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  1. Alcatraz - Prison, Location & Al Capone - HISTORY

    www.history.com › topics › crime
    • 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.
  2. Al Capone - Scarface, Alcatraz & Death - HISTORY

    www.history.com › topics › crime
    • 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 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 good student in his Brooklyn elementary school, but began falling behind and had to repeat the sixth grade. It was around that time that he started playing hooky and hanging out at the Brooklyn docks. One day, Capone’s teacher hit him for insolence and he struck back. The principal gave him a beating, and Capone never again returned to school. By this time, the Capones had moved out of the tenement to a better home in the outskirts of the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was here that Capo...

    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 Chicagoin 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, who employed Capone as bartender and bouncer at the Harvard Inn in Coney Island. It was there that Capone earned his nickname “Scarface.” One night, he made an indecent remark to a woman at the bar. Her brother punched Capone, then slashed him across the face, leaving three indelible scars that inspired his enduring nickname.

    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 over a booming business in gambling and prostitution, but with the enactment in 1920 of the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, Torrio focused on a new, more lucrative field: bootlegging. As a former petty thug and bookkeeper, Capone brought both his street smarts and his expertise with numbers to Torrio’s Chicago operations. Torrio recognized Capone’s skills and quickly promoted him to partner. But unlike the low-profile Torrio, Capone began to develop a reputation...

    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 operations generated $100 million in revenue annually. The press followed Capone’s every move avidly, and he was able to gain public sympathy with his gregarious and generous personality. Some even considered him a kind of Robin Hood figure, or as anti-Prohibitionresentment grew, a dissident who worked on the side of the people. However, in later years, as Capone’s name increasingly became connected with brutal violence, his popularity waned. In 1926, when two of Capone’s sworn enemies were spott...

    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 Side garage. Alerted to the danger as he approached the garage, Bugs Moran escaped the slaughter. Although Capone was staying at his Miami home at the time, the public and the media immediately blamed him for the massacre. He was dubbed “Public Enemy Number One.”

    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 Courthad 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, Capone remained confident that he would get off with a minimal sentence and struck a plea bargain in return for a two-and-a-half year sentence. When the judge in the case declared that he would not honor the agreement, Capone quickly withdrew his guilty plea, and the case went to trial. During the trial Capone used the best weapon in his arsenal: bribery and intimidation. But at the last moment, the judge switched to an entirely new jury. Capone was found guilty and sent to prison for 11 years.

    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 Alcatrazin 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 released in 1939 to a mental hospital in Baltimore, where he remained for three years. His health rapidly declining, Capone lived out his last days in Miami with his wife. He died of cardiac arrest on January 25, 1947. When Capone died, a New York Times headline trumpeted, “End of an Evil Dream.” Capone’s was at times both loved and hated by the media and the public. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, some in the public felt that Capone’s and others’ involvement in selling liquor had been vindica...

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  4. Escape From Alcatraz: June 11, 1962 - HISTORY

    www.history.com › news › escape-from-alcatraz-june
    • Background
    • Participants
    • Preparation
    • Aftermath

    Originally built as a naval defense fortification in the 1850s, the facility on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay housed military prisoners from 1861 to 1933, after which the U.S. Army transferred control to the Department of Justice. The new federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island opened in 1934 and was considered the toughest prison America could produce. A maximum-security, minimum-privilege facility for the most hardened and unrepentant criminals in the U.S. prison system, Alcatraz represented the governments attempt to take a hard-line stance against the rampant crime of the 1920s and 30s. During its 29 years in operation (1934-63), the prison housed some of the countrys most notorious bad guys, including Al Capone, George Machine Gun Kelly, Alvin Karpis (designated the first Public Enemy #1) and Birdman Robert Stroud. Frank Morris arrived on Alcatraz Island in January 1960, as inmate #AZ-1441. Convicted of his first crime at the age of 13, Morris had spent much of his life behind bars, serving time for offenses ranging from narcotics possession to armed robbery. With a reported I.Q. of more than 130, Morris also had a history of trying to break out of prisons; it was this habit that eventually landed him at The Rock, as Alcatraz had been dubbed long before its days as a federal prison. (In the Hollywood version of events, 1979s Escape from Alcatraz, Clint Eastwood would play Morris.)

    Morris accomplices, John and Clarence Anglin, serving time at Alcatraz for bank robbery, were also veterans of the prison system. Convicted along with a third brother, Alfred, they had been incarcerated at a federal penitentiary in Atlanta when they first met Morris. After their own series of escape attempts, John and Clarence were both sent to Alcatraz by mid-1961. A fourth man, Allen West, who also participated in the escape plot, was serving his second term at the Rock. Left behind on the night of the escape, West later told the authorities much of what is now known about the complicated scheme, and even claimed to have been the mastermind himself.

    By the time they made their escape attempt in June 1962, Morris and the Anglins had spent three months digging through the air vents in their cells with sharpened spoons purloined from the prison cafeteria. In addition, they fashioned lifelike dummy heads out of paper, soap and human hair from the prison barbershop, and stitched together a makeshift raft and life preservers from more than 50 raincoats donated by or stolen from their fellow inmates.

    On the night of June 11, Morris decided the time had come to make their escape. When West was unable to get through the ventilator grill at the rear of his cell, Morris and the Anglins were forced to leave him behind, climbing some 30 feet up the prison plumbing system to the roof of the cellhouse. They crossed 100 feet of rooftop and made it down 50 feet of piping, hitting the ground near the exit to the inmates shower area. After that point, no one ever saw or heard from Morris or the Anglin brothers again. According to Westwho finally managed to escape his cell and make it to the rooftop, only to find that his fellow inmates had disappearedthe plan had been to use the makeshift raft to reach Angel Island. After some rest, the men would then reenter the bay on the opposite site of the island and swim through the so-called Raccoon Straits on their way to Marin County, where they would steal a car and burglarize a clothing store before going their separate ways. But no such crimes were reported anywhere in Marin County within 12 days of the escapea fact the authorities would point to as support for their conclusion that the attempt had failed. In another significant lead, a Norwegian freighter reported seeing a body floating 20 miles northwest of Golden Gate Bridge on July 17, wearing what appeared to be denim trousers similar to those issued by the prison. Though the FBI still maintains active arrest warrants for all three men, they are officially listed as missing and presumed drowned, victims of the frigid waters and swift currents of San Francisco Bay. But the inmates bodies were never found, and some people continue to believe that Morris and the Anglins may have survived. On March 21, 1963, less than a year after the escape attempt, the federal prison on Alcatraz Island closed. It had been the most expensive of all U.S. state or federal prisons to operate, primarily due to the cost of transporting fresh water to the island and evacuating waste. Now operated by the National Park Service, The Rock is now one of San Franciscos most popular tourist attractions.

    • Sarah Pruitt
  5. Al Capone Goes to Prison - HISTORY

    www.history.com › capone-goes-to-prison

    Nov 24, 2009 · Al Capone goes to prison. On October 17, 1931, gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious ...

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  6. 10 Things You May Not Know About Alcatraz - HISTORY

    www.history.com › news › 10-things-you-may-not-know
    • 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.
  7. Was the Escape from Alcatraz Successful? - HISTORY

    www.history.com › news › alcatraz-escape-new

    Jul 16, 2018 · Yes we all made it that night but barely!”. A photograph showing the cell where one of the three prisoners escaped from Alcatraz on June 12, 1962. A dummy head was used to throw off guards, and ...

  8. Did anyone ever escape from Alcatraz? - HISTORY

    www.history.com › news › did-anyone-ever-escape-from

    Aug 08, 2012 · During its nearly 30 years of operation (from 1934 to 1963), the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most notorious felons, including gangsters Al ...

  9. 8 Things You Should Know About Al Capone - HISTORY

    www.history.com › news › 8-things-you-should-know
    • Capone was in a street gang as a child. Born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York, Alphonse Capone was the fourth of nine children. His parents, Gabriele, a barber, and Teresa Capone, were immigrants from Angri, Italy.
    • He hated his famous nickname. In 1917, Capone’s face was slashed during a fight at the Harvard Inn, after he insulted a female patron and her brother retaliated, leaving him with three indelible scars.
    • Capone’s crime gang raked in as much as $100 million annually. After arriving in Chicago, Capone worked for Torrio, who was part of a criminal network headed by a man named Big Jim Colosimo.
    • He was never charged in connection with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. On the morning of February 14, 1929, seven men affiliated with the George “Bugs” Moran gang were shot to death while lined up against a wall inside a garage in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
  10. 8 Remarkable Prison Breaks - HISTORY

    www.history.com › news › 8-remarkable-prison-breaks

    Oct 05, 2015 · 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 ...

    • The inmates who fled The Rock in a raft made from raincoats
      The inmates who fled The Rock in a raft made from raincoats
      Alcatraz. 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
      The Union POWs who tunneled out of a Confederate prison
      Libby Prison in April 1865. 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
      Britain’s Biggest Prison Break
      A watchtower and perimeter wall marks the boundary of the former Maze Prison, west of Belfast in Northern Ireland.
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