Today in History

Today in History: February 24

Arizona

Cañon de Chelly
Cañon de Chelly, Navaho [Arizona],
Edward S. Curtis, photographer, 1907.
Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian: Photographic Images

Arizona, formerly part of the Territory of New Mexico, was organized as a separate territory on February 24, 1863. The U.S. acquired the region under the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. Arizona became the forty-eighth state in 1912.

By the 1880s, the Arizona Territory was bustling with fortune seekers hoping to strike it rich.  The discovery of gold in 1863 near Prescott, which became the territorial capital in 1864, and the 1877 discoveries of silver at Tombstone, near Tucson, and copper at Bisbee, brought back many of those who had traveled through Arizona in 1848 on their way to the goldfields of California.

Traveler Emma H. Adams, of Cleveland, Ohio, visited Tucson in 1884. She described it as "a queer old town," but was struck by the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the desert outpost:

Americans, Mexicans, Germans, Russians, Italians, Austrians, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Greeks, the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, the African, Irishman, and Sandwich Islander are all here, being drawn to the spot by the irresistible mining influence.

To and Fro in Southern California
Emma H. Adams, 1976 [c1887], 55-56.
California as I Saw It:” First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900

Adams spent ten days in Tucson before traveling on, via the Central Pacific Railway, to Los Angeles. She describes her journey from New Mexico through the desert to Tucson, including a visit to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, in chapters eight and nine of her travel journal  which documents rail trips to the west taken  from 1883 to 1886.

San Xavier Mission
San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Arizona, 1913.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

The Mission San Xavier del Bac, completed in 1797, is one of the most famous monuments of the early Spanish presence in Arizona. Jesuit missionary Eusebio Kino laid the foundations for a church on the site  around 1700. Spanish missionaries first ventured into Arizona in 1539. With the exception of occasional forays among the Native Americans living in the northern part of the state, the Spanish presence in Arizona was limited to scattered missions, ranches, and forts in the Santa Cruz Valley south of Tucson. By the time that the United States acquired Arizona, many remnants of Spanish influence in the state were gone. Most persons of Hispanic descent living in Arizona today immigrated to the state from Mexico after 1900.

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona's nearly 114,000 square miles.  The state has one of the fastest growing economies and is home to a diverse population. Native Americans maintain a strong presence in Arizona with twenty-two distinct tribes including Navajo, Hopi, Maricopah, Apache, and Pima.

Hopi woman making pottery
Hopi Woman Making Pottery,
c1910.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

The Library’s American Memory collections hold a treasure trove of materials about Arizona.