Valentines Day is Statehood Day in Arizona
Arizona Was Admitted to the Union on Valentine's Day
February 14th is celebrated as Valentine’s Day in most parts of the world. However, in Arizona February 14th is not only Valentine’s Day but also Statehood Day - the day Arizona was admitted to the American Union as the nation’s 48th state.
On February 14, 2012 Arizona celebrated its Centennial year as a state.
In addition to having Valentine’s Day as its birthday, there is some other interesting trivia surrounding Arizona’s admittance to the American Union as a state.
Arizona has the distinction of being the last of the contiguous 48 states admitted to the Union.
After Arizona Became a State, 47 Years Elapsed Before Another State Joined the American Union
And, for forty-seven years, from 1912 when Arizona was admitted to the Union to 1959 when Alaska was admitted to the Union, Arizona held the distinction of being the last state to be admitted to the Union.
Another interesting piece of trivia is that, despite the fact that Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867, it did not become organized as an incorporated territory of the United States until August 24, 1912.
Alaska didn't become an incorporated territory until six months after Arizona ceased to be a territory and became a state.
Forty-seven years elapsed between Arizona’s admission to the Union as a state in 1912 and Alaska’s admission in 1959.
Previously the longest time lapse between states being admitted to the Union had been the fifteen years that elapsed between Missouri’s admission in 1821 and the admission of Arkansas in 1836.
Arizona itself had originally been a part of the New Mexico Territory acquired from Mexico in 1848 as part of the territory ceded to the United States following its victory in the Mexican War (1846-1848).
Some Wanted to Combine Arizona and New Mexico and Admit as One State
On February 24, 1863, following the retaking of the New Mexico territory from the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, Congress split off the western half of the New Mexico Territory and created the Arizona territory much to the satisfaction of the residents of Arizona who had long wanted to be a separate territory.
Despite Arizona having been legally separated from New Mexico almost a half century earlier, Arizona almost became a state as a part of New Mexico when that state was admitted to the Union on January 6, 1912.
Both the New Mexico and Arizona territories had petitions before Congress to be admitted as states. However, the New Mexico territory at the time was predominately Republican which meant that the new state would send Republicans to the Senate thereby allowing the Republican party to maintain control of the U.S. Senate.
In neighboring Arizona political power was dominated by Progressives and it was feared that this would lead to Democrats being sent to the U.S. Senate from Arizona.
As a result, Republicans in Congress mounted an effort to merge the two territories and admit them as a single state. The effort failed and Arizona was admitted to the Union as a separate state five weeks after New Mexico became a state.
Tucson Has Been Continuously Occupied for Over 4,000 Years
While Arizona, at 100 years old, is one of the youngest states in the United States in terms of statehood, its roots are ancient.
Tucson, the oldest and second largest city in Arizona is one of the oldest continuously occupied areas in the New World, having been continuously occupied for over 4,000 years.
It was farmed first by the Hohokam tribe. Following the mysterious of the Hohokams other Indian tribes quickly settled in the area. For over 4,000 years the Hohokams and those that followed them lived and farmed in what is now Tucson.
When the Spanish missionary Father Eusebio Kino, established the Mission San Xavier del Bac in what is now Tucson, Arizona in 1692 he was the start of the European presence in the area.
Fray Marcos de Niza First European to Enter Arizona
Europeans first came to Arizona a little over a century and a half before the founding of Tucson.
On April 12, 1539 another Spanish missionary, Fray Marcos de Niza, was dispatched by the Spanish Viceroy in Mexico City to make a preliminary expedition of northern Mexico and the lands beyond.
Fray Marcos de Niza’s mission was to scout this area in advance of the larger expedition that Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was preparing to lead in his 1540-1542 expedition in search of the mythical seven cities of gold.
Coronado never found any gold, let alone cities built of gold.
However, he was the first European to penetrate deep into the interior of what is now the United States having crossed the present day states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Signs along some Southern Arizona highways and hiking trails inform travelers that they are on part of the route that Coronado traveled almost five centuries ago.
The Founder of Tucson Arizona was an Irishman
While American history textbooks put Arizona toward the end of the westward expansion of the nation, its ties to the founding of the American Republic are a little stronger than that.
Even though Arizona’s early history was that of a Spanish colony while the original thirteen states were British colonies at the opposite end of what is now the United States there were links between the two.
Like the Britain’s Thirteen Colonies along the Atlantic coast which were a destination for many Irish immigrants, Spain and its colonies attracted many Irish.
Tucson, Arizona’s second largest city was founded, not by a Spaniard but by an Irishman, Hugo O’Conor, a soldier in the service of King Charles III of Spain.
In 1775 O’Conor, on a mission ordered by the King of Spain review and enhance the northern border of Spain’s New World colonies, arrived in what is now Tucson, Arizona and decided that a fort should be built on that location as a forward defense from feared attacks by British or Russians.
Having just defeated France in the Seven Years War (French and Indian War), Britain was now in a position to move south from her settlements in the Hudson’s Bay area.
Spain saw this as a possible threat to her possessions in what is now the American Southwest.
Russia was also expanding south from Alaska and had already started exploring what is now northern California, so that nation was also seen as a threat.
In Twentieth Century Tucson is Again Fortified for War
Ironically, about 200 years after Hugo O’Conor established a presidio (fort) where Tucson now stands to defend against a potential Russian invasion Tucson again found itself being fortified once more to defend the United States against a Russian attack.
This time it was the Cold War and Tucson found itself surrounded by a string of Titan missile silos holding missiles topped with nuclear warheads and aimed at Soviet cities.
Any attempted first strike by the Soviets would be met by the launching of these (and similar missiles in other remote parts of the U.S) against targets in the then Soviet Union.
Today all but one of these silos stand empty. The one exception is a Titan missile, sans warhead, in a silo that is now the Titan Missile Museum, a major tourist attraction just south of Tucson.
While people don’t associate Arizona with the American Revolution, the fact is that the Spanish government quietly assist George Washington and his army with money and weapons.
In addition to money the government in Spain provided directly to the American Colonies during the American Revolution, they also secretly provided France with the funds to pay for the supplies and troops that nation openly assisted the Americans with.
the Spanish colonies in the New World, especially the colony of New Spain which included Mexico and what is now the American Southwest, also provided money and supplies to help in America’s War of Independence.
Since the population of what is now Arizona was small and confined mainly to the southern part of the state, Arizona’s contribution to the American cause was mostly small donations of money. But Arizona did play a part.
Arizona Sided With the Confederacy During the Civil War
The same with the Civil War, in which Southern Arizona actually joined the Confederate States of America.
A small skirmish was fought at Picacho Peak during the Civil War but, being distant from the main theater of the war the contribution was again small.
World War I
Five years after being admitted as a state, the United States entered World War I. Like other Americans, Arizonans volunteered to join the military and fight the war.
Among the Arizonans that distinguished themselves in the war was Phoenix born Frank Luke who gained fame as an aviator shooting down heavily defended German observation balloons.
Another one is Mathew Juan from the Gila Indian Reservation south of Phoenix who became the first Arizonan and first Native American to be killed in the war.
There is a monument to him in his home town of Sacaton, the capital of the Gila Indian Reservation.
World War II
During World War II, the battleship Arizona was one of the first ships sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor .
The sunken remains of the USS Arizona, with many of its sailors still entombed in it, sits as a memorial to the men and women who bravely fought off the surprise attack that caused the United States to enter World War II.
Ira Hayes another Native American from the Gila Indian Reservation was one of the Marines who was photographed hoisting the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
A monument to him sits in the same Mathew Juan - Ira Hayes Memorial Park in the the little town of Sacaton, Arizona.
Arizona was also the site of some of the camps in which many Japanese-Americans were interred during World War II.
Phoenix also housed a German Prisoner of War camp during the war, a camp that was the site of the only Prisoner of War escape in the U.S. during the war.
Despite the fact that Arizona didn’t become a part of the United States until 1848, almost three-quarters of a century after the birth of the United States in 1776 and has only been a state for 100 years, its ties to the nation go back to colonial times
Links to My Other Arizona History Hubs
- The White Dove of the Desert - Tucson's Mission San Xavier del Bac
Located in the southwest corner of Tucson, AZ, the Mission San Xavier del Bac is an 18th Century Mission Church that continues to function as a house of worship and focal point of a mission that was founded by the Spanish Jesuit missionary, Father E
- Frank Luke Jr World War I Balloon Busting Ace
Frank Luke Jr an American World War I Fighter Ace and Medal of Honor winner known as the Arizona Balloon Buster
- The American Revolution - A World War
It is common knowledge that France was America's ally during the American Revolution. What is not so well known is the fact that Spain secretly funded both the French forces and American forces fighting against Britain in the Revolution.
- Arizona's Great World War II Prisoner of War Escape
- Hugo O'Conor - Founder of Tucson
Visitors to the city of Tucson, Arizona in America's Southwest are often surprised to learn that this city just north of the Mexican border was founded by an Dublin born Irishman named Hugo O'Connor. Read the amazing story of how this Irishman came
- Mathew B. Juan - Native American Hero of World War I
© 2012 Chuck Nugent
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