Alcatraz Prison History and Facts

Prison Alcatraz

Since its creation in 19th century, to its peak in the middle of 20th century when some of the greatest prisoners of USA were held there, the famed prison Alcatraz slowly built his reputation that made him the world's best known prison. Often called as "The Rock", this famous prison was built on the small rocky island in the Bay of San Francisco. Its remote location was first used as a place for bay's first lighthouse, but over years American military took control of the island and slowly transformed it into a prison.

Island Alcatraz was discovered by famous Spanish naval officer Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who was the first European who entered San Francisco Bay. He named the island as "La Isla de los Alcatraces" (which translates as "the island of the pelicans"). By the middle of 19th century, Mexican governor Pio Pico commissioned the construction of lighthouse on that island. Shortly after the end of Mexican-American war and the acquisition of California in 1850, by the order of 13th president of the United States Millard Fillmor Alcatraz became the property of US military. In the following ten years army started building fortifications and defensive cannons to the island, which were never fired during the length of American Civil War. It was during that time that island received its first prisoners. Remote location and fortified military complex proved to be great spot for a prison, and after military decided to move their forces off the island, only prison remained. Population of the prison slowly rose through the decades, and biggest addition to its size happened after Spanish-American war in 1898 and 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In 1907, Alcatraz officially became designated as Western U.S. Military Prison, and construction work on its expansion began. By 1912 the main prison block and surrounding buildings were complete, and slowly prison started increasing its population. The majority of prisoners that were sent there caused problems at other prisons, and maximum security provided by the facilities and islands natural defenses proved to be instrumental for its fame. During the age of 1930s prohibition, many famous gangsters and criminals were housed there, most notably Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. During its entire history, no prisoner managed to successfully escape Alcatraz. In total of 14 escape attempts, 36 prisoners tried to escape, 23 were caught, 8 died on the run, and five remaining are considered missing and drowned.

Because of its increasing cost and remote location, Alcatraz prison was officially closed on March 21, 1963, only two years after the most famous prison escape attempt of all time. After the complicated and daring plan, inmates Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin managed to exit the prison complex walls and enter the icy waters of San Francisco Bay. Their bodies were never found and although the officials claim that they most certainly drowned, U.S. MarshallOffice still investigates this case.

In the years after the prison closed, Alcatraz Island became a home of large group of Indian protestors who fought against the US government about rights of Indian people. In 1986 Alcatraz Island was declared a National Historic Landmark, and tourist comes from around the world to explore this interesting historic site. The fame of this island continues to rise even today, with never-ending tributes that are made in countless pieces of written and film media. Many books and movies tried to describe conditions inside its prison during its peak, and the legends about Alcatraz prison entered into pop culture as one of the best known prisons of the world.