A History of Arizona

By Tim Lambert

Early Arizona

The first European to reach Arizona was a Spaniard called Marcos de Niza in 1539. However, for centuries the Spanish presence in Arizona was slight. When Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821 Arizona became Mexican territory.

However, in 1848 Mexico was forced to cede most of what is now Arizona to the USA. In 1850 it became part of the territory of New Mexico. Another section of Arizona was obtained by the USA in 1853 by the Gadsden Purchase.

When the Civil War came in 1861 the people of Arizona joined the Confederacy. However, in 1862 Union forces won the battle of Picacho Peak and the Union took control. On 24 February 1863, Arizona was made a separate territory from New Mexico.

In 1880 Arizona had a population of 40,000. By 1900 it was over 122,000. In 1889 Phoenix was made the capital of Arizona.

In the late 19th century many settlers went to Arizona. In the 1860s and 1870s ranching became common. Mining also boomed. Both silver and copper were mined in Arizona and mining towns sprang up.

Meanwhile, the native people were forced onto reservations, and forts were built by the US Army. The last native uprising ended in 1886 when Geronimo surrendered.

One of the most famous events in the history of Arizona was the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone on 26 October 1881. (It was fought on a vacant lot by the OK Corral).

Modern Arizona

The Grand Canyon was made a national monument in 1908 and in 1919 it was made a national park. Meanwhile, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was built in 1911.

Finally, Arizona was admitted to the union as the 48th state on 14 February 1912. The same year, in 1912 Arizona granted women the right to vote.

Like the rest of the USA Arizona suffered badly during the Depression of the 1930s but its population swelled during the Second World War. The population of Arizona continued to grow rapidly after 1945. By 1950 it reached almost 750,000. By 1990 it had soared to over 3,665,000 In 2024 the population of Arizona was 7.2 million.

Today there is still an important copper mining industry in Arizona.

The Grand Canyon

Last revised 2024