Five Years Without An Arizona State Flag

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January 28th, 1917 Tombstone Epitaph headline announcing legislative concern over the proposed state flag design. This design that “looked too much like the Japanese emblem” was adopted as Arizona’s official state flag the following month.

A full five years passed between Arizona’s admission to the Union and its adoption of an official state flag. A variety of factors – legislative bickering among them – led to a half-decade elapsing before the “Baby State” had a standard of its own. While the design approved by state legislators in 1917 is well-regarded today, as evidenced by the North American Vexillological Association honoring it as one of the best flags in North America, it initially faced serious opposition.

A flag very similar to that flown today was first put into service by the Arizona Rifle Team during a 1911 match at Camp Perry, OH. A variation of this same design, although not then the official state flag, was displayed at the 1915 dedication of the U.S.S. Arizona. Despite these and other instances in which the Rifle Team flag or a version thereof served, albeit unofficially, as Arizona’s colors, state legislators remained hesitant to formalize the design. A January 1917 bill proposing adoption of the de facto flag as the state’s official flag met resistance from solons and citizens alike. Los Angeles Times articles documented concern that the rays and copper star featured on the flag under discussion bore a “similitude to the Japanese ensign,” and mentioned talk of including a “Gila monster couchant, within a copper collar” on the flag. A proposal to shift the line dividing the rays from the field of blue below from a horizontal to a diagonal orientation languished due after being unfavorably compared to “an astrological chart.”

In the end, legislators passed a bill adopting a design bearing “the copper star of Arizona rising from a blue field in the face of a setting sun” as the state’s official flag. Though Governor Thomas Campbell declined to sign the bill because, as speculated by the Arizona Republican newspaper, “the flag did not measure up to his ideals of what a state emblem should be,” the bill became law after five days of gubernatorial inaction. Campbell was ousted from office in December of 1917 following a court decision declaring George W.P. Hunt the victor of the contentious 1916 race (Campbell would return to the governorship in 1919). However, the Arizona state flag made official by his inaction flies over the capitol building in which he served to this day.

Arizonans Should Celebrate Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthday

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The recently dedicated Roosevelt Dam dominated the colorful cover of the August 12th, 1911 edition of Scientific American.

Renaissance man Theodore Roosevelt was born 155 years ago yesterday in New York City, a place very different from the far-off and not-then existent Arizona Territory that would later derive great benefit from his presidency.

Roosevelt is most closely associated with our state through his leadership of the courageous Rough Riders of Spanish-American War fame, many of whom hailed from Arizona. While not as widely known and arguably far less interesting than the battlefield heroics of the all-volunteer Rough Riders, Arizonans should also recognize Roosevelt for signing the 1902 Newlands Reclamation Act into law. This landmark legislation authorized several large-scale water reclamation projects in the arid lands west of the 100th meridian, including our Roosevelt Dam.

Completed in 1911, the $10 million Roosevelt Dam helped to ensure Valley residents a reliable water supply, thereby largely ending the decades-long struggle against unpredictable supplies of water that left Phoenix-area farm fields flooded in times of overabundant precipitation and parched in times of drought. The project’s significance was not lost on local residents or the press, as evidenced by the March 19, 1911 edition of the Arizona Republican that bore headlines proclaiming “Life Blood of Valley Turned Into its Arteries by Theodore Roosevelt,” thus signaling a “Triumphant Ending of the Great Project.”

Today just one among the string of several dams along the Salt River, the now-enlarged Roosevelt Dam has been vitally important to the vitality and prosperity of the Phoenix metropolitan area for more than a century. However, the dam’s importance – widely recognized during its construction and through the present day – and Roosevelt’s much-publicized 1911 visit still failed to deliver Arizona’s 1912 electoral college votes to third-party candidate Roosevelt, who fared better in the state than Republican Howard Taft, Socialist Eugene V. Debs, and Prohibition nominee Eugene W. Chafin, but couldn’t top the vote tally of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.