76 years before the settlement of Jamestown, 80 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, and 236 years before the Declaration of Independence, a Spanish army marched across Arizona. For three centuries, Arizona belonged to Spain. Arizona became the 48th state on February 14th, 1912. It was the last of the contiguous states to join the Union. Arizona has such an interesting and colorful past, I think everyone who lives here should learn as much as they can about this wonderful state. The selected resources at the end of this article will provide an enjoyable overview of Arizona history for newcomers and old-timers alike. Even native Arizonans may discover some obscure facts they didn't already know.
The name "Arizona" comes from a Pima Indian word meaning "place of little springs." Native American civilizations were flourishing in Arizona around 1000 A.D.
The first European to reach what is now Arizona came up from Mexico, which was then ruled by Spain, in 1539. He was a Franciscan friar, Marcos de Niza. The next year, 1540, the Spanish explorer Coronado came looking for gold and the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. He didn't find any, but he claimed the land for Spain. Attempts to colonize the region were unsuccessful, mostly because of Indian attacks.
In 1692, Father Francisco Kino, a Jesuit priest, founded several missions in the area and converted many Indians to Christianity. Later, the region became part of Mexico when Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1810. In 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War, most of what is now Arizona became a United States Territory (part of the Territory of New Mexico), and the rest was bought in the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
Brave pioneers began to move into the Arizona Territory. They were trappers looking for furs, ranchers needing large areas of land for raising cattle and sheep, and prospectors searching for silver and gold. Early settlers faced many difficulties. The mountains and plateaus were too cool and rugged for farming, and the broad plains and valleys were too hot and dry.
The fiercely independent Navajo and Apache Indians fought hard to keep newcomers away. Then copper was discovered in 1854, followed by gold in 1863. Homesteaders came in far greater numbers than before. In 1863 the Navajos were subdued, and by 1886 the Apaches had given up their war, surrendering to the U.S. Army.
The scarcity of water was still a great handicap to farming. Irrigation was the solution to that problem. In the early 1900's, dams, reservoirs, and a canal system were built to bring water to many parts of the state. Cotton, wheat, lettuce, melons, oranges, grapefruit, and dates were planted in irrigated fields. Irrigation turned Arizona into an important agricultural state.
The dams were also made to produce electricity. This, along with the invention of air conditioning, allowed for modern industrial and residential development in addition to the traditional occupations of farming, ranching, mining, and lumbering. Consequently, Arizona soon became one of the fastest growing states.
Despite its tremendous population growth, Arizona is still a relatively unpopulated state. This is because over half of the state's land is government-owned (in the form of national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, national monuments, recreation areas, and military installations), and approximately one-fourth of the state's land is held by Indian reservations.
For a long time, Arizona earned most of its money from the four C's - cotton, cattle, copper, and climate. Today, manufacturing (i.e. electronics, aerospace, metal fabrication) is the leading industry, while tourism is also very important. The warm, sunny weather together with a wide variety of natural wonders attracts large numbers of visitors.
There are many interesting sites to see in Arizona: the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Hoover Dam, Meteor Crater, Ponderosa pine forests, giant saguaro cacti, extinct volcanoes, ancient cliff dwellings, old Spanish missions, ghost towns, copper mines, astronomical observatories, and much more.
Did You Know…? Arizona is a pretty big state. You could put 76 Rhode Islands or 47 Delawares inside it and still have room left over!
Arizona Trivia Quiz
How much do you know about the state you live in? Try this quiz to find out:
1. What is Arizona's Nickname? (A.) Valentine State (B.) Grand Canyon State (C.) Saguaro State
2. What is Arizona's postal abbreviation? (A.) AR (B.) AX (C.) AZ
3. What is Arizona's most famous geographic landmark? (A.) Grand Falls (B.) Rio Grande Gorge (C.) Grand Canyon
4. Where is Arizona's state capital now located? (A.) Prescott (B.) Tucson (C.) Phoenix
5. What is Arizona's state bird? (A.) Cactus Wren (B.) Roadrunner (C.) Gambel's Quail
6. What is Arizona's state flower? (A.) Desert Marigold (B.) Saguaro Blossom (C.) Gold Poppy
7. What is Arizona's state tree? (A.) Joshua Tree (B.) Saguaro Cactus (C.) Palo Verde
8. Which town was Arizona's first capital? (A.) Flagstaff (B.) Tombstone (C.) Prescott
9. What is Arizona's official state neckwear? (A.) Bandana (B.) Bola Tie (C.) Ascot
10. Which cactus grows in no other state except Arizona? (A.) Prickly Pear (B.) Joshua Tree (C.) Saguaro
11. What is Arizona's state gemstone? (A.) Gold (B.) Turquoise (C.) Quartz
12. What is Arizona's state fossil? (A.) Petrified Wood (B.) Trilobite (C.) Dinosaur bone
13. Arizona's Motto is "Ditat Deus." What does this Latin phrase mean? (A.) In God We Trust. (B.) Arid Land. (C.) God Enriches.
14. What is Arizona's state mammal? (A.) Ringtail (B.) Coyote (C.) Javelina
15. What is Arizona's state reptile? (A.) Mohave Rattlesnake (B.) Ridgenose Rattlesnake (C.) Diamondback Rattlesnake
16. What is Arizona's state amphibian? (A.) Colorado River Toad (B.) Tiger Salamander (C.) Arizona Tree Frog
17. What is Arizona's state fish? (A.) Apache Trout (B.) Razorback Sucker (C.) Desert Pupfish
18. Which Arizona desert is called "the most beautiful desert in the world?" (A.) Great Basin (B.) Sonoran (C.) Mohave
19. What are Arizona's official colors? (A.) Blue & Gold (B.) Red & Yellow (C.) Rose & Beige
20. What is Arizona's state butterfly? (A.) Black Swallowtail (B.) Western Tiger Swallowtail (C.) Two-tailed Swallowtail
Answers: 1=B, 2=C, 3=C, 4=C, 5=A, 6=B, 7=C, 8=C, 9=B, 10=C, 11=B, 12=A, 13=C, 14=A, 15=B, 16=C, 17=A, 18=B, 19=A, 20=C. (If you got 15-20 correct, you're a veteran Arizonan. If you got 10-15 correct, you're a long-time resident. If you got 5-10 correct, you're a newcomer. If you got 0-5 correct, you must be just visiting!)
Indian Fry Bread (a.k.a. Navajo Taco)
If Arizona had a state food, this would probably be it!
Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 ½ cups water, 1 handful of powdered milk, 2 cups vegetable oil for frying.
Directions: In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the water and powdered milk to the flour mixture. Mix together with your hands until it's not sticky. (Add more water if it's too dry, or add more flour if it's too sticky.) With your hands or a rolling pin, mold the fry bread into flat circles, each about 6 inches across. Put a hole in the middle of the dough with your finger. Heat the oil (it should be about 1 inch deep) in a large frying pan on high heat. Cook the fry bread until it's golden brown on both sides. (Caution: The oil is very hot! This should be done with an adult's help.) Remove the fry bread from the oil with tongs and set on paper towels to absorb the oil. Serve hot covered with honey, powdered sugar, or cinnamon sugar; or top with grated cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, refried beans, and cooked ground beef or chicken. Serves 4-6.
ALI-SHONAK: THE STORY OF ARIZONA, by Dr. Dick Buscher.
ARIZONA: A CAVALCADE OF HISTORY, by Marshall Trimble.
ARIZONA: A HISTORY, by Thomas E. Sheridan.
ARIZONA HISTORY: SURPRISING SECRETS ABOUT OUR STATE'S FOUNDING MOTHERS, FATHERS & KIDS, by Carole Marsh.
ARIZONA MEMORIES, by Anne Hodges Morgan and Rennard Strickland, editors.
ARIZONA PAGEANT: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE 48TH STATE, by Madeline Ferrin Pare.
MY FIRST POCKET GUIDE TO ARIZONA, by Carole Marsh.
ROADSIDE HISTORY OF ARIZONA, by Marshall Trimble.
THE HISTORY OF ARIZONA, by Robert Woznicki.
VANISHED ARIZONA: RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ARMY LIFE OF A NEW ENGLAND WOMAN, by Martha Summerhayes.
Amigos de Arizonac (www.azamigos.com)
Many public, charter, private, parochial, and home schools use Arizona study materials created by Amigos de Arizonac, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona. All of their materials were written and designed by Arizona educators and are aligned with Arizona's social studies standards. They offer more than 50 products including student texts, teacher resources, classroom activities, Arizona Bingo, maps & charts, puzzles & games, writing exercises, tests, and computer software.
For over 30 years, Dr. Dick Buscher has been learning and teaching about Arizona's unique and wonderful history and environment. His doctoral dissertation is the basis for the history program, "Ali-Shonak: The Story Of Arizona." This series of ten books is perfect for school students - as well as homeschool families with children of all ages - to learn about Arizona's history. The text is interesting and informative, the illustrations and layout are appealing - and best of all, they're fun! As the title suggests, it's more like reading a story about Arizona rather than a history text.
Even better, all ten individual Ali-Shonak books are now available in full color on a CD! When the student clicks on a page, the author reads the entire text aloud to the student. This works especially well for auditory learners, and allows even non-readers (adult or children) to learn all about the wonders of Arizona's history. I highly recommend these books (in either format) for an enjoyable Arizona study.
Arizona Historical Society
The Arizona Historical Society publishes a variety of books and monographs that focus on the history of Arizona and the Southwest, from the first Spanish explorations to modern times. They also publish the quarterly Journal of Arizona History, a benefit of AHS membership at the $40 level and higher. The journal features well-written, entertaining, scholarly articles on the history of the state and region, plus photo essays and critical book reviews. The Education department has published two textbooks: Arizona Constitution and Government is an informative and entertaining high school textbook that examines Arizona's constitution and three branches of government. $9.45 each. Teacher's manual, $11.95 Studies in Arizona History integrates Arizona history into the American history course by focusing on local issues that illustrate national trends. Primary sources, diverse perspectives, and historians' research techniques are emphasized. This text can be used for both high school and middle school levels. The Arizona Historical Society earned the American Association of State and Local History's prestigious national "Award of Merit" for this outstanding textbook. Hardback copies are priced at $32.00; Soft-cover copies are available at $23.00. Discounts are available with quantity purchases. Contact the AHS Education department in Tucson at (520) 628-5774 or visit their website at www.ahs.state.az.us.
Arizona State History CD-ROM
This do-it-yourself guide to Arizona's history is a fun learn-at-home course for self-motivated individuals. Instead of just reading text and memorizing facts, you apply critical thinking, research and writing skills to find information and prepare reports. It contains video clips and clickable web links. Topics include: state government and leaders, natural resources, economics and business, population and people, tourism and culture, inventions and technology, the state's Christian heritage, and a historical timeline. For grades 7-12, from Alpha Omega Publications in Chandler, Arizona. Click on the AOP link below to order.
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These pages are a continuous work in progress.
These pages are a continuous work in progress.