Richard Franseen was sentenced to Alcatraz from 1937 to 1946 for counterfeiting. He had been raised on a farm in Minnesota and had some experience growing plants. By 1940, he was assigned to yard duties, tending to a greenhouse and a little garden.
Franseen proved to be a capable plant propagator and raised many seedlings that he shared with his friend and fellow inmate gardener Elliot Michener. The officer in charge noted that Franseen was "diligent…having a deep interest in his work." Franseen's correspondence from July 1945 confirmed the positive effect gardening had on him: “I have a good job in the garden and greenhouse and have done so much hard work on them that I've grown a bit attached to the place.”
Franseen was paroled to a dairy farm in Wisconsin, where Elliot Michener eventually joined him. The farm's site supervisor reported that Franseen "became an expert in the science of horticulture."
Click on the inmates’ names below to learn about their stories as Alcatraz gardeners.