As residents of much of the country are still digging out from the recent polar vortex and its associated snow, ice, and Arctic temperatures, those of us in central and southern Arizona are enjoying the balmy weather that passes for winter in the Sonoran Desert.
Of the Five Cs of the state economy – cattle, citrus, climate, copper, and cotton – our favorable climate has arguably been the most enduring asset of the Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma metro areas. Indeed, while cattle, citrus, copper, and cotton have all been of direct or indirect benefit to all of Arizona’s towns and cities, the economic value of a warm, sunny winter day has been proven decade after decade. Were it not for our seemingly ever-present clear, sun-drenched days, it is unlikely that pre-World War II tourists and transplants and, from the war onward, tourists, new residents, and businessmen, would flock to the state in such large numbers. Knowing this, Arizona’s early and mid-twentieth century boosters seized upon Arizona’s climate and reliable sunshine as a centerpiece of their marketing efforts.
Phoenix, promoted in the 1920s as “The Gold Spot of America,” took on the more descriptive and geographically encompassing name “Valley of the Sun” in 1934. Phoenix-area communities and businesses touted the Salt River Valley’s abundant sunshine in their advertisements and publicity efforts, as shown in the examples included in this post. It is important to note that the attached images are just a handful of the many, many ads, postcards, and other ephemera highlighting the Valley climate in a manner similar to the December 31st, 1905 Arizona Republican advertisement for Tempe’s Casa Loma Hotel promising, “You don’t pay for lodging when the sun don’t shine.” The Phoenix Chamber of Commerce billed their city as a place offering “Summer days all winter,” and made mention of average wintertime temperatures as often as possible. Neighboring Scottsdale worked hard to portray itself as an upscale resort destination where, as described by a March 12th, 1956 LIFE Magazine article, visitors could relax under “a perennially blue sky” knowing that “irrigation and refrigeration have made the desert as livable now for man as it has always been for cactus.” Outside of the Valley, promoters employed similar pitches to draw those from more extreme winter climes.
Yumans presented their hometown as a mecca for sunseekers, as exemplified by the cover of a 1950 Yuma County Chamber of Commerce booklet entitled “Yuma: From Hellhole to Haven.” Consistent with the publication’s name, the cover art shows readers that what was once a dusty, violent Western town had since transformed into an oasis inhabited by bikini-clad women engaged in leisurely poolside sunbathing. An earlier Yuma campaign similar to the Casa Loma Hotel’s offer of free lodging on sunless days drew widespread attention, but the most clever public relations endeavor undertaken by the city’s promoters took place in 1949. Following the post-World War II closure of the Yuma Army Air Base, two local pilots completed a record-setting and widely publicized 47-day nonstop flight intended to showcase the area’s wonderful flying weather.
Not to be overshadowed, Tucsonans published literature proclaiming their winter weather comparable to “that of May in more rigorous climates.” As stated in a mid-century brochure issued by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, should you find yourself “seeking a spot where sunshine is almost constant throughout the winter, where there is but little rainfall, fog, and dew, then Tucson is your objective.”
While the flowery language of yesteryear has long since been replaced with concise taglines and live televised coverage of sun-drenched winter events such as Scottsdale’s Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and Phoenix Open or Tucson’s Accenture Match Play Championship golf tournament, the product being sold has not changed. Our winter weather has drawn, and will undoubtedly continue to draw, many out-of-staters to central and southern Arizona. In fact, climate is now the most lucrative of Arizona’s Five Cs, with the annual economic influx resulting from tourism alone trumping the combined revenue totals of cattle, citrus, copper, and cotton. So, while Arizona summers may be brutal, our winter weather is the envy of much of the nation – and a boon to the state economy.