Arizona Petrified Wood in the Walls of the Washington Monument

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The assembled crowd of dignitaries and spectators present at the April 15th, 1924 dedication ceremony included President Coolidge, Senators Ralph Cameron and Henry Fountain Ashurst, Congressman Carl Hayden, and former Arizona Governor Thomas Campbell.
Image credit: Library of Congress

Senators Ralph Cameron and Henry Fountain Ashurst, Congressman Carl Hayden, and former Governor Thomas Campbell dedicated the Washington Monument’s Arizona stone ninety years ago this month. President Calvin Coolidge also spoke at the event, as did Nina Smith, the state Daughters of the American Revolution regent attending the ceremony as Governor Hunt’s official representative. Fittingly, our stone differs from those of all other states as it consists not of granite, marble, limestone, sandstone, or gneiss, but three slabs of petrified wood. The specimens displayed in the monument to President Washington were collected from the Chalcedony Forest near Holbrook, not far from the stunning and somewhat otherworldly landscapes of Petrified Forest National Park.

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April 15th, 1925 Prescott Evening Courier coverage of the dedication ceremony.

Each state of the Union boasts a stone of its own in the Washington Monument, as do many cities, organizations, companies, individuals, and foreign governments. If the choice to embed three pieces of Arizona petrified wood into the walls of the Washington Monument was made out of a desire to draw attention to Arizona’s uniqueness, those in charge of the selection achieved their purpose. President Calvin Coolidge’s dedicatory remarks included reference to the state’s grand agricultural potential and significant mineral resources. Likely to the great pleasure of farmers throughout the Grand Canyon State, Silent Cal asked the assembled crowd, “Do we fully realize that the Valley of the Nile, producing sustenance for the mother civilizations, and long afterward serving as the granary of Imperial Rome, was not to be compared for area of productive possibilities to the great valleys of semi-tropic Arizona when they shall presently have been watered by the works of engineering, as the Nile was watered by the works of nature?” More closely related to the petrified wood forests from which the newly placed Arizona stone originated, Coolidge praised the state’s overall importance, saying, “its riches in forests, in metals and minerals, in the inviting glories of the world’s most wonderful scenery will make it one of the wealthiest states.”

While still in place, the various commemorative stones are no longer as accessible as they once were. Visitors to the monument were formerly able to choose between riding an elevator or climbing stairs to reach the 500-foot level observation deck. Those who chose the stairs were rewarded with up-close views of the many stones worked into the walls of the monument, none of which could be seen from inside the elevator car. Now, however, visitors must plan ahead if they wish to view the state stones as the obelisk’s elevator is the standard mode of passage to the top. Visitors hoping to take the more scenic — and cardio-friendly — route to the top of what was once the world’s tallest structure must reserve a special tour in advance of their visit (plan ahead – the Washington Monument is slated to reopen on May 12th of this year). Thankfully, those choosing to ascend to the top in a more expeditious manner can now view selected stones through the special gas-filled elevator doors that clear several times over the course of the ride to allow passengers a fleeting glance at the most notable stones.

For more information on the Arizona stone and other stones donated over the years, please visit

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.