Alcatraz: the day the most famous prison in the world closed its cells

Alcatraz is a former maximum security prison located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, off the coast of California.

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

From its creation in the 19th century, to its heyday in the mid-20th century, when some of America’s biggest prisoners were held there, the notorious Alcatraz slowly built its reputation that made it the most well-known prison in the world. Often called “The Rock,” this prison was built on a small rocky island in San Francisco Bay.

Alcatraz Island was discovered by the famous Spanish naval officer Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who was the first European to enter the San Francisco Bay.

Shortly after the end of the Mexican-American War and the acquisition of California in 1850, by order of the president of the United States, Millard Fillmor, Alcatraz became the property of the army.

Over the next ten years, the army began building fortifications and defensive cannons on the island. The remote location and the military complex proved to be an excellent location for a prison.

The prison population increased slowly over the decades, with the largest addition to its size occurring after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

In 1907, Alcatraz was officially designated a US Western Military Prison. and construction work began for its expansion.

By 1912, the main prison block and surrounding buildings were complete, and slowly the prison began to increase its population.

During the prohibition era of the 1930s, many famous mobsters and criminals stayed there, most notably Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly.

Throughout its history, no prisoner managed to successfully escape from Alcatraz. In total of 14 escape attempts, 36 prisoners tried to escape, 23 were captured, 8 died in the escape and the remaining five are considered missing and drowned.

Due to its increasing cost and remote location, Alcatraz prison was officially closed on March 21, 1963just two years after the most famous prison break attempt of all time.

After the complicated and daring plan, inmates Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin made it out of the prison complex’s walls and into the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay. Their bodies were never found and although officials claim they must have drowned, the US Marshall Office is still investigating this case.

In the years after the prison closed, Alcatraz Island became home to a large group of Indian protesters who fought against the US government for Indian rights.

In 1986, Alcatraz Island was declared a National Historic Landmark.and tourists from all over the world come to explore this interesting historical site.

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