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Daily History

March 21 1963 Alcatraz Closes


On March 21st 1963, Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay closed down and transferred all it’s prisoners to other institutions, according to official government sources. At it’s peak period of use in the 1950s, “The Rock,” or “America’s Devil Island” housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. Alcatraz remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable.

The twelve-acre rocky island, one and a half miles from San Francisco, featured the most advanced security of the time. Some of the first metal detectors were used at Alcatraz. Strict rules were enforced against the unfortunate inmates who had to do time at Alcatraz. Nearly complete silence was mandated at all times.

Some of the famous prisoners of Alcatraz included Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), Al Capone and Arthur “Doc” Barker (son of Ma Barker). The prisoner who spent the longest time on Alcatraz was Alvin “Creepy Karpis” Karpowicz, who stayed 26 years on Alcatraz, and was renowned for constantly fighting with other inmates.

Alcatraz was first explored by Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who called it Isla de los Alcatraces (Pelicans) because of all the birds that lived there. It was sold in 1849 to the U.S. government. The first lighthouse in California was on Alcatraz. It became a Civil War fort and then a military prison in 1907.

The end of its prison days did not end the Alcatraz saga. In March 1964, a group of Sioux claimed that the island belonged to them due to a 100-year-old treaty. Their claims were ignored until November 1969 when a group of eighty-nine Native Americans representing the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the island. They stayed there until 1971 when AIM was finally forced off the island by federal authorities.

The following year, Alcatraz was added to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is now open for tourism.

Movies and TV shows that featured Alcatraz include: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Catch Me If You Can (2002), The Rock (1996), Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and J.J. Abrams 2012 television series Alcatraz.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

11 thoughts on “March 21 1963 Alcatraz Closes

  1. Good article. In the late 1990s, I actually went on a tour of the rock, and I highly recommend the tour for those visiting San Francisco. The size of the cells and the facilities are surprisingly small and tight, and the history of the place from the civil war to its closing is very interesting. 🙂

    Posted by mulrickillion | March 21, 2012, 00:25
  2. It is a creepy, but fun place to visit now.

    Posted by TBM | March 21, 2012, 00:29
    • Yes, I agree with you, it is fun to visit. They actually allowed me to step inside the notorious “hole” and close the concrete door. I don’t know how men could survive the darkness and cold concrete.

      Posted by mulrickillion | March 21, 2012, 00:37
  3. Great post …. never went out when I was in San Francisco – didn’t really feel for it. Now I would probably do it. Missed out on this one.

    Posted by viveka | March 21, 2012, 03:04
  4. I’ve only ‘visited’ Alcatraz virtually and that was via Ship Simulator. Seeing the above picture I now realize it was very close to the real thing. Great post!

    Posted by J. G. Burdette | March 21, 2012, 03:53
  5. Hi,
    I would love to go and wonder through Alcatraz, so much history to this place. I enjoyed the post, there was so much I didn’t know.

    Posted by magsx2 | March 21, 2012, 08:10
  6. Thanks for this post, Craig. This is high my Bucket List.

    Posted by Sheila T Illustrated | March 21, 2012, 20:31

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