Alcatraz is America’s most notorious island, and its most misunderstood. Beginning with its first sighting by Europeans in 1769 through its present standing as the top paid tourist attraction in San Francisco, its history is multi-layered. Former National Park ranger and historian John Martini uncovers both the island’s infamous past as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963 and its lesser-known roles as a Civil War fortress, political prison for Confederate sympathizers, and a military prison for recalcitrant U.S. Army soldiers and Native American warriors.
Martini also covers the Native American Occupation of 1969–1971; Alcatraz in American popular culture (especially the movies); the seldom-seen tunnels beneath the prison buildings; its evolution as a National Park site; the island’s now-resurgent natural life; and the challenges of preserving its aging infrastructure.
Martini, a native San Franciscan, worked as a National Park Service ranger for more than 25 years at sites ranging from Alcatraz to Pearl Harbor. His books include Fortress Alcatraz and Alcatraz at War.