August 11, 1934: The first federal prisoners arrive at Alcatraz.
Between 1934 and 1963, San Francisco’s famous island prison held an number of notorious criminals - from Al Capone to “Machine Gun Kelly” to Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. The uninhabited island was named Isla de los Alcatraces when the Spanish explored it in the 18th century, and in the 1800s, it became an American military prison, which it remained until its acquisition by the Department of Justice and subsequent transformation into a federal penitentiary - designed to hold criminals too troublesome for other prisons.
According to this list, the prison’s first inmate was Frank L. Bolt, originally incarcerated for committing the egregious crime of… sodomy; the second, Charles R. Copp, was imprisoned for robbery and attempted assault. Al Capone, prisoner number eighty-five, arrived some ten days later.
Members of the Hitler Youth look on as their Führer speaks, 1934 (from Triumph of the Will).
My German youth…
You standing here today represent something that is happening all over Germany. We want that you - German boys and girls - absorb everything that we wish for Germany. We want to be one people, and through you, to become this people…
We want this people not to become soft, but to become tough, and therefore, you must steel yourselves for this in your youth. You must learn sacrifice, and also never to collapse. Whatever we create today,whatever we do will all pass away, but in you, Germany will live on. And when we can no longer hold the flag that we tore from nothing… you must hold it firmly in your fists!
July 2, 1937: Amelia Earhart disappears en route to Howland Island.
In 1932, this Kansas native became the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, just five years after Charles Lindbergh accomplished the same feat. In 1937, Earhart and flight navigator Fred Noonan set out to circumnavigate the globe; if successful, their trip would have them travel a total of 29,000 miles.
The final stretch of the journey - a few thousand miles over the Pacific Ocean - would end at Howland Island. On the morning of July 2, Earhart radioed some of her last transmissions to the USCGC Itasca, which apparently received her transmissions but was unable to send any back. Shortly after receiving Earhart’s last transmission, official searches for the disappeared aviator and her navigator began. No trace of the aircraft or the occupants were ever found, and on January 5, 1939, Earhart was declared legally dead.
What happened to Amelia Earhart? The most accepted theory is that her plane simply crashed into the ocean and sank, and that its wreck is simply sitting somewhere in the Pacific, waiting to be found. Another theory is that she and Noonan were left stranded on a deserted island, before perishing. And of course, others hold more far-fetched theories - shot down by the Japanese for spying, eloped with Noonan, crashed on the island from LOST (or is that just me?), abducted by aliens… The search and speculation still continue today.
June 13, 1934: Hitler and Mussolini meet in Venice for the first time.
The first meeting between Europe’s two new fascist leaders was not successful and, in retrospect, a little amusing. Mussolini had led Italy as Il Duce for nearly nine years, and Hitler had barely held power for one; Mussolini was decked out in ceremonial dress fit for a general - riding boots and all, while Hitler had come in plain civilian clothing; the boisterous Italian leader also found Hitler’s constant quoting of Mein Kampf boring, and he later referred to him as “a silly little monkey”.
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt (of V-J Day in Times Square fame), who snapped a photo of the two leaders shaking hands, later said that “[Mussolini] didn’t think much of Hitler” and “when Hitler and Mussolini met on June 13, 1934, in Venice, Mussolini was the big shot”. It was true. Hitler’s first coup (the “Beer Hall Putsch”) was an attempt to emulate Mussolini’s successful March on Rome, and Hitler’s paramilitary “brownshirts” were directly inspired by the Italian “Blackshirts”.
May 26, 1895: Dorothea Lange is born.
Dorothea Lange was a prominent American photographer who worked most extensively through the Great Depression, during which she photographed the unemployed and homeless for the Resettlement Administration, and later the Farm Security Administration. One of her most famous photographs - “Migrant Mother” (actually one in a series of photographs) - is one of the most iconic of that era.
During World War II, Lange was assigned by the War Relocation Authority to cover the rounding up and internment of Japanese-American - in fact, if you see a photograph of that event, it’s likely a Dorothea Lange piece. Dozens of her photographs, especially those that portrayed conditions within the camps, were impounded and censored by the U.S. government.
Though she was a native of New Jersey, Lange spent a substantial amount of her career working in California, and in 2008, she was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, stating that “her passion for people and the art of photography left us with era-defining images of 20th century America.”
May 12, 1937: The coronation of George VI takes place.
Following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, in 1936, George ascended the British throne; he was coronated on May 12, 1937 - the original intended date for his predecessor’s coronation. The coronation and procession were broadcast live on television, viewed by an estimated 50,000 people.
George VI opened his coronation speech with the words: “It is with a very full heart that I speak to you tonight.” The “reluctant King”, who would soon have to face the impending crisis of world war, addressed all the people of his empire went on to say:
To many millions the Crown is a symbol of unity. By the grace of God and by the will of the free peoples of the British Commonwealth, I have assumed that crown. In me, as your King, is vested, for a time, the duty of maintaining its honor and integrity.
American Airlines flew the first commercial DC-3 flight on June 25, 1936.
Nazi book-burnings (Berlin) - May 10, 1933.
German men and women! The age of arrogant Jewish intellectualism is now at an end! … You are doing the right thing at this midnight hour—to consign to the flames the unclean spirit of the past. This is a great, powerful, and symbolic act… . Out of these ashes the phoenix of a new age will arise… .
Oh Century! Oh Science! It is a joy to be alive!
- Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
(pictured) Albert Speer’s model of Hitler’s “World Capital Germania” (Welthauptstadt Germania), his plan for a magnificently redesigned Berlin.
This plan called for the organization of the capital around two boulevards, one running North-to-South, and another running East-to-West. The focal point of Hitler’s new “world capital” would have been the Volkshalle (“People’s Hall”), a building of the Führer’s own design; pictured above, the huge domed structure was heavily inspired by the palaces and temples of Ancient Rome, especially the Pantheon. Had it been built, this “Hall of Glory” may have reached over 900 feet in height and 800 feet in width, far outstripping the structures that inspired its design.
One of the first projects of “Germania” would have been an enormous stadium capable of holding 400,000 spectators. Although a stadium was eventually built by the Nazi government in Berlin, its capacity was less than 1/5th that of the planned original. A triumphal arc, twice as high as the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, was also planned, but also never built.
Alas, much of Hitler’s new Berlin, which he claimed would “only be comparable with Ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Rome” was never built - construction was halted, some of it even undone - by World War II.
(Images from the Bundesarchiv)