By virtue of the Organic Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln on February 24, 1863, the Arizona Territory was created out of the expansive New Mexico Territory. At the time Arizona became a territory, it was sparsely populated. The special territorial census of 1864 counted only 4,5731 people in the entire territory but did not include Arizona’s first citizens, the Native Americans. The largest population center in the territory was Tucson, with nearly half of the total number of people counted in the census residing in and around Tucson. By 1870, the territorial population had grown to 9,568 and by 1900 it had risen to 122,931.2 Today the population of Arizona stands at an estimated 6,683,129.3
President Lincoln appointed Ohio congressman John A. Gurley as the first governor of the new Arizona Territory, but Gurley died on August 18, 1863, and never even set foot in Arizona. Following Gurley’s death, John N. Goodwin was promoted from chief justice of the Arizona Territory’s Supreme Court to governor.4 He arrived at Fort Whipple near Prescott on January 22, 1864. During the territorial years that followed Gurley’s appointment, the Arizona Territory had 16 appointed governors and 25 elected legislatures. The territorial capitol was relocated several times during this period, moving from Prescott to Tucson in 1867; back to Prescott in 1877, and finally to its current location, Phoenix, in 1889. Arizona’s territorial years also saw 12 different non-voting delegates elected to Congress to represent the young territory. The first of the congressional delegates was Charles D. Poston, who was called the “father of Arizona” for his role in helping to ensure the passage of the Organic Act that created the Arizona Territory.5
Statehood was accomplished on February 14, 1912, when President William Howard Taft signed the Proclamation of Statehood declaring Arizona a state. The first governor of the State of Arizona was George W.P. Hunt, who presided over the 1910 Arizona Constitutional Convention. He was elected as the state’s first governor on October 24, 1911, and went on to be re-elected six times before leaving office for the last time in 1933. The first United States senators to represent the State of Arizona were Marcus Aurelius Smith and Henry Fountain Ashurst. Carl Hayden, the state’s first elected member of the United States House of Representatives, served as a congressman from 1912 to 1927, and as one of the state’s two United States senators from 1927 to 1969. At the time of his retirement, Senator Hayden had the unique distinction of having served longer in Congress than any other person in American history. His record was eclipsed in 2009 by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Arizona is a state rich in history and natural resources. Historically, the “Five C’s” that represent the foundation of Arizona’s economy are copper, cattle, cotton, climate and citrus. Today, Arizona is the largest producer of copper in the United States, having produced 66% of the copper mined in the United States in 20086 and it continues to be one of the leading cotton-producing states in the country. While ranching and citrus farming continue to be important contributors to the state’s economy, dramatic increases in the population of Arizona in recent years have resulted in a decline in these historic activities as agricultural lands have made way for residential and commercial development. “Climate” is certainly one of Arizona’s greatest assets and, along with the state’s great diversity of terrain ranging from Sonoran desert to alpine forests, forms the foundation of the state’s tourism industry.
Although as the 48th state Arizona is one of the youngest states in the Union, it stands proud in its accomplishments. It is home to three major universities – Arizona State University in Tempe; the University of Arizona in Tucson; and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff; as well as numerous community colleges throughout the state. It is home to Grand Canyon National Park, founded in 1919, and long hailed as one of the great natural wonders of the world, and to such premier museums as the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. The planet Pluto was discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff in 1930, and the Observatory continues to be a leader in space research. Arizona is also a leader in various areas of scientific research, including Biosphere 2 which is managed by the University of Arizona College of Science and the Energy Frontier Research Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production and Arizona State University.
Arizona is also home to 21 federally-recognized Native American tribes and contains a wealth of important archaeological sites. Arizonans are proud of the Arizona Cardinals major league football team; the Phoenix Suns major league basketball team; and the Arizona Diamondbacks major league baseball team, winners of the 2001 World Series.
Arizona is a state with a rich diversity of people and the romance of the Old West. It is a place full of excitement and opportunity, great natural beauty, fascinating history, and a bright future!
Arizona Chronology (AZGovernor.gov)
Arizona Scenic Roads (ArizonaScenicRoads.com)
Arizona State Parks (AZStateParks.com)
National Park Service – Arizona (Visit this website for information on national parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national historic sites, national historic trails, and national memorials in Arizona.)
1 Arizona Territory 1863-1912: A Political History, page vii, Jay J. Wagoner.
2 Figures obtained from the Arizona Governor’s website, “Arizona Chronology.”
3 Population estimate as of July 1, 2009, as provided on the website of the Arizona Department of Commerce.
4 Arizona Territory 1863-1912: A Political History, page 31, Jay J. Wagoner.
5 Arizona Territory 1863-1912: A Political History, page viii, Jay J. Wagoner.
6 Website of the State Geologist of Arizona.