The Phoenix-Tucson Rivalry, A Deep-Rooted Tradition

Phoenix-Tucson rivalry, Territorial Insane Asylum, Arizona State Hospital, 1885, Thieving Thirteenth

Excerpt from an August 31st, 1889 Arizona Sentinel article regarding the asylum and its location.

As we are now just a few weeks out from the annual ASU vs. U of A Territorial Cup game, I thought it might be appropriate to share this as-yet-unposted August 28th, 2014 KJZZ piece covering one of the many points of contention in the Phoenix / Tucson rivalry – the Thieving Thirteenth territorial legislature and the $100,000 insane asylum its members awarded to Phoenix.

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Phoenix-Tucson rivalry, Territorial Insane Asylum, Arizona State Hospital, 1885, Thieving Thirteenth

An early twentieth-century hand-colored postcard depicting a seemingly idyllic scene on the grounds of the Phoenix asylum.
Image credit: John Larsen Southard collection –

The Nogales to Yuma Slant: Arizona’s Southern Border West of the 111th Meridian

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“Map of the Gadsden Purchase : Sonora and portions of New Mexico, Chihuahua & California,” produced in 1858 by cartographer Herman Ehrenberg. Note the northwesterly slant in the border as it runs from Nogales to Yuma.
Image credit: Library of Congress

Here’s a question that likely keeps you up at night: Why does Arizona’s southern border run in a northwesterly manner between Nogales and Yuma?

Give up? Have a listen to this KJZZ piece – that happens to quote yours truly – from last Friday. It should be noted, of course, that the history of the Gadsden Purchase involves many very complex moving parts. However, Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez summed up the story nicely given the challenge of condensing it into a two-to-three minute radio segment.


Growing Sugar Cane and Bananas… in Arizona?

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A ca. 1915 image of men raising an experimental sugar cane crop in the Salt River Valley. This Bureau of Reclamation photo documents the serious efforts once made to bring about large-scale sugar cane cultivation in the Phoenix and Yuma areas.

Who would have guessed that sugar cane and bananas were once promoted as crops that could be profitably grown in the arid Arizona desert?

According to overly-optimistic nineteenth-century Arizona newspapers, successfully cultivating such crops was not only possible, but was extremely likely. As sugar is typically grown in more temperate parts of the globe that receive at least 24 inches of rain per year and bananas require 75 to 100 inches of rain to thrive, the hot and dry Salt River Valley and greater Yuma area seem an ill-fit for sugar and banana farms. Nonetheless, Arizona’s exhibit space at the 1885 New Orleans Exposition featured Arizona-grown sugar cane, among other locally-produced crops. A February 16th, 1889 Arizona Sentinel article proclaimed the “strong and healthy ‘stand’ of… sugar cane” growing in a local farmer’s field to be “a good advertisement for [their] mild winters,” while a different article in that same paper advised readers, “the cultivation of sugar cane in [Yuma County] is simple and cheap, the cane growing luxuriantly and being easily kept clear of weeds.” Nearly two decades later, a 1915 Tombstone Epitaph article mentioned ongoing consideration of “the possibilities of molasses as a by-product from the Salt River Valley sugar cane.”

Bananas, a crop only a handful of sane individuals would propose growing in the deserts of our state, received mention as a possible cash crop for Arizona farmers, with the February 16th, 1889 Arizona Sentinel extolling Yuma County’s Mohawk Valley as being “especially adapted to fruit growing.” In addition to the standard citrus plantings found to be successful in the Phoenix and Yuma areas, the Sentinel promised, “even pineapples and bananas will grow to an advantage” in Mohawk Valley.

Of course, as is now widely known, Arizona’s harsh climate — even with the benefit of irrigation — is not conducive to raising sugar cane, bananas, coffee, or any other tropical crop. Our climate, although extreme at times, merits inclusion within the the grouping of Arizona’s 5 Cs, as does the cotton, cattle, and citrus raised under the Arizona sun. Cane, however, is nowhere to be found — despite the promises of nineteenth-century newspaper men.

Arizona Women of Note

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Army wife, author, and territorial era Arizonan Martha Summerhayes detailed the many challenges of nineteenth century military life – particularly the challenges faced by military wives such as herself – in her 1908 autobiography entitled Vanished Arizona.

As March draws to a close, so too does the 27th annual national observation of Women’s History Month. Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female justice to sit on the United States Supreme Court, is frequently mentioned during the month-long celebration of women’s history and is undoubtedly Arizona’s most well-known women’s history figure. However, Arizona history is full of courageous and accomplished females, including the following women:

Martha Summerhayes

A nineteenth century Army wife who accompanied her husband to his assignments at military installations throughout Arizona Territory. Summerhayes documented the many challenges of frontier life in her 1908 autobiography entitled Vanished Arizona. Her book is now a valuable resource for those wishing to learn more about the role and experiences of women in territorial era Arizona military posts.

Sharlot Hall

Hall was a writer, historian, and Arizona booster. It is because of Hall’s efforts and her deep interest in our state’s history that the 1864 Old Governor’s Mansion was preserved and can be viewed at Prescott’s world-renowned Sharlot Hall Museum.

Isabella Greenway

Isabella, the widow of former Rough Rider turned copper mining executive John C. Greenway, was successful and connected in her own right. Over the course of her life, she served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, owned an airline, founded Tucson’s famed Arizona Inn, and maintained a close friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Nellie T. Bush

Bush was a Colorado River ferryboat captain, entrepreneur, state legislator, and, later, Parker city councilwoman who is best known for serving as the ‘Admiral’ of Arizona’s ‘Navy’ during Governor Moeur’s 1934 deployment of National Guard against California’s dam laborers. Bush’s short-lived naval force consisted of two old ferryboats that soon ran into problems and required assistance from the ‘enemy’ forces on the California side of the river, thereby ending our state’s foray into naval warfare.

Polly Rosenbaum

Rosenbaum holds the record for longest service in the Arizona legislature. She succeeded her husband in 1949 following his premature death and remained in office until January of 1995. Though her legislative service ended nearly twenty years ago, Rosenbaum is still remembered for her energy and bipartisan spirit, in addition to her work for often-overlooked rural communities throughout the state.

Additional Arizona-related women’s history facts include our state’s 1912 approval of female suffrage (eight years before women earned the right nationwide), the fact that Arizona elected women to five statewide elected offices in 1998 (Jane Dee Hull, Governor; Betsey Bayless, Secretary of State; Janet Napolitano, Attorney General; Carol Springer, State Treasurer; and Lisa Graham Keegan, Superintendent of Public Instruction), and Arizona’s nearly seventeen year run of female governors (Jane Dee Hull, Janet Napolitano, and Jan Brewer).


Phoenix’s Insane Asylum Drove Tucsonans Crazy

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An early-twentieth century hand colored postcard depicting a seemingly idyllic scene on the grounds of the Phoenix asylum.
Image credit: Author’s collection.

Tucsonans Go Crazy Over Phoenix’s Insane Asylum

March of 1885 was a momentous month for Arizona’s Thirteenth Territorial Legislature, a group known to history as the “Thieving Thirteenth.” The legislative body described in a March 28th, 1885 Arizona Weekly Citizen article as “not excelled in its provisions for a first-class steal from the Territory” passed bills authorizing the establishment of a teachers college in the then small town of Tempe and a university in Tucson, the most populous city in Arizona at the time. The teachers college, initially named Tempe Normal School but now known as Arizona State University, received an appropriation of $5,000 while Tucson’s university brought that city $25,000 in funding. Nonetheless, Tucsonans were both disappointed with and outraged by the gift the territory’s solons bestowed upon them. In place of showing gratitude for his town’s new institution of higher education, the editor of a Tucson paper decried the Phoenix area’s capture of “the plum of the legislature pie” with “emoluments [amounting] to almost half a million” and presciently predicted that C. C. Stephens, one of Tucson’s legislators, “will be insulted when he returns.”

Why were Tucsonans so upset with their haul from the Thieving Thirteenth? Because their prize proved to be a university that the city was said to “not care a fig about.” Instead, residents of the Old Pueblo coveted Phoenix’s big score – the territorial insane asylum now known as the Arizona State Hospital and the $100,000 appropriation associated with that facility. Angry about losing this well-funded institution to the relatively new and still rather small city of Phoenix, Tucson newspaper editors wrote scathing pieces belittling the future capital city and cursing its good fortune. Southern Arizona journalists continued to attack Phoenix’s victory for several years after the 1885 legislative session adjourned sine die, as demonstrated by an August 3rd, 1889 Arizona Sentinel article expressing concern that “the Great Salt River [V]alley” was “no place for the insane” due to its stifling heat. While calling attention to “the poor suffering humanity that [sweltered] within” the asylum, the piece altogether disregarded the well-being of sane Phoenicians and conveniently overlooked Tucson’s high summer temperatures.

In the end, however, Tucsonans came to love their university, which now boasts enrollment of more than 40,000 students and an annual budget exceeding $450,000,000. With approximately 60,000 students attending courses in Tempe alone, the once-modest Normal School now lays claim to the title of largest public university campus in the United States. Phoenix’s asylum, the so-called plum of the 1885 legislative session, is now largely unknown to most Arizonans and operates on a budget of just $30,000,000 – far smaller than that of the University of Arizona. So, it seems that the much maligned C. C. Stephens has been vindicated – something likely to be deemed crazy by a Tucsonan of 1885.