Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alcatraz Island Discovery Related to Postal Service

Alcatraz Island is an island located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. Often referred to as The Rock, the small island early-on served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison until 1963. Later, in 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received land-marking designations in 1976 and 1986.

Today, the island is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. In 2008 the nation's first hybrid propulsion ferry started serving the island. Alcatraz has been featured in many movies, TV shows, cartoons, books, comics, and games.

During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed no prisoners had ever successfully escaped. 36 prisoners were involved in 14 attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught, six were shot and killed during their escape, and three were lost at sea and never found. The most violent occurred on May 2, 1946 when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners led to the so-called Battle of Alcatraz.

On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin successfully carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. The attempt was the subject of the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz with screenplay by Richard Tuggle; directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris, Jack Thibeau as Clarence Anglin and Fred Ward as John Anglin.

The discovery of Alcatraz is related to the Postal Service. The San Carlos, a Spanish packet ship, discovered the Island of Alcatraz on August 5, 1775. The primary function of packet ships was the transport of mail. The Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala named the Island, La Isla de los Alcatraces, which translates to the Island of the Pelicans. Later the name was shortened and altered to the current name of Alcatraz.

The first U.S. Post Office opened on Alcatraz Island on March 6, 1874. At the time, Alcatraz was a U.S. Army reservation known as the “Post at Alcatraz,” which had been established in 1850. The Army post closed in 1933, and on January 1, 1934, Alcatraz became a U.S. federal penitentiary. The island Post Office developed a rubber stamp which featured a cartoon like pelican with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. That theme has been reproduced for the 75-year anniversary cancellation. When the prison closed in 1963, the Alcatraz Post Office also closed.

Above is an envelope with a special pictorial cancel featuring Alcatraz Island on the 75th anniversary of its station on August 8, 2009.