11 August 2015

On This Day: Prisoners arrive at Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island, the infamous federal prison off the coast of California, was originally sold to the United States in 1849 by the Spanish. An US Army detachment was stationed there in 1859 and in 1868 military criminals began to be housed there.  

It was finally transformed into a high security federal penitentiary and it was On This Day in 1934 that Alcatraz Island became home to federal prisoners who were deemed to be notorious and dangerous. For 29 years this prison housed the likes of Al Capone (at left here in this Public Domain photo from Wikipedia) and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Did YOUR ancestor spend time at Alcatraz? Ancestry.com offers the database: Alcatraz, California, U.S. Penitentiary, Prisoner Index, 1934-1963. You can search the index and, if you happen upon a black sheep in your family there, you can request the relevant case file from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Pacific Regional Office. 

A quick check in the index revealed no known family members. Only a few in fact showed up when I searched for Pennsylvanians. One of those, to give an example, was Charles Joseph Lovett, better known as “Red.” He was, according to the prison record, a white man born 1 December 1920 in Philadelphia. His parents were William and Mary Lovett. Reds died on 11 March 2005. He was received at Alcatraz on 19 March 1944. His crimes were murdering an FBI agent, assault, robbery and transporting stolen firearms. 

The prison was closed in 1963 and eventually became, in 1972, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is now a tourist attraction.

Ancestry.com. Alcatraz, California, U.S. Penitentiary, Prisoner Index, 1934-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Federal prisoners land on Alcatraz Island. History.com. 1934. 

"Warden's notebook page, with "mug shot," of Angelo Paris, 20-AZ. - NARA - 296706" by Unknown or not provided - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. 


On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.