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 –

Phoenix’s Insane Asylum Drove Tucsonans Crazy

Insane asylum, Thieving Thirteenth, 1885, Phoenix, Tucson, Arizona State Hospital, Arizona history, Arizona historian, AZHistorian, John Larsen Southard, John Southard, Southard

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.


ASU vs. U of A: The Territorial Cup

Territorial Cup, Arizona history, Arizona historian, AZHistorian, John Larsen Southard, John Southard, Southard, ASU, UA, UofA, U of A, Sun Devils, Wildcats

Excerpt from a December 2nd, 1899 Arizona Republican article recapping the first Territorial Cup game.

The fabled Territorial Cup game between Arizona State and the University of Arizona is now well underway, marking the 87th such contest between these fierce in-state rivals. When the Territorial Cup was first awarded to the Tempe Normals (predecessors to the present-day Sun Devils) in 1899, the relationship between the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas differed dramatically from that of today – as did the size and stature of their respective colleges.

Phoenix proper was home to just 5,500 people in 1899, making its population smaller than the Old Pueblo’s tally of approximately 7,500 residents. Tucson would continue to boast a larger population than the capital city for nearly two more decades, finally surrendering the title of Arizona’s most populous city when eclipsed by Phoenix in the 1920 census. By 1920, the University of Arizona had enjoyed its status as the state’s only university for 35 years, having been awarded to Tucson in 1885 as a consolation prize given in place of the real legislative plum available that year – the state mental hospital, which was placed in Phoenix.

Although 1920s Valley residents could proudly tout their state-funded mental facility, the growing community could not lay claim to a university, although their neighbor to the south could do so. What is now Arizona State University was then known as Tempe Normal School, a teacher’s college still decades away from winning university status. With time, Arizonans passed Proposition 200, a 1958 ballot measure granting Arizona State a designation similar to its rival south of the Gila. Notably, the already strong rivalry between the institutions grew more serious when many Tucsonans opposed the effort to elevate the Tempe institution from college to university. Today, the University of Arizona is the academic home of 40,000 students and Arizona State University’s all-campus enrollment has exceeded the 70,000 mark. Phoenix still reigns as the most populous city in the state, claiming a metro population of more than 4.3 million residents while the greater Tucson area is nearing one million inhabitants. Not unlike years past, the two cities and their respective college teams continue to engage in battles both on and off the gridiron. As is often said, as much as things change, they stay the same.

As we watch the game tonight, let’s hope that, in words borrowed from a December 2nd, 1899 Arizona Republican article recapping that year’s game, it will be “a clean game from start to finish” with the Wildcats winning praise as a “gentlemanly team” and the Sun Devils engage their rivals with “courtesy and kindness.” While we’re at it, let’s hope that the Tempe team replicates their 1899 victory and keeps the Territorial Cup where it belongs.