80 Years Ago: Alcatraz Takes In First Group of No Good Thugs


Group portrait of the Alcatraz Guards and Officials in front of the Administration Building. In the center with the light hat is Warden Johnston. Second to the right of Johnston is Capt. Henry Weinhold. c1930s. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Weinhold Family Alcatraz Photograph Collection

On August 11, 1934, Alcatraz accepted 14 federal prisoners, considered to be the grand opening the Rock. Of course, once you dig a little deeper, you learn that there were already prisoners on the island when those 14 inmated arrived on armored railcars (via ferry). But history is filled with asterisks, right? Alcatraz had long been used as a military prison, going back to the Civil War. On August 11th, a few military prisoners still serving out their terms were on the island to welcome their new Rockmates.

The new federal inmates were all transferred from McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington. They were joined by 53 more inmates on August 22nd. Alcatraz remained open as a Federal Penitentiary until March 1963 and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions on the West Coast.

Because there are so many great photos of Alcatraz, we’re going to stretch our legs a bit today.

Main Cell Block Guard Carl T. Perrin, March 21, 1963. Keith Dennison/Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives
 

Alcatraz guards at the sallyport, c. 1939-1962. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Carl Sundstrom Alacatraz Photograph Collection
 

View of the original control center at Alcatraz Federal Prison. Taken during the World War II period as can be seen by the war bond poster on the wall behind the gentleman. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, McPherson/Weed Family Alcatraz Papers
 

Alcatraz mess hall and kitchen with Christmas menu, date unknown. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Sheppard Alcatraz Collection
 

Alcatraz inmates playing dominoes and baseball in the recreation yard, c1935-1960. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Betty Waller Collection
 

Alcatraz inmates arriving at the main cell house, c1960. Leg irons and handcuffs can be seen on most of the inmates. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Marc Fischetti Collection
 

Construction of Alcatraz 1890-1914 Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives
 

Press Photo from the 1962 Alcatraz escape, June 1962. View from the west side building diagram directions. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives

 

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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