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The long road to Arizona's statehood

Arizona turns 109 February 14
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Posted at 9:42 PM, Feb 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-14 23:42:30-05

"It took Arizona like fifty years to become a state and they tried multiple different times to become a state."

KGUN 9 spoke to Jaynie Adams with the Arizona Historical Society, about why it took so long for the Grand Canyon state to actually be admitted to the Union.

The story of the state begins in 1848 with the end of the Mexican-American war. In the treaty that ended the conflict, America acquired part of the land that would make up the New Mexico Territory -- comprising most of the land that makes up New Mexico and Arizona.

In 1854 the United State would buy the southern portion of Arizona, which included Tucson, in the Gadsden Purchase.

"So there's this idea of something called jointure. Jointure 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," Adams said.

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.

Arizona's role in the Civil War presented another problem.

"Tucon and New Mexico...people say they were Confederate strongholds, which I think overstates the Confederate presence," Adams said, "but the Confederate flag was flown over the Presidio at Tucson very frequently."

And yet another issue was anti-Mexican racism from the East Coast, some of that stemming from strong anti-Catholic sentiments 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 and now our Mexican heritage is something that we're 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.

Those are: copper, cotton, citrus, cattle, and climate.

"Even if they are not integral to our economy, which things like copper and the climate are definitely really important parts of the Arizona economy -- citrus and cattle because of globalization perhaps not so much -- but even if they're not an integral part of our economy, they are an integral part of who we are and they're an integral part of how we understand ourselves," Adams said.

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 conditioning was invented in Ohio. But Arizonans really perfected air conditioning and air conditioning made it possible for us to do the things that we want to do."

Back to the question of statehood though: 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 another. Those 3 A's really helped fix those problems.

Yet one more problem stood in the way.

In late 1911 President William Howard Taft actually vetoed Arizona's statehood on the basis of the territory's constitution. It allowed for recall of judges, something he believed to be "so destructive of independence in the judiciary" that it could subject Arizonans to tyranny.

That portion of the constitution would be removed 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, Ariona has maintained a diverse and dynamic history.

"If you're not finding yourself in the historical narrative," Adams concluded, "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. Think about your own history and how you and all the things you do impacts the history of the Earth. We have millions of objects at the Historical Society. We have millions of documents. Find your history. It's here."

Click here to learn more about the Arizona Historical Society and Arizona history.