Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a
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Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison. Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard

towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone. For our annual Halloween fundraiser, follow .

  in 1832: Warden Samuel Wood leaves for Trenton, New Jersey for a visit and inspection of the state prison there. Like ...
12/06/2023

in 1832: Warden Samuel Wood leaves for Trenton, New Jersey for a visit and inspection of the state prison there. Like Eastern State, the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton was also designed by architect John Haviland.

Photo: Aerial view of New Jersey State Prison complex, circa 1930s. Photographer unknown; National Archives and Records Administration photograph No. 18-AN-31716.

Eastern State is thrilled to have welcomed nearly 300 online attendees to our most recent Virtual Scout Day! On December...
12/05/2023

Eastern State is thrilled to have welcomed nearly 300 online attendees to our most recent Virtual Scout Day! On December 3, we had scouts participating from 37 states, plus two military AEs. Scouts joined us from as close as Wynnewood, PA, and as far as the North Pole, AK, and Kamuela, HI.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Planning is underway for our 2024 Scout Day events. Visit www.EasternState.org/scoutday to learn more.

12/05/2023

in 1883: Warden Cassidy reports, “A-1298, James Hagen, discharged by commutation law. He served one year and four months for larceny. He is a professional thief and will be back to his old associates outside and continue his practices of stealing from people. He has served three terms in this prison. His two former numbers were 7891 and 9886. His wife came to the prison in a carriage to take him home.”

The Preservation Trades Center (PTC) is now recruiting crew members for our spring 2024 trade academies. Are you a Phila...
12/04/2023

The Preservation Trades Center (PTC) is now recruiting crew members for our spring 2024 trade academies. Are you a Philadelphia resident (age 18+) interested in pursuing a career in carpentry or masonry? Apply to be considered for a spot in one of our paid, hands-on job training programs!

Our crew members are paid $15 per hour for six weeks of hands-on training (40 hours per week) at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Learn about the many ways to shape a career in the construction industry while gaining valuable skills and networking with employers. In addition, program graduates will have the chance to interview for a full-time apprenticeship. Info sessions will take place on December 13, January 4, and January 9. Learn more and register: https://www.easternstate.org/tradescenter

12/04/2023

in 1903: George Braesett (B-2089) arrives at Eastern State to serve a six year and six-month sentence for larceny. Upon his arrival, prison administrators document Braesett’s tattoos which include crossed cannons and an eagle.

12/03/2023

in 1842: After meeting and interviewing Edward Anderson (No. 1620), the Moral Instructor wrote, “Born in Plumsted, Bucks Co. and has been 12 years in Trenton Prison. A most wretchedly shriveled old man and morally depraved and hardened, can get no intelligence from him at present.”

12/02/2023

in 1856: “Removed No. 3389 (Robert Grattis) to Second Block for using violent and abusive language to his keepers, his door having been marked for talking to a fellow prisoner,” writes the Warden.

It's not too late to register for Virtual Scout Day with Eastern State Penitentiary! We are thrilled to invite BSA and G...
12/01/2023

It's not too late to register for Virtual Scout Day with Eastern State Penitentiary! We are thrilled to invite BSA and GSUSA scouts and all youth to participate in this specially-curated virtual learning experience. Led by our engaging staff, all participants will enjoy interactive discussions and activities. BSA and GSUSA scouts will also satisfy badge requirements.

Join us on Zoom from 11:00 AM – 2:15 PM EST on Sunday, December 3. Register today: https://www.easternstate.org/scoutday

12/01/2023

in 1885: Warden Cassidy reports, “A-9859 (Wesley Shue), runner in the 7th Block, made an assault on another prisoner for which he was locked up.”

  📸 A guard, Chaplain Father Gallagher, a group of incarcerated men, and a Santa Claus figure pose for a photo during Ch...
11/30/2023

📸 A guard, Chaplain Father Gallagher, a group of incarcerated men, and a Santa Claus figure pose for a photo during Christmastime, 1953. Photo: collection of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, gift of the Scheerer Family.

11/30/2023

in 1923: Warden McKenty reports, “John Greeby, Night Guard, resigned on account of ill health.”

Happy Ceiling Day! On this day 146 years ago, a portion of the ceiling connecting Cellblocks 8 and 9 was built. We know ...
11/29/2023

Happy Ceiling Day! On this day 146 years ago, a portion of the ceiling connecting Cellblocks 8 and 9 was built. We know this because a chalk note on one of the wooden ceiling beams reads Nov. 29, 1877.

The next time you're at Eastern State, be sure to look up and pay tribute to one of our favorite hidden pieces of history.

11/29/2023

in 1884: Warden Cassidy reflects on the death of Andrew Quinn (A-1318) writing, “Died at 10 a.m., he has been ailing several months. Had five months to serve of a three years sentence. He served a previous sentence here. Was one of the Schuylkill gang.” The Schuylkill Rangers were a 19th century pirate gang that marauded the South Philadelphia waterfront along the Schuylkill River.

When it first opened as an active prison in 1829, Eastern State changed how the entire world looked at criminal justice....
11/28/2023

When it first opened as an active prison in 1829, Eastern State changed how the entire world looked at criminal justice. Now, nearly 200 years later, no other museum in the United States has our specific focus and mission.

Everything Eastern State Penitentiary has accomplished over the past three decades was only possible due to the generous support of friends like you. With your help this , we can make strides toward breaking ground on crucial goals in 2024.

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do on behalf of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. Donate today: https://www.easternstate.org/give

11/28/2023

in 1883: “There were a larger number of visitors than usual. Many people from the country were here. The railroads are selling excursion tickets from all the towns on the line of their roads which will bring many that would not otherwise come to see their friends who may be confined here,” reflects Warden Cassidy.

  in 1874: Warden Townsend reports, “Had a visit from Governor John F. Hartranft, his staff, and private secretary A. Wi...
11/27/2023

in 1874: Warden Townsend reports, “Had a visit from Governor John F. Hartranft, his staff, and private secretary A. Wilson Norris. They went to see several prisoners.”

Photo: Portrait of John F. Hartranft.

11/26/2023

in 1863: An anonymous official writes in the Cellblock 3 logbook, “Thanksgiving Day. The prisoners all remain in their sleeping cells, which they don't like. Mr. Noble on duty in the morning. I came on at 6 o'clock served apples, 5 to each prisoner. The boys are all right.” During the 19th century, prisoners often had one cell for sleeping and another for working.

11/25/2023

in 1862: Warden John Halloway reports, “Left home for West Chester to see about having the child of No. 4441 (Elizabeth Allison) removed to the Almshouse of Chester County, he being now two years old. Returned home in the evening.” Five days later, Warden Halloway “delivered into the charge of the Almshouse the male child of No. 4441.” Allison arrived at Eastern State with her child the year before. It is unknown if they were reunited after her release seven years later.

Donate a toy or children's book from November 24 through December 17, 2023 in exchange for "Buy One, Get One Free" dayti...
11/24/2023

Donate a toy or children's book from November 24 through December 17, 2023 in exchange for "Buy One, Get One Free" daytime admission to Eastern State Penitentiary.

One in 28 American children has a parent behind bars. In Pennsylvania alone, there are approximately 81,000 children with a parent incarcerated in a Pennsylvania state prison. How can we come together as a community to support families experiencing incarceration during the holidays?

Learn more: https://www.easternstate.org/visit/events/holiday-toy-drive

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open today, November 24, from 10 am to 5 pm! Spend your day off learning som...
11/24/2023

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open today, November 24, from 10 am to 5 pm! Spend your day off learning something new at America's Most Historic Prison.

11/24/2023

in 1925: Warden Groome outlines a new policy writing, “In the future, no visitors will be admitted to the Institution the evening a concert is being broadcast by the inmates, except the men actually necessary to operate the Radio.” During the 1920s and 30s, radio stations sometimes broadcasted from Eastern State. Programs included addresses from the Warden, musical performances by the Eastern State band or orchestra, and life stories of selected prisoners.

  📸 Norman Maisenhelder, who was incarcerated at Eastern State, standing in the hospital cellblock's diet kitchen circa ...
11/23/2023

📸 Norman Maisenhelder, who was incarcerated at Eastern State, standing in the hospital cellblock's diet kitchen circa 1958. Photo: collection of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, courtesy of Norman Maisenhelder’s daughter.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is closed today in observance of Thanksgiving. We will reopen tomorrow, Novembe...
11/23/2023

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is closed today in observance of Thanksgiving. We will reopen tomorrow, November 24.

Thanksgiving during Eastern State's operational years meant music, football matches, movie screenings, and special church services.

Today, spending in prison is still a reality for millions of people across the country. At SCI Chester, a medium security facility about 15 miles southwest of Philadelphia, chefs will offer up a special meal with traditional fixings and extra baked goods.

Read more about Thanksgiving in prison on our blog – link below.

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving for centuries – spending a day every November eating good food, entertaining company, and expressing gratitude. These celebrations have evolved, but enjoying special treats and giving back to others have remained fixtures of this holiday throughout hi...

11/23/2023

in 1884: “About eight p.m. a very heavy shower of rain which overrun the sewers and water from the sewers backed up into the Warden’s house through the drains leading into the main sewer,” reports Warden Cassidy. “Not much damage done, some inconvenience.”

11/22/2023

in 1929: Deputy Warden Elmer Leithiser writes from Graterford, “Guard John Zielinski broke his leg while on duty guarding prisoners outside the wall today. He was given first aid treatment by inmate C-4937 and was then taken to the Montgomery County Hospital at Norristown, PA.”

11/21/2023

in 1923: “Fire was discovered in the To***co Shop at 5:20 P.M. and was extinguished after slight damage had been done,” Acting Warden Herbert Smith reports.

11/20/2023

in 1854: Warden Strickland writes, “A committee of the Boston House of Correction, accompanied by a Committee of Philadelphia City Council, were here this morning, and had a full opportunity of examining our Institution. Several of them remarked to me that they had been “agreeably disappointed” by the apparent excellent working of the separate system.

11/19/2023

in 1904: Warden Byers reflects, “Notified Miss Adair, Night Matron, that I wished for her resignation, effective Dec. 1st. Having acquiesced to my request I gave her leave of absence for the balance of the time.” It is likely that Adair’s employment was terminated because she failed to inform the Warden that Annie Winson (B-41) believed herself pregnant, even though it was later determined that Winson was not. Adair’s career at Eastern State began in 1891 when she was hired by Warden Cassidy.

11/18/2023

in 1909: An unnamed official writes in the Cellblock 5 logbook, “B-324 (William Barnes) and A-9770 (Frederick Ward) are chalked this night for talking.” “Chalking” meant drawing a large “X” in chalk on someone’s cell door and placing them on food rations.

11/17/2023

in 1892: “The Times” of Philadelphia reports, “Charles L. Brown of the Fifteenth ward, will introduce a resolution requesting the Legislature to provide by law for the removal of the Eastern Penitentiary from its present site to a more suitable location [...] In support of his resolution, Mr. Brown declares that the presence of the Penitentiary is an effectual barrier to the improvement of the property in the neighborhood and that the site could be sold for more than enough to pay for a new one and for the building of another prison.” Eastern State would not close for another 78 years.

11/16/2023

in 1886: Warden Cassidy reflects skeptically, “John Devine was taken on trial as Night Watchman. He is twenty-four years of age. A machinist, looks all right, but cannot tell until tried.”

11/15/2023

in 1886: Warden Cassidy writes, “Two of the Night Watchmen, Albert Vandergrift and Thomas Snyder, were found the night of the 11th, one off his beat and the other in company with him. It was ten minutes after the hour and they not making their appearance, were looked for and found in the boiler house of the Seventh Block. Both are discharged for good.”

11/14/2023

in 1854: “James Farmer (No. 3199) is received at 1 o'clock in the morning,” reports the Warden. Farmer served one year and six months for receiving stolen goods.

11/13/2023

in 1886: Warden Cassidy writes, “A-886 in the 5th Block is becoming troublesome and noisy continually rapping on the door keeping it up during the night disturbing the other prisoners. He is here on his second conviction, this time for murder. He is a strong, powerful, and dangerous man.”

11/12/2023

in 1849: Warden Thomas Scattergood reports, “I leave this afternoon to be absent a week or two by permission of the Board. John Halloway acting for me in the day and William Smith and William Hannum at night.”

11/11/2023

in 1904: Warden Byers writes in his journal, “Have had vegetable bins built in the storehouse basement for potatoes, onions, etc.”

Eastern State Penitentiary is thrilled to invite BSA and GSUSA scouts and all youth to participate our In-Person Scout D...
11/10/2023

Eastern State Penitentiary is thrilled to invite BSA and GSUSA scouts and all youth to participate our In-Person Scout Day tomorrow! This event is sold out, but you can still register for our Virtual Scout Day in December.

Is your troop visiting Eastern State tomorrow and not sure what to expect? Do you want to register for our December event? Head to our website to learn more: www.EasternState.org/scoutday.

11/10/2023

in 1899: “No prisoners released or received today,” writes the Warden. “Something unusual for this time of year when the courts are in session. No prisoners have been received since the 4th.”

  📸 An incarcerated person and an officer work on the construction of the officers' mess hall, circa 1955-56. Collection...
11/09/2023

📸 An incarcerated person and an officer work on the construction of the officers' mess hall, circa 1955-56. Collection of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, gift of the Scheerer Family.

  in 1903: Acting Warden Joseph Welch notes in his daily journal that Oscar Smoyer (B-1834) is served with a divorce not...
11/09/2023

in 1903: Acting Warden Joseph Welch notes in his daily journal that Oscar Smoyer (B-1834) is served with a divorce notice.

Oscar Smoyer (B-1834), photographed as B-3429 in 1906. Photo: collection of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, gift of an anonymous donor.

Address

2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA
19130

Opening Hours

Monday 10am - 5pm
Tuesday 10am - 5pm
Wednesday 10am - 5pm
Thursday 10am - 5pm
Friday 10am - 5pm
Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 10am - 5pm

Telephone

(215) 236-3300

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Our Story

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone. Eastern State Penitentiary is currently open Friday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, visit www.EasternState.org.


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