On February 14, 1912, the man who would become Arizona’s first Governor, George P. Hunt, walked from his hotel in Washington D.C. to the Capitol building to watch President Taft sign Arizona into statehood. He had refused to ride in a carriage, perhaps because he wanted to show that Arizonans were a breed of tough, independent people who took care of themselves and thrived under any conditions.
That historic day in February sparked celebrations with dancing, fireworks, and gunpowder throughout the Arizona Territory. Arizona had just become the last state in the continental U.S., and the status was hard won. Mine owner and politician Charles D. Poston, known as the Father of Arizona, had lobbied Abraham Lincoln for statehood since before the Civil War, just after the Gadsden Purchase was made!
Though Arizona is a relatively young state, pockets of its iconic landscapes have been inhabited for millennia. The Hopi Village of Oraibi is one of the oldest known continuous settlements in the U.S., estimated to be over 2,000 years old! American Indians have inhabited the Grand Canyon for at least 10,000 years. And there is evidence that approximately 25,000 years ago, the Clovis People migrated up the San Pedro River in search of mammoth.
Today, 21 American Indian tribes still call Arizona home. In fact, Arizona devotes more land to reservations than any other state, and many land features, like the San Francisco Peaks on the Colorado Plateau are sacred sites. Though evidence of these early settlements is present throughout the state (for example, Phoenix is located on the site of canals built by the Hohokam Indians), Arizona's American Indian Nations were severely disaffected when explorers and settlers arrived. The Spanish Conquistadors may have explored the area as early as 1539, soon followed by missionaries and early mining works. A bevy of American miners and mining interests arrived a few centuries later to exploit the area’s mineral riches, followed by interests in agriculture and ranching. The Arizona we know today remains an intriguing reflection of this tapestry of cultures, innovation, and close relationship with the land.
On February 14, 2012, Arizona celebrated its hundredth birthday with the help of the Centennial Commission. Arizonans are still a breed of tough, independent people who can thrive under any conditions. We are leading solar innovation in the nation’s energy crisis, solving puzzles in the biomedical field, and peering deep into space. New and old, we are celebrating our land and our heritage through art, music, and gatherings with family and friends. We draw visitors with our unforgettable recreation and cultural opportunities. Together, we will make Arizona a great place to live, work, and play for a hundred years to come.
Scroll through these 1912 headlines from around the state for original stories of Arizona’s statehood!