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Featured Exhibit: Introduction

Mark Candee, curatorial specialist at the UA Mineral Museum video.



Before air conditioning turned Arizona into a “sun belt” destination, life in the rugged remote desert was difficult. Heat and drought drove many early settlers and ranchers to ruin. But dreams of mineral wealth lured prospectors, then miners, to brave the heat, thirst, and Apache attacks so they could stake claims and dig for precious metals.


The discovery of large silver deposits around Globe, Superior, and Tombstone drew thousands of fortune seekers to the territory in the 1870s and 1880s.


Just as some silver deposits were drying up in the 1880s, a bonanza of copper discoveries started mines that built towns, railroads, and fortunes around the state. More than any other resource it was copper, and the workers that came to mine it, that pushed Arizona to become the 48th state, the last of the contiguous United States, in 1912.

Mineral Specimens

Many of the wondrous colors and forms of Arizona minerals developed from the chemistry of copper. As soon as discoveries were made in the late 1800s, Arizona specimens attracted wealthy collectors and thrilled visitors at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

Featured Exhibit: The Minerals that Made the State


Flandrau Science Center, University of Arizona

About the Exhibit

Text and selected images for The Minerals That Made the State provided by University of Arizona Mineral Museum at the Flandreau Science Center.

“100 Years of Arizona's Best: The Minerals That Made the State," is an exhibition that opened Feb. 4 at the University of Arizona Mineral Museum.

The exhibition features hundreds of gems and minerals, some items on loan from private collectors from throughout the country, some borrowed from institutions such as California Academy of Sciences.

The University of Arizona Mineral Museum is generously sharing the contents of this exhibit with The Arizona Experience. The complete exhibit and the vibrant mineral specimens will remain on display on the main floor at UA Science: Flandrau for one year.

Acknowledgements PDF

Thanks to the individuals and institutions who made this exhibition possible.

Read more! Collecting Arizona: State of Mines, Legacy of Minerals is available at the Arizona Experience Store.