The U.S.S. Arizona Silver Set

U.S.S. Arizona silver, USS Arizona silver, Arizona silver, Arizona silver set, Arizona history, Arizona historian, AZHistorian, John Larsen Southard, John Southard, Southard, U.S.S. Arizona, USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor

A photo of the June 19th, 1915 U.S.S. Arizona launch ceremony. In addition to being christened with champagne, as is tradition, the ship launch ceremony also featured a bottle filled with water that had passed over the top of Roosevelt Dam, a structure that was then the pride of the state.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and other dignitaries dedicated Arizona’s newest memorial, the World War II Memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza, earlier today. The monument features a fourteen-inch gun from the U.S.S. Arizona, which was sunk in a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor seventy-two years ago today. The Arizona is the iconic symbol of the December 7th, 1941 attack, as represented in photos and newsreels of the period and by the solemn 1962 memorial that sits above the ship’s sunken hull today. The gun now incorporated into the new memorial standing on the plaza across from the state capitol is available for display only because it had been removed for relining prior to the “date which will live in infamy,” thus saving it from destruction. The ship’s silver service is another item on display today due to its being removed from the vessel prior to that tragic Sunday in December of 1941.

The silver set was gifted to the ship by the people of Arizona, the youngest state in the Union at the time of the battleship’s June 19th, 1915 christening. Manufactured by Reed & Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts, the elegant eighty-seven piece set featured depictions of saguaros, Gila monsters, and a Grand Canyon scene alongside more traditional nautical imagery such as mermaids, shells, and Neptune. Unique among Navy silver sets, several pieces of the U.S.S. Arizona silver collection were plated with copper in tribute of the metal’s importance to the state economy.

Taken off the ship in January of 1941 as part of an effort to prepare for the likelihood of war, the silver service waited out the conflict in a Bremerton, Washington storage facility. After a relatively short period aboard the U.S.S. Tucson, the silver sat unused until Arizona Governor Howard Pyle lobbied the Navy to return the priceless set to the Grand Canyon State. The United States Navy granted Pyle’s request in 1953, returning the silver set bearing a seemingly incongruous mix of Sonoran Desert and nautical imagery to Arizona, where it can now be viewed at the Arizona State Capitol Museum. To view a collection of photos documenting the silver service, please visit

Arizonans Should Celebrate Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthday

Theodore Roosevelt's birthday, Roosevelt Dam, Reclamation Act, 1911, Arizona history, Arizona historian, AZHistorian, John Larsen Southard, John Southard, Southard

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.