1882 “Broncho Billy” Anderson born Gilbert M. Anderson, the first western movie star, is born in Little Rock, Arkansas. Better known as “Broncho Billy,” the name of the western hero he played in over 300 short films, Anderson was the first western movie star. Furthermore, he played several small parts in one of the first movies ever made, The Great Train Robbery. In 1903, Anderson won a role as a bandit in the film after telling the director he could ride like a Texas Ranger. When it became clear that Anderson could hardly get onto a horse, he was made an “extra” and played several minor parts. Later that year, the 10-minute movie received an enthusiastic reception from the public, and Anderson decided to make a career in the promising new business of telling stories in moving pictures. Anderson moved to Chicago, which was becoming a minor moviemaking center. After a few years directing and occasionally starring in movies produced by others, Anderson decided to create his own production company. Forming a partnership with old friend George K. Spoor, in 1907 Anderson created the Essanay Company, which would later be credited as one of the best of the early movie studios. At first, Anderson made comedies, but remembering the brilliant success of The Great Train Robbery, he eventually turned to Westerns. Anderson was one of the first movie producers to realize that the public needed a central character in the movies, a “star” on which they could focus their attention. In 1909, though, there were no movie stars and stage actors were reluctant to risk films. Anderson decided to make himself the star, creating the character “Broncho Billy” out of ideas about the West culled from popular dime novels. In 1909, Anderson released his first western, Broncho Billy and the Baby. It was an enormous success and convinced Anderson that he should stick with Westerns starring the Broncho Billy character. Over the next five years, Anderson made over 300 short one- or two-reel movies featuring Broncho Billy. Physically, Anderson was not especially handsome or dashing, but audiences liked Broncho Billy for his courageous virtue and bravery. In 1915, Anderson released his last film in the series, Broncho Billy’s Sentence,and thereafter turned to writing. A few years later he attempted a comeback, but by then the western field was dominated by more dashing actors like Tom Mix and William S. Hart. He made comedies for several years before retiring. Later recognized and honored for his pivotal role in the development of the Western, in 1965 he made a cameo appearance in a modern Hollywood Western called The Bounty Killer, his first talking picture. Anderson died in his sleep on January 20, 1971, at the age of 88. 1963 Alcatraz closes its doors Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay closes down and transfers its last prisoners. At it’s peak period of use in 1950s, “The Rock," or "America’s Devil Island" housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. Alcatraz remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable. The twelve-acre rocky island, one and a half miles from San Francisco, featured the most advanced security of the time. Some of the first metal detectors were used at Alcatraz. Strict rules were enforced against the unfortunate inmates who had to do time at Alcatraz. Nearly complete silence was mandated at all times. Alcatraz was first explored by Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who called it Isla de los Alcatraces (Pelicans) because of all the birds that lived there. It was sold in 1849 to the U.S. government. The first lighthouse in California was on Alcatraz. It became a Civil War fort and then a military prison in 1907. The end of its prison days did not end the Alcatraz saga. In March 1964, a group of Sioux claimed that the island belonged to them due to a 100-year-old treaty. Their claims were ignored until November 1969 when a group of eighty-nine Native Americans representing the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the island. They stayed there until 1971 when AIM was finally forced off the island by federal authorities. The following year, Alcatraz was added to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is now open for tourism. 1932 Series of tornadoes hits Southeast U.S. A storm system arising in the Gulf of Mexico spawns a devastating series of tornadoes that kills more than 350 people across the Southeast over two days. Thousands were seriously injured and many were left homeless by this deadly rash of twisters. The tornadoes began late on a Monday afternoon near the Mississippi and Alabama border. Warm air from the Gulf of Mexico collided with a cold front to the north, setting up perfect tornado conditions. The first twister touched down in Marion, Alabama, where 18 people were killed and 150 were injured at a large plantation farm. Next hit was Tuscaloosa–the Druid City Hospital there was inundated with victims. Moving northeast in Alabama, tornadoes caused such destruction in the town of Northport that it had to be sealed and National Guard troops called in. Twenty-nine people were killed in Demopolis, Alabama, with reports of boxcars from nearby train tracks flying through the air. In Chilton County, witness William Lyon reported “large timber 200 feet in the air.” Churches and schools were demolished across the county and 40 people were killed. In Sylacauga, 100 homes were leveled and 19 people killed. The final death toll in Alabama was 299. In northern Alabama, the storm front split into two parts. The first part moved toward Tennessee and Kentucky, while the other pushed toward Georgia and the Carolinas. A total of 359 people died in six different states from the 33 recorded tornadoes that persisted through the night. The horrific spate of tornadoes also did heavy damage to livestock and crops. The disaster came at a particularly tough time for the people and economy of the region; they were already reeling from the effects of the Great Depression.