Alcatraz: A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years

Alcatraz: A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years

Michael Esslinger

Language: English

Pages: 451


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This Kindle eBook edition has been completely revised, reedited and updated with new inmate / officer interviews and historical accounts! NOTE: This book contains graphic depictions of crime and prison violence.

ALCATRAZ – the name alone said it all… It was meant to send a shudder down the spines of the nation's most incorrigible criminals. It stripped Al Capone of his power. It tamed "Machine Gun" Kelly into a model of decorum. It took the birds away from the Birdman of Alcatraz.

When prisoners boarded the boat for Alcatraz, they knew that they had reached the end of the line. Not only was this the toughest of all Federal penitentiaries, but it was also said to be virtually escape-proof. The island was a natural fortress, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait of freezing water and deadly currents. This prison was the U.S. government’s drastic answer to the lawlessness unleashed under Prohibition, which continued throughout the “Roaring Twenties” and into the teeth of the Great Depression. Alcatraz, with its damp cold and austere isolation, its rigid discipline and strict rule of silence, was as tough as the criminals that were sent there, and by the time the prison closed down in 1963, "the Rock" had indisputably done its job.

Alcatraz - A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years has sustained as a staple reference for staff members and tour guides at Alcatraz, and remains one of the most comprehensive references chronicling the history of the island. This mammoth reference navigates the Island's history through rarely seen documents, interviews and hundreds of pages of historic photographs. Author interviews range from men such as legendary FBI fugitive James “Whitey’ Bulger; Dale Stamphill, a principle in the 1938 escape with Doc Barker and Henry Young; to Atom Spy Morton Sobell, the codefendant of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Historian Michael Esslinger thoroughly details the prominent events, inmates, and life inside the most infamous prison in American History. His research included hundreds of hours examining actual Alcatraz inmate files (including rare original documents from Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and over a hundred others) exploring the prison grounds from the rooftop to the waterfront to help retrace events, escape routes, in addition to conducting various interviews with former inmates & guards. Esslinger interviewed a variety of principle figures, comprised of both inmates and officers who were either involved, on-duty or on Alcatraz during nearly escape attempt. Interviews included inmates and officers that covered each era of operations at Alcatraz from the early military period in the 1920’s, through the federal years: 1934 to 1963.

His study has resulted in detailed accounts of both the 1946 & 1962 Escape attempts. A detailed account of the 1962 escape of Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers provides rare insight extracted through photos, and over 1,700 pages of FBI and Bureau of Prisons investigative notes.

Detailed narratives of Alcatraz's most notable inmates who include Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz), Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Frank Morris, the Anglin Brothers, Doc Barker, Joe Cretzer, Bernard Coy, Miran Thompson, Sam Shockley, and many-many others. Alcatraz Federal Prison - A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years, is a comprehensive reference on the history of Alcatraz and contains one of the most comprehensive archives of inmate and prison life photographs (nearly 1,000) from 1934-1963.












leave the family homestead, and venture out to pursue his own career in crime. He would eventually join forces with Herbert Farmer, who owned a renowned chicken ranch with his wife near Joplin, Missouri, and over the years they would harbor several fugitives, including Bonnie and Clyde. Farmer would later find himself sentenced to serve time on Alcatraz after being convicted as a conspirator in the famous 1933 Kansas City Union Station Massacre, an event which had a profound impact on the image

normal. It wasn’t anything remotely like what he had experienced sitting in solitary cell at Alcatraz. But in spite of his recently won freedom and his new wife, he continued to struggle with his past. He would eventually revert back to his old familiar life as an outlaw. Walter’s final brush with the law would occur on October 13, 1971. At about 10:00 a.m., he and an unidentified female passenger were pulled over on a routine traffic stop in Euless, Texas. As Texas Ranger Bill Harvell

leaving him no chance of escape. Coy forced Lageson to walk through the cutoff and onto Seedy Street, where he was searched and stripped of his keys and other valuables. With few words exchanged, he was shoved into the now crowded cell #404. Sam Shockley then turned up at the cell front, yelling that Lageson had assaulted him previously when shoving him into the strip cell. Shockley insisted that his comrades let him at the officer, but Hubbard and Cretzer only pointed their weapons,

ran toward the tower, attempting to see if her husband was injured. Comerford waived that he was not hurt and directed her to go back home and take cover. The powerful rifle shots reverberated all over the island and it was later reported that they had been heard as far away as the shores of Marin and San Francisco. One interesting detail is that the Armory Officer was usually responsible for calibrating and adjusting the target sights on every Springfield that was returned to the Armory. Fish

the bars. Following his assignment, inmate Leonard WILLIAMS, No. 1045, was assigned to the basement area and he too could have contributed to these cuts. It is noted by the record that WILLIAMS was involved in several escape attempts, including an attempt to escape while being transported to Alcatraz. Investigative reports suggest that inmates Charles Burbank (left) and Leonard Williams (right) may have begun cutting through the steel window bars several months before the escape, when they

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