April 17, 2016

2467 UNITED STATES (California) - Alcatraz Island

Located in the San Francisco Bay, 2.0km offshore from San Francisco, Alcatraz Island is a small island which was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of aboriginal people from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area.

The first European who document the island was the Spaniard Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who charted San Francisco Bay and named one of the three islands he identified as the "La Isla de los Alcatraces," which translates as "The Island of the Pelicans." In 1853, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began fortifying the island, work which continued until 1858, eventuating in Fortress Alcatraz. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, the island mounted 85 cannons (increased to 105 cannons by 1866) in casemates around its perimeter.

Because of its isolation, Alcatraz was used to house Civil War prisoners as early as 1861. In 1867, a brick jailhouse was built, and in 1868, it was officially designated a long-term detention facility for military prisoners. Between 1909 and 1912 was built the huge concrete main cell block, designed by Major Reuben Turner, which remains the island's dominant feature. The Fortress was deactivated as a military prison in October 1933 and became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August 1934, being designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons.

During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. "Doc" Barker, James "Whitey" Bulger, and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate). The penitentiary claimed that no prisoner successfully escaped. Because the penitentiary cost much more to operate than other prisons, and half a century of salt water saturation had severely eroded the buildings, it was closed in 1963.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series Statehood, about which I wrote here. The second stamp is part of a definitive series with butterflies, about which I wrote here.

Alcatraz Island - Wikipedia

Sender: Denise 
Sent from Jericho (New York / United States), on 13.01.2014
Photo: Andrew McKinney

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