Taming the Wild West: Statehood for Arizona? (1893)

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Antique Grand Canyon Arizona postcard
Arizona became the 48th state admitted to the Union on February 14, 1912 — the last of the states in the Continental US to be a star on the American flag. But as you can see from this article almost exactly 19 years earlier, Arizona — the land of cactus, bees, copper and great expanses of desert — had been vying for statehood for nearly two decades.

Arizona 1881 - Antique map

Statehood for Arizona

Backed by her progressive people, Arizona is trying to add another star to the American flag. She is pining for the honors of statehood and the joys of communion with sister states.

Many reasons are urged by the populace of Arizona in support of the assertion that she is able to go it alone.

The Territory is big enough, being 380 miles long by 350 miles wide, and claims to have a sufficient population to enable her to wear the honors with dignity. It was first settled a matter of 350 years ago when Mr Coronado made an expedition across the deserts.

Since then, Arizona has been slightly unsettled at times, but now peace and harmony everywhere prevail. Some of her ghost-dancers have been banished to Florida, others are in the regular army, some have joined the police force, and not a few of them are in jail. The white brother is in the ascendency, and it is only natural that he should clamor for statehood.

Situated as it is in the southwestern corner of the United States, and in close touch with two of them, it would be but a matter of small moment, the projectors of the scheme claim, to tack their Territory upon the bunch.

Grand Canyon of the Colorado, Arizona 1898

Wild stories of the Wild West

That this State would shine with a luster equal to the rest the citizens of Arizona have hastened to assure the public both by circular and petition. For years, they candidly admit the name “Arizona” struck terror to the heart of the tenderfoot.

Wild stories of rattlesnakes, bad men in buckskin clothes, bloodthirsty Indians and barren plains were sent broadcast through the land by unscrupulous correspondents.

Illustrated papers printed pictures of hairy cowboys, in ten-pound hats, dancing on the piano or shooting at each other’s boot heels for amusement and recreation.

Heartrending tales were told of people who set out to visit at the next house, but presumably perished of thirst, as they were never seen again by those who knew them on earth, and reports of stage robberies were as common as donation parties in other sections of the country.

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These stories naturally tended to throw the Territory off the trail of the emigrant and the tourist, thereby greatly impeding the progress of Arizona. No Territory thus handicapped could expect to thrive, and the populace complained bitterly. Gila monsters were magnified to twice their size, and word pictures of sandy wastes where rain never fell were painted in vivid terms by imaginative persons who have never been there, nor would they be tolerated by the respectable element of Arizona should they pay it a visit.

These things the Arizonans are happy to say have no foundation in fact. Of late years the rush of emigration to their Territory has done much to confirm the truth of this assertion and establish the right of statehood.

There are places endowed with more natural advantages that are even worse than Arizona, but they enjoyed immunity from the tongue of slander. In what state of the same area, 113,967 square miles, can a greater variety of climate and scenery be found?

The people of Arizona are justly proud of their climate, and they dote on their scenery. Consumptives who have given up ail hope in other States have gone to Arizona, and by being civil, secured an additional lease on life. The people are uniformly healthy, and deaths from natural causes are of rare occurrence.

No other State or Territory in the union offers greater possibilities in the way of irrigation. Vast tracts of desert lands have been reclaimed by canals and irrigating ditches, and others are in the course of construction.

Falls of the Cataract Canon, Arizona 1890

Fertile ground for agriculture

In some portions of the Territory, semi-tropical fruits are grown, while in others the chill of winter lasts the year ’round. It is in the fertile regions of the south that Arizona is seen at her best, and on which her hopes are based.

Particular attention is directed to the Salt River country, which is poetically alluded to as “The Peerless Valley of the Sun-kissed Land” — a land flowing with milk and honey.

So prolific in cattle is this favored spot that even Texas looks upon Arizona with envious eyes and fain would drive her herds and flocks into the waving fields of alfalfa. Under a mild sky the modest mesquite rears its head, together with other nutritious food on which livestock is fattened for market. Weaned from the parent at five months, young horses, calves, sheep and pigs devour the succulent alfalfa and thrive amazingly. They never miss a mother’s fostering care.

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How doth the busy little bee improve each shining hour and thus make comb in which to store his honey hour by hour, also obtains in Arizona. Vast swarms of busy little bees draw sweetness from the blooming cactus, forming a great source of revenue for the farmer and giving him honey for his buckwheat cakes.

In 1890, a beekeepers’ association was formed. During that season, 90,000 pounds of honey were shipped East, and in 1892, the output of the busy workers reached the enormous figure of 200,000 pounds.

But it is in the production of fruit that the valley excels. The richest and rarest fruits are placed on the market far in advance of the California varieties, and the fruit-raising industry is rapidly growing. Agriculture and stock-raising are also sufficiently developed to show the resources of the country in that direction. The mining interests give great promise, though yet in their infancy, but there have been some late discoveries that may be of value.

One item in the fruit line worthy of special mention is a brand of strawberries six inches in diameter. They have to be quartered for table use, an operation which causes the housewife no little annoyance, but no process has been discovered by which the berries can be induced to grow any smaller. Peaches, pears, figs and melons grow in abundance, and the value of available orange land is rapidly doubling. The oranges are noted for their size and flavor.

Antique Grand Canyon Arizona postcard

The climate and other advantages

All these things and many more the good people of Arizona fully set forth in a recapitulation of the advantages their Territory offers in return for the distinction of statehood. The climate is equable, the cyclone never strolls that way, and the refuge cellar, common to Kansas, is totally unknown.

Cattle graze unsheltered throughout the year, and the farmer has no dread of hail or hopper, drought or mildew, frost or any of the ills that beset the honest agriculturist.

Special attention is directed to the fact that Arizona is the home of an enterprising and progressive people, and that it offers inducements to enterprising and progressive persons in other States.

Rich in soil for fruit culture, pure mountain air and mineral springs, rich in grazing and timber lands, brightened by perpetual sunshine, she offers home inducements hard to resist. They would be still harder to resist were Arizona a State with a star on the flag indicating that fact.

Map from Gaskell’s Atlas (1887)

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