The Bird Doctor of Leavenworth

b January 28, 1890 Seattle, WA - d November 11, 1963 Springfield, MO
buried on Nov. 25, 1963 in Masonic Cemetery in Metropolis, IL

Mother was Ann Elizabeth Stroud b November 3, 1860 in Villa Ridge, IL
 and died August 18, 1938 in Illinois.

Father was Benjamin Franklin Stroud born in 1858 in Indiana
and died in 1928 in Placerville, California 

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Robert's father Ben was an abusive alcoholic and Robert left home at age 13 with only a 3rd grade education.  On January 18, 1909, Stroud was working as a pimp in Juneau, Alaska and shot and killed F.K. (Charlie) Von Dahmer for not paying Robert's girlfriend/prostitute Kitty O'Brien.  On August 23, 1909 Stroud was convicted of manslaughter and was given a twelve year sentence at McNeil Island in Southern Puget Sound in the state of Washington.  Prisoner #1853-M arrived at McNeil Island on August 30, 1909 and frequently was in trouble.  After stabbing a fellow inmate, Stroud was transferred to the maximum security Leavenworth Prison with 40 foot high walls and 40 foot walls below ground.  Robert became prisoner #17431-L on September 5, 1912.
On March 26, 1916 Stroud stabbed to death prison guard Andrew F. Turner in the Leavenworth prison mess hall.  Stroud later wrote that guard Turner "took sick and died all of a sudden of heart trouble!"  After several trials and appeals, Robert was sentenced on June 28, 1918 to death by hanging.  On May 10, 1920 President Woodrow Wilson commuted the death sentence to Life-Without Parole as the result of Stroud's mother's intervention and her pleading for clemency.  While at Leavenworth, and as a result of finding an injured bird, Stroud began caring for and studying birds.  Eventually, he was allowed to care for these birds in an adjoining segregation cell.  Stroud authored two books on canaries.  Diseases of Canaries was published in 1933 and Stroud's Digest on the Diseases of Birds was published in 1942.  He raised numerous birds in the cell area and he also did some research on medicines that he developed for birds.  Stroud was reported to have an IQ between 112 and 134 and he was considered an expert on Canaries, in addition to other birds and even poultry.  An Indiana widow, Della May (or Mae?) Jones, was a canary enthusiast and moved to Kansas to assist Stroud in his marketing efforts and the business of selling canaries.
In a failed effort to avoid being transferred from Leavenworth, Stroud and Jones claimed that they were married as evidenced by a signed contract dated August 15, 1933.  After years of raising and studying birds, guards discovered that Stroud used some of the equipment to make a still and was distilling booze.
In addition to the books concerning birds, Stroud also wrote two additional books.  He wrote Looking Outward: A History of the U.S. Prison System which covered the prison system up to the 1930's.  The second book is Stroud's autobiography titled Bobbye.  Both books were seized by The Bureau of Prisons in the late 1950's and neither book has ever been published.  Some 50 years later, the books remain impounded by the courts.  The writings were reported to be an embarrassment to the prison system by describing guard brutality and rampant sex escapades throughout the prison. 

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Because of his continuing disregard for rules, he was sent to Alcatraz and became prisoner #594-AZ on December 19, 1942.  The popular 1962 MGM movie Birdman of Alcatraz starring Burt Lancaster as Robert Stroud was a fictional account, as Stroud was not allowed to have any birds at Alcatraz.  While the movie portrayed Robert as a kindly, caring, elderly gentleman, Stroud more closely resembled a homicidal and suicidal maniac.  Because of his unruly nature, he spent most of his time in solitary confinement.  Of his 54 years in prison, Stroud served 42 of those years in segregation or solitary.  Ill health caused a transfer to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, MO in 1959.  Robert Stroud died there in 1963 at the age of 73.

I have made inquiries to several people as to how Stroud ended up buried in Metropolis, IL however I have been unable
to find out as of this writing in 2005.  If you are aware of the circumstance of his burial, please contact me at

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Page added September 5, 2005

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