top of page

The Folsom Bloody 13:  The Big Escape of 1903

On July 27, 1903, spurred into action by inmate Richard 'Red' Gordon, thirteen men attacked their jailers and made a run for freedom.

Folsom Prison had only been open for 20 years and was already one of the toughest and most brutal prisons in the country. It had one major flaw--no walls. A statewide manhunt ensued, following a deadly trail of attacks, kidnappings, and murder. Among the escapees were Joseph Theron and Frank Case, both sentenced to life in prison for robbery, and Joseph Murphy, burglar and poet. Sightings were reported from San Francisco to Reno and in the end, five of the prisoners were never found.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

A Family Story That Had to Be Told

   Etta Steinman was 22 years old in 1903. Like many in this era, she had a spirited correspondence with quite a few people with letters back and forth filled with gossip, well wishes, and stories of travels. One letter stands out when it tells the story of how the author, who we believe to be, Albert Wilkinson, the son of the warden of Folsom Prison and one of her close friends, was awakened early in the morning of July 27, 1903, and told that his father along with several others had been taken captive by escaped prisoners and were being “cut to pieces.” Like many first reports of violence, there’s an element of truth in that statement, along with more of a story.  There were indeed men who lost their lives that day, and others whose lives changed forever.


   Etta was my great, grandmother and while our lives only overlapped by a few years her presence and that of her father continue to be a part of my life.  She grew up in Sacramento at the turn of the 20th century at a time when the world was switching from horses to cars, and fire and gas to electricity.


For more information, for readings, or media requests please use the email to the right.

Buy the book

Get to Know Us

Please buy from a local bookstore, or if you can't you can buy on Amazon, or from my publisher.

bottom of page