Alcatraz "The Rock"

Trip Start Oct 04, 2011
Trip End Mar 17, 2013

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 17, 2012

Please indulge my curiosity with history in this blog. This little Island is so jam packed with it, that I found it hard to leave out the stories. 

In 1853 Alcatraz had a lighthouse built on it. In 1858, a military fortress had been constructed. As well as Fort Point and Lime Point, Fortress Alcatraz formed a triangle of defense protecting the bay from potential invasion. 

Alcatraz never fired its guns offensively, which might be a good thing, judging from the military performance held on the Centennial celebration in 1876. An old schooner was anchored in the bay, loaded with explosives and coal oil. 50,000 spectators watched as naval vessels began firing on it. Over 400 shots fired and not one landed the target. Eventually, under the cover of heavy smoke, a small boat was dispatched to set fire to the ship so it would explode for onlookers

When the civil war broke out in 1861, Alcatraz was used to house Civil War prisoners, because of its isolation from the outside by the cold, strong, hazardous currents of the waters of San Francisco Bay. 

Following the war in 1868 until 1933, Alcatraz was officially designated a long-term detention facility for military prisoners. Prisoners included stowaways on foreign vessels, Civil War privateers, Indians, a German Diplomat during WW1, disloyal officers, conscientious objectors, miscreants and deserters.

Prisoners fulfilled military commitments by working, breaking up large rocks, building the cellhouse and vegetating the barren rock. With construction complete in 1912, inmates turned to laundry work. Alcatraz became the central laundry facility for the US Army stationed in San Francisco Bay.

By 1930's after WW1, Alcatraz was deemed too expensive for the Army (mid the "Great Dpression"). Everything had to come on boat, including water for the laundry. They had to generate their own power and they were cut off from the rest of the military command. As the Army had sunk millions into Alcatraz they wanted another federal agency to take over. 

The Department of Justice was experiencing the worst period of crime in it's history, it was the time of prohibition, out-laws and gangsters. The department was looking for a high-security prison location, as many felons escaped repeatedly from inland prisons. The Island was transferred for a nominal amount on the condition that the laundry work continued for the US Army. 

The most famous chapter of Alcatraz history began in 1934 and continued until 1963. The emphasis changed from hard work to tight security. The story of Alcatraz the prison is detailed in my photographs.

In 1969 it was occupied for nearly 2 years by Native Americans demanding reparation for the many treaties broken by the US government and for the lands which were taken from so many tribes.

Today the Island is cared for by the National Park Service, as it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

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