• Visitor during the evening tour of Alcatraz gaze into the many cells that line up the corridor known as

    Alcatraz Island

    California

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History & Culture

Cellhouse menu for Christmas 1954.

The history of Alcatraz is surprising to those that only know the Hollywood version. Civil War fortress, infamous federal prison, bird sanctuary, first lighthouse on the West Coast, and the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement are a few of the stories of the Rock. The links above and below will take you to them. These are excellent sources for students working on an Alcatraz assignment as well as for those planning a visit and wanting to know more.

Click on Places to learn about the military history (1850 - 1934), the federal penitentiary (1934 - 1963), and perhaps the most influential event in the island's history - the American Indian occupation (1964 and 1969 - 1971) that saved the tribes and maybe the island too.

Click on People to learn of some of the famous, and not so famous people associated with the Rock.

To see items from the National Parks museum collection, and learn more about all the history of Alcatraz, click on Collections.

In the early 1970's the National Park Service, Historic Preservation Division of the Denver Service Center, commissioned historian Erwin N. Thompson to write a Historic Resource Study of Alcatraz Island shortly after the island was transferred to Golden Gate National Recreation Area. While in the public domain, due to a limited print run it has not generally been availale to the general public. But that has now changed. The document is two fairly large PDF files - the first file is the text of that publication. The second file is the appendices - maps - of the island and its many incarnations (some of the maps are truncated due to the limitations of available scanners). Note that more recent research has improved on some parts of THE ROCK, yet it still remains the definitive work on the history of Alcatraz Island.

There is much information on the World Wide Web related to the Rock. This page has links to some of the websites we recommend for additional information on the island of the pelicans (isla de los alcatraces).

If you wish to purchase tickets for the island, or to check schedules or prices, visit Alcatraz Cruises LLC.

 
Rodman cannons mounted on Alcatraz in the 1800s.
15 inch Rodman cannons (Model 1861 U.S. 15-inch Columbiad) on Alcatraz Island.

Did You Know?

Red Power painted on an Alcatraz building.

In November of 1969 American Indians being relocated and terminated by the U.S. government occupied the then vacant island of Alcatraz. Their 18 month occupation would bring an end to the federal termination policy, saving the tribes.