Later this week, USPS will once again participate in the commemoration of the opening of U.S. Penitentiary Alcatraz, which marks its 78th anniversary this year. A special commemorative postmark was created to honor the anniversary, and on Saturday, August 11, Postal Service employees will cancel letters and postcards in the Alcatraz gift shop from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
For those who cannot make it to Alcatraz Island for the event, but would still like a postcard or letter with the Alcatraz special pictorial postmark, stop by the Rincon Post Office, 180 Steuart St., San Francisco. The commemorative postmark will be available until September 14, 2012.
Every year in August, the National Park Service hosts activities to commemorate the anniversary of the penitentiary opening. Many of the former residents of Alcatraz are scheduled to be on Alcatraz Island in honor of this special 78th anniversary event. For more information about the anniversary event visit https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/.
According to author Jerry Lewis Champion Jr., 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 “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 that featured a cartoon-like pelican with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. That theme has been reproduced for the 78th anniversary cancellation. When the prison closed in 1963, the Alcatraz Post Office also closed.