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Arizona celebrates 110th anniversary of statehood

The history of the Grand Canyon State
Arizona lawmakers debate state motto's place in schools
Posted at 4:58 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 18:58:45-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — The story of Arizona's statehood begins in 1848.

With the end of the Mexican-American war, America acquired part of the land that would make up the New Mexico territory.

About half of that territory was part of what would later be Arizona.

In 1854, the United States would buy the southern portion of Arizona, including Tucson, in the Gadsden purchase.

Arizona became its own territory in 1860 but the sparsity of people at the time, with the exception of Tucson, left statehood during the civil war a pipe dream.

According to Jaynie Adams, curator of education at the Arizona Historical Society, Arizona's role in that war was another hurdle.

"So theres this idea of something called jointure, Adams said. "Jointer was one way that the United States government was looking to have Arizona enter the union as part of New Mexico, which presents some logistical problems."

"Tucson and Mesia and New Mexico. People say they were confederate strongholds which I think overstates the confederate presence, but the confederate flag was flown over the presidio at Tucson very frequently," Adams said.

And yet another issue was anti-Mexican racism from the east coast -- some of that stemming from strong anti-catholic feelings at the time.

"I think kind of as ideas changed and as people became more interested in learning about other people and other cultures those ideas expanded," Adams said. "And now our Mexican heritage is something that we're really really proud of and our confederate past is not something we're as proud of. But it is something we need to reckon with and remember."

As the 20th century approached, the five C's would come to define Arizona in many ways.

Copper, cotton, citrus, cattle and climate.

Adams also supplements the five C's with what she calls the three A's.

Air conditioning, automobiles and airplanes. All inventions that made the state what it is today.

"I think the historical record shows that air conditioned was invented in like Ohio," Adams said. "But Arizonans really perfected air conditioning and air conditioning made it possible for us to do the things that we want to do."

But why did it take so long for Arizona to become a state?

Population was one reason. Creating infrastructure for any sort of growth within the desert environment was another.

Those three A's really helped fix those problems, but one more stood in the way.

In late 1911 President William Howard Taft actually vetoed Arizona's statehood on the basis of the state's constitution.

It allowed for the recall of judges. Something he believed to be "so destructive of independence in the judiciary" that it could subject Arizonans to tyranny.

The state late removed this portion of the constitution -- and Taft signed Arizona into statehood on February 14th, 1912.

From Spain to Mexico. From a territory partial to the confederacy to its place as a state of national importance. Arizona has maintained a diverse and dynamic history.

"If you're not finding yourself in the historical narrative if you're not finding people who act like you or look like you or have the same background as you start digging a little deeper," Adams said. "Think about your own history and how you and all the things you do impacts the history of earth. We have millions of objects of the historical society. We have millions of documents. Find your history... its here."