Statehood and Beyond
Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912. The first half of the 20th century in Southern Arizona and the rest of the state was dominated by the era of reclamation. The federal government used taxpayer money to develop the state’s water resources, damming rivers for irrigation, water storage, and hydroelectric power, creating a huge agricultural industry in the process.
Phelps-Dodge and other mining giants ripped huge holes in the lands to extract low-grade copper, while American owners and managers on the whole treated the Mexican and Native American miners and pickers poorly, even criminally on many occasions.
At the same time, increasing numbers of residents and visitors began to realize that there was more to the fantastic Arizona landscape than profit and loss, and this era saw the rise of national parks and monuments, national forests, and state-level protection of important lands. Beginning around the 1920s boosters in Phoenix and Tucson and elsewhere began to see the economic benefits of attracting tourists to the sunny state, and by 1950 or so tourism had replaced the extractive industries in importance.
During the two world wars the federal government set up training bases and military installations in the state that led to a growth spurt, and the advent of swamp coolers and air-conditioners stimulated a population boom in Arizona that has yet to really let up.
By 1960 Tucson’s population had nearly doubled in a decade’s time, as it would continue to do over and over. Today, there are about a million people living in the dry basin, and they just keep coming.
© Tim Hull from Moon Tucson, 1st Edition