Research tip: Societies and Organizations

Societies and organizations can provide a clue to city life for both sociological and biographical researchers. Membership in the Elks, Masons, International Order of Odd Fellows, Woodmen of the World and similar societies can help genealogists make sense of their ancestors’ after-hours activities.

In this case, the Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner published a report of a Chautauqua group meeting in Prescott.  Chautauqua meetings were part of a national system of adult education featuring lectures, musical performers, and religious preachers. It had both local chapters and a tent-show circuit. Prescott’s appears to be a local, or “daughter,”  chapter.

Chautauquans 7-25-1888
Arizona Weekly Journal Miner : July 25, 1885



On this day in 1871…

The State Library has been finalizing moving our collections this month—but this is nothing new! This item from the LOCAL MATTERS section of the June 24, 1871 Tucson Weekly Citizen notes books coming to the Territorial Library courtesy of Governor R.C. McCormick. Tucson was the territorial capitol from 1867 to 1877.

Territorial library blurb
Tucson Weekly Citizen  

Due to the shifting nature of Arizona’s capitol—it was in Prescott before,  and then Tucson from 1877 to 1889, until finally settling in Phoenix—there were no buildings in Tucson built for that purpose. Contemporary newspapers mention the library, but not its location. Territorial business took place in buildings on the southeast corner of Ochoa and Convent, so the library may have been there.


Lon Megargee and Public Works of Art

Lon Megargee’s 1934 work The Farmer was part of the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor to the WPA. The Arizona Capitol Museum has a large collection of Megargee’s paintings.

Lon Megargee
The Farmer 1934  

“Lon Megargee was born in Philadelphia in 1883. He changed the spelling of his last name to Megargee and the story of his past while he made his way westward into the Arizona Territory around 1896. Megargee was one of the first cowboy artists. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design.

Although he was successful as an artist, Megargee’s wild cowboy lifestyle usually led him to financial instability. His success in art was almost always countered with bankruptcy and pleas to friends and supporters for more money. He was described as an “incurable romantic,” and married at least seven times. Although personal problems would always plague him, Lon Megargee was always a successful painter throughout his life. He is well-known for creating iconic images such as the Stetson logo and A-1 beer posters, as well as his collection of paintings commissioned by the State of Arizona.” – Lon Megargee Paintings at the Arizona Capitol Museum. 

megargee 2

Home on the Range

You can learn more about Megargee and other artists of the New Deal, from ASU Art History Professor Betsy Fahlman. She will be speaking about the process of writing her book New Deal Art in Arizona at 3 p.m.,  July 6 at the Polly Rosenbaum History and Archives Building, 1901 West Madison.


On this day in 1903

6_10_1903 Bisbee Daily Review FLOOD AND STRIKE ZOMG
Bisbee Daily Review 6/10/1903

Fourteen years after the famous flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and fourteen years before famous miners’ strike and deportation in Bisbee, both sorts of events combined in Clifton and Morenci. Even newspaper coverage had to devote two huge headlines to the troubles. The Bisbee Daily Review – using a wire story from the El Paso newspaper, as the wires were down in Clifton– reported “A Cloud burst sent a breast of water down Chase creek eight feet high, sweeping everything before it. It is known now that more than thirty people were drowned and property valued at $40,000 destroyed. Seven bodies had already been recovered.”

Yet immediately below that story, “Two Thousand Armed Strikers Parade the Streets of Morenci for One Hour In a Pouring Rain.”

The strike had begun about June 3 and did not end until almost a week after the storm, and ultimately required the presence of state and federal troops. Workers in Clifton and Morenci would strike again in 1915.


Cooking, Arizona style…

The State of Arizona Research Library’s Arizona Collection offers numerous paths into Arizona’s story, but like any journey, it’s probably best to plan a meal before you go.

The Collection can help with that, too!

Waiting in the stacks around 641.5, cookbooks focused on Arizona offer not just recipes but history too, putting us back where we started, though in a fashion far more flavorful.


People write cookbooks to make money or raise funds, and most of the ones in the collection are no different. Tastes & Treasures: A Storytelling Cookbook of Historic Arizonas proceeds support the Arizona Historical Museum at Papago Park.  Arizona — hot & cold : Arizona Extension Homemakers Council Cookbook is a comb-bound, fundraising cookbook by a publisher that printed such in the late 1970s. Al and Mildred Fischer’s Citrus Recipes: A Collection of Favorites from the Citrus Belt, published in 1980, boosts one of Arizona’s five Cs.

 Arizona Highways showcased food and history in 1988 with their Heritage Cookbook by Louise DeWald. The library has copies n the Arizona Collection and  in State Publications.

Further into history is Arizona Territorial Cookbook: The Food and Lifestyles of a Frontier by Melissa Ruffner Weiner, which note the sources come from early cookbooks, early newspapers, personal diaries, letters, and menus of the time.  Scholey Beans were served at Scholey and Stephans Saloon in Tombstone as part of the free lunch and “Feeds at least a dozen hungry men.”

cookbooks tumbleweeds

The Rough Rock Demonstration School’s Navajo Curriculum Center printed a cookbook in 1986 with recipe titles and food names in both English and Navajo. Of particular interests to locavores is the 21-page-section on “Edible Wild Plants And Their Preparation,” which includes tumbleweeds. “And tumbleweed greens are good to eat, but they must be picked and eaten when the first shoots are only 2 to 3 inches tall. If the plants are any larger, they will have developed spines.”

Politics stirs the pot both figuratively and literally here as well: The DeConcini Family Cookbook by Ora Webster DeConcini showcases recipes from 1882 to 1982, when her son Dennis was running for his second term in the U.S. Senate. The 53-page pamphlet was paid for by the Senator Dennis DeConcini Reelection Committee and looks like a small campaign pamphlet. It offers a brief autobiographical sketch of the author’s family, and family recipes, usually with a story attached.

The First National Solar Cook-off cookbook by Pat Wing harnessed solar power even back in 1981. The Cook-Off was held September 19 of that year, proclaimed “Solar Cooking Day” by Governor Bruce Babbitt, at Phoenix Civic Center Plaza.

Some of these cookbooks are available on our Reading Arizona platform.

If the collection has a second copy of a cookbook, it may be available via interlibrary loan at your local library.

The Lost Dutchman’s Lost House

Lost Dutchman articleThe morning of February 19, 1891 began “WITH A CRASH” according to the Arizona Republican, chronicling the largest flood the pioneer city of Phoenix had witnessed the next day, Feb. 20. Subheadlines state “Fell Many Adobe Houses Last Night” and “SEVERAL PEOPLE PROBABLY LOST”. The story details hundreds of families displaced, and the damage done to Tempe, including the railroad bridge across the Salt River washing out for what was not to be the final time.

Historical hindsight tells us the story takes no notice of who would become the flood’s perhaps most famous victim. It mentions water pouring over lower Dutch Ditch, but not the Dutch or Deutsche man, Jacob Waltz, a resident of one of the washed-out adobe houses located in the northeast corner of section 16, Township 1 North, Range 3 East—today the southwest corner of 16th Street and Buckeye. Exposure due to the flood led to Waltz’s final illness and death, rendering him unable to make his regular journey back to the Superstition Mountains and the supposed location of his gold mine. He recuperated in an apartment above Julia Thomas’s store, eventually telling his story and dying eight months later on October 25, passing from mortality to history, and from there to legend…

The Dummy and the Vault

A dummy tells a librarian to look for a book in a vault, but what if that vault no longer exists* in reality? This is not a premise for a Twilight Zone episode, but describes how the State of Arizona Research Library protects its rare books.

Scattered throughout the Arizona Collection are “dummy” books, which are often book-sized wooden planks wrapped in brown paper, and bearing a call number directing library staff where to find the real book. In other institutions, and in the Research Library’s past, the “dummy” book is a place holder in open stacks and refers patrons to library staff who may retrieve the real book from closed stacks.

“Dummy books” in the Arizona Collection

But some “dummy” books direct us to very closed stacks.  When he reported on his facilities in 1940, State Librarian Mulford Winsor noted that “Separate quarters for special collections, to which access may be had only under supervision, obviate confusion and safeguard against loss. Enclosed and locked bookshelves and vault space lend extra protection to rare items”.

In this case Winsor meant a literal vault. This combination safe, housed in the reading room of the former state library, held older and valuable books Winsor collected. It was the most secure location in the 1938 Capitol Addition: At one time, the vault housed the State Constitution of Arizona.


As times change, vaults change. The Polly Rosenbaum History and Archives building currently houses the ‘vault’ books behind two restricted-access doors secured by modern electronic badge readers. For a time, locked cabinets took the place of a vault to hold rare items, but now these books sit on a special set of shelves in a climate controlled warehouse pod. Arizona Collection librarians have added to this collection after considering a book’s age, condition, and scarcity, with a focus on those produced during Arizona’s Territorial period, or before.

Some of the oldest-looking volumes look imposing:  A three-volume set of Monarquia Indiana by Fray Juan de Torquemada has been rebound in vellum with hand-lettered spine titles and decorations. It is the second edition, printed in Madrid, about 1723.

Books 1

Another vellum-bound volume is the Crónica seráfica y apostólica del colegio de Propaganda Fide de la Santa Cruz de Querétaro en la Nueva España, by Juan Domingo Arricivita. Technology protecting this volume has progressed even further; now patrons don’t even have to touch the original to see a copy: Google Books has digitized it.

Not every volume is quite so old, or related to pre-territorial history. The ‘vault’ also preserves a physical copy of Thomas Edwin Farish’s eight volume History of Arizona, from 1916-1918, of which volumes 1-3 are also available on the Arizona Memory Project.

Whatever form the library’s books take, from print to digital, the State of Arizona Research Library systems work to balance access with preservation and security, making them available to patrons, while not getting lost in some… well, you know what Rod Serling says.

*The original vault does still exist, but we don’t keep books in it anymore.