Lighthouse Keeper Records Prison Riot at Alcatraz

Harry Davis became keeper of Alcatraz Lighthouse, marking the entrance to San Francisco Bay, in 1938. I was recently copying his logs in the National Archives as part of a research project for the U.S. Lighthouse Society. Davis’s log followed the two-page-for-every-month format, devoting one or two lines to each day’s weather and activities. He and his three assistants spent most of their time maintaining the property and the two fog signals. Then the format changed for May 1946 with a narrative written across two pages: May 2: 1430 hrs. Convicts on the loose with submachine gun, entire prison held at bay. Shooting …

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Flying Santa

While digitizing the logs of The Graves Lighthouse in Boston Harbor, I noticed several entries about packages being dropped from an airplane. The keepers at this offshore station considered this a noteworthy event and probably appreciated some Christmas cheer while separated from their families during the holiday. (The Graves was what was called a “stag station” — there was no accommodation for families.) In future years the log identifies the pilot as Capt. Wincapaw, who started the Flying Santa tradition. In the early days of aviation, pilots, like mariners, often used lighthouses to track their location.  Lacking sophisticated navigational equipment, …

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