele...
- The inmates who fled The Rock in a raft made from raincoats. From 1934 to 1963, the U.S. penitentiary on Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and James “Whitey” Bulger.
- The Union POWs who tunneled out of a Confederate prison. On February 9, 1864, 109 Union officers tunneled their way out of Libby Prison, a bleak, Confederate prisoner-of-war facility in Richmond, Virginia.
- Britain’s Biggest Prison Break. The largest prison escape in British history took place on September 25, 1983, when 38 inmates, all of them members of the Irish Republican Army, broke out of Her Majesty’s Prison Maze near Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- The notorious drug kingpin who escaped–twice. On February 22, 2014, one of the world’s most-wanted criminals, drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman Loera, was arrested after outrunning law enforcement for more than a decade.
Aug 29, 2018 · Inside Hut 104, the prisoners of war building the Harry tunnel—who included many British airmen as well as Americans, Canadians, Australians, French and other Allied pilots—toiled for days ...
Jan 27, 2021 · An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 Poles perished at the camp, along with 19,000 to 20,000 Romas and smaller numbers of Soviet prisoners of war and other individuals.
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