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.
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.
- How hot was it? Read a story of Arizona’s hottest days in “Them Petrified Buzzards,” a tall tale told by Uncle Steve Robertson and transcribed by interviewer Earl Bowman on December 15, 1938. Also read recollections of encounters with Native Americans in Arizona and other parts of the Southwest. Search on tribal names such as Navajo, Hopi, and Apache in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 – 1940. This collection offers the life stories of men and women from a variety of regions, occupations, and ethnic groups.
- Listen to guitarist Jack Bryant play his composition “Arizona” as recorded on August 17, 1940, at the Firebaugh FSA Camp. The recording and a transcript of the lyrics are found in Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941
- When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Arizona in 1913, the Hopi Indians honored him with a performance of one of their tribal dances. It was recorded on film and can be found under the title Hopi Indians Dance for TR at [Walpi, Ariz.], 1913 in Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film.
- View more images of Arizona’s striking landscape. Search the pictorial collections on Arizona, Grand Canyon, or petrified forest. A similar search on the term mission will produce a variety of images and documentation related to Spanish missionaries’ efforts in the Southwest.
- Native American tribes and their culture are well documented in the following collections:
- View nineteenth-century railroad maps and U.S. Geological Survey maps of Arizona in Map Collections. Many of these maps can be viewed with technology that permits the viewer to “zoom in” or magnify points of interest. “Bird’s-eye” views of cities such as Phoenix are also part of this collection.
- Learn more about gold discoveries and gold rushes in other states. Search on gold in Today in History.