Thursday, February 1, 2024

Arizona's 112th Birthday Celebration: Exploring Statehood at Pusch House Museum

Pusch House Museum celebrates statehood
In February we celebrate Arizona’s 112th birthday, and you can discover the journey to statehood at the Pusch House Museum at historic Steam Pump Ranch every Saturday in February from 9 a.m. – noon. Enjoy the Heirloom Farmers’ Market and then take a tour of the Museum with knowledgeable docents to guide and answer any questions you might have. Tours are free with donations gladly accepted.

The Flag's Journey: Unveiling the Arizona State Flag's Unique Story at the Museum

At the Museum, you will learn that it took quite some time for Arizona to become a state and what was behind the delay. But did you know that there was also a delay in choosing our state flag? It took 5 years, 2 weeks, and 1 day for our flag to be adopted after we became a state! The journey started in 1911 before Arizona was a state and in a state that wasn’t even Arizona. The Arizona National Guard Rifle Team had a match at Camp Perry, Ohio, and this Arizona team was the only team without a flag. Colonel Charles W. Harris was the Captain of the Team and the adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard. He came up with the design, and the wife of one of the rifle team’s members sewed the first copy. This “Betsy Ross” of Arizona, Nan Hayden, was the wife of Carl Hayden who was the organizer of the Arizona National Guard in 1903 and went on to be a member of Arizona’s first Congressional Delegation, and then served Arizona in the U.S. Congress for 56 years.

The natural inspirations and symbolism behind Harris' state flag design

Harris’ design of our flag was inspired by Arizona’s own natural setting instead of being based on military colors or the designs of other flags that were flown during the Civil War. The red and yellow stripes above the dark blue base symbolize the colors of our magnificent sunsets and are colors from the Spanish flag, symbolizing the early explorers of our area. The base of blue is the same blue found in the American flag, and some say it represents the Colorado River. The star in the center of the flag represents the copper mining industry, which was necessary to the state’s development and was a significant contributor to the state’s economy for many years.

The prolonged debate Over Arizona's State Flag Adoption
So, with the vibrant colors and the natural symbolism, why did it take half a decade for the flag to be adopted as our official state flag, even though a variation of this flag was displayed at the 1915 dedication of the U.S.S. Arizona? There was much arguing in the state legislature, as can be expected. Even some citizens resisted the flag. Some people were disturbed by the similarities to a flag flown by ships of another nation. There was also comparison to the rays being similar to an astrological chart, and there were some who wanted to add a Gila monster with a copper collar on the flag!

On February 22, 1917 Arizona’s Third Legislature presented the bill to the Governor adopting the flag as the state’s official flag. Governor Thomas Campbell did not approve because the flag didn’t match what he thought a state emblem should be. He did not sign the law, but after 5 days of his inaction, the law was passed. Campbell was expelled from office in December of that same year, but not for this decision. That’s another story!

Designated a "best flag
Even though it took a long time after we became a state for our state to adopt a state flag, we can all relish the fact that the American Vexillogical Association honors our flag as being one of the best flags in North America (# 6 out of 72)! And they should know as they are the organization that studies the history, symbolism, and usage of flags.
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