Unusual Inlaid Hardstone Scenic Brooch depicting Alcatraz Island
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Unusual Inlaid Hardstone Scenic Brooch depicting Alcatraz Island, c. 1870s, depicting a highly detailed view of the island, its fort with American flag, and on a background of California turquoise in matrix, and quartz with pyrite veins, together with a similar brooch set with a moss agate tablet with inlays of malachite, turquoise, and agate with pyrite veins, each with 14kt gold mount, lg. 2 1/2, 2 3/4 in.
Note: The 1848 Gold Rush brought international attention to the United States territory of California, and the population of San Francisco exploded. When California became a state in 1850, President Fillmore issued an Executive Order to reserve land around the San Francisco Bay for military use, including Alcatraz Island, in order to protect national interests. Construction of a fort began in 1853, and Fortress Alcatraz would become the most powerful line of defense on the Pacific coast. Heavily fortified and armed, Fortress Alcatraz would be key in defending San Francisco during the Civil War. Designated as the official military prison for the Department of the Pacific in 1861, Alcatraz would hold those arrested for treason, military prisoners, and Confederate sympathizers. After the war (and a particularly lackluster military display during the 1876 Centennial), it became clear that the defenses at Alcatraz were becoming obsolete. The amount of prisoners, however, were increasing, and by 1900 Alcatraz held 441 prisoners. Due to the cost of bringing food, water, and supplies to the island, troubles compounded by the Great Depression, the army left in 1933. In 1934, Alcatraz became a Federal prison, as which it is far more famously known.