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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.
- There have never been any confirmed prisoner escapes from Alcatraz. This one shocked me! With the popularity of the 1979 movie, Escape from Alcatraz, about a group of three men who used spoons to escape “The Rock,” I’m positive I’m not the only who believed this myth.
- The island was home to prisoners as early as the 1850s. When San Francisco was put on the map during the Gold Rush of the 1840s, Alcatraz was used for military prisoners.
- It is technically possible to swim to shore. In 1962, one inmate managed to squeeze through a window and swim to shore. Unfortunately, he was so tired by the time he reached land, that the police found him lying unconscious at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- At any given time, there were about 300 civilians living on Alcatraz that included both women and children. The families of the guard staff lived on the island, of course.
Alcatraz Island, also known as ‘The Rock,’ a rocky island in San Francisco Bay, off the coast of California, in the United States. From 1934 to 1963, a facility on the island served as a federal prison for some of the most dangerous civilian prisoners. Learn more about the history of Alcatraz Island here.
At just 22 acres, infamous Alcatraz Island is a place crowded with harrowing history and some fearsome fables. The rocky perch in San Francisco Bay was for millennia an isolated habitat for seabirds, but has become best known for its jailbirds.
- Prisoners At Alcatraz Had Only Four Rights. Being a minimum-privilege prison, Alcatraz did not afford its inmates an abundance of rights. In fact, in theory, they only had four on arrival to the island prison.
- There Was A Prison Band. Because Alcatraz is so often described as a dark, cold, and glum place, it may come as a shock that they actually had their own prison band.
- Native American Activists Are Connected To The Island. When Alcatraz closed down in 1963—a decision made because the prison was too expensive to run—the island was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned.
- Some Inmates Actually Wanted To Go To Alcatraz. Modern depictions of Alcatraz portray it as a hell on earth. Due to its strict, maximum-security nature, it seems like the kind of place you’d never elect to go if you could help it.
Sitting like a beacon in the middle of the San Francisco Bay of California is Alcatraz Island. Though most prominently known for the years it served as a maximum-security prison, the “Rock’s” history stretches far beyond those infamous days, and its legends and stories continue to find their way into American lore.
People also ask
How did Alcatraz Island get its name?
Why did Alcatraz shut down?
Is Alcatraz still a prison?
Is Alcatraz really haunted?
Families lived on Alcatraz during its prison years: The guards and officers lived on the island with their spouses and children. There's even an Alumni Association for folks who grew up there. Prisoners actually did escape from Alcatraz: While it was a prison, 36 tried to get away. Of those, 23 were captured, six were shot, and two drowned.
- Spanish explorers discovered Alcatraz Island in 1775. They named it La Isla de los Alcatraces, which means “Island of the Pelicans.” Prisoners later called it “The Rock.”
- In 1850, President Millard Fillmore (1800–1874) reserved Alcatraz Island for military use. A fortress was built on it and about 100 cannons were placed around the island to protect San Francisco Bay.
- The largest group of Native Americans imprisoned at Alcatraz was 19 Hopi “hostiles.” They were imprisoned because they refused to farm the way the U.S. government wanted them to.
- The "Escape from Alcatraz Marathon” is held every year to show that it is possible to escape from Alcatraz and live. Created in 1980, it includes a 1.5-mile swim to San Francisco, an 18-mile bike ride, and an 8-mile run.
Apr 14, 2018 · History of Alcatraz In the late 1850s, the first inmates to occupy Alcatraz were military prisoners who were forced to build a new prison that later became known as "The Rock." The U.S. Army housed military prisoners on the island until 1933, at which time the Federal Government decided to open a maximum-security, minimum-privilege penitentiary ...