Cannon fire greeted the proclamation of Arizona as the nation’s 48th official state from Phoenix’s own City Hall Plaza. The firing was done in celebration, and was called off before completing its 48 intended rounds after startled horses began unseating their riders.

Arizona Statehood Day was established to commemorate the hard-won occasion, and continues to honor the state’s colorful history. In that spirit of remembrance, we’ll take a look at the events and actions memorialized by Arizona Statehood Day.

General Facts about Arizona Statehood Day

Date Type Alternative names National holiday
February 14 Historical No other known names. No

What Is Arizona Statehood Day?

Arizona Statehood Day is an officially-sanctioned historical holiday that marks the date the territory achieved official statehood in February 14, 1912.

Admission as an official state came only after a long struggle which stretches back to before the Civil War. The day was set aside to remember the history surrounding Arizona in becoming the last state to be admitted into the continental United States.

Valentine’s Day shares the same date, but Arizona Statehood Day is not a shared national holiday like Valentine’s Day has become. Instead the holiday for statehood serves the important citizenship purpose of memorializing past struggles and those who fought.

The History of Arizona Statehood Day

The Early Days

Arizona’s territory first entered American boundaries with the Gadsen Purchase of 1853. Arizona’s land had a population of only 200,000 when officially recognized; the number has grown to over 6 million inhabitants today.

The fact of the territory’s sparse settlement caused the first delay in official recognition. When a bill to organize the territory was created in 1857, the measure was voted down in Congress for the stated reason of a low population.

More drastically, statehood for the Grand Canyon state was further delayed by actual conflict. In 1861 Confederate forces seized Fort Fillmore in the Arizona territories and forced Union troops to surrender. The area was named the Confederate Territory of Arizona by proclamation of Jefferson Davis.

Unfortunately, once the Confederacy finished dismantling the remaining Union forts, settlers were left without protection from highly-feared Apache raids. Many settlers were forced to abandon the area. Tensions ran high. Final boundaries for the Arizona Territory were not officially established until finally signed by President Lincoln on February 24, 1863.

Becoming a State

state of Arizona on US map

Voters had rejected initial legislative attempts to combine today’s New Mexico and Arizona into a single state. The would-be state became something of a political battleground after the Civil War, but decades of agitation for individual statehood finally found support in Washington. In 1912 the final act of the political drama opened. The ratifying legislation was passed on February 12th – and was vetoed by President Taft.

The problem this time was a provision of Arizona’s state Constitution which allowed for the recall of judges. Taft believed the measure violated the principle of an independent judiciary. Another bill was quickly approved by Congress without the offending legislation. This last effort was ratified and signed, making Arizona the 48th state of the United States on February 14, 1912.

The parades could begin in earnest. Cannon boomed, horses shied and riders fell. George W.P. Hunt became the first governor and the new legislature immediately voted back the offending provisions. That same year, Arizonans also voted for the suffrage of women, making the newly-minted US state one of the first to allow women to vote.

The independence of the state’s pioneering heritage and its long struggle for admission to the Union created the demand for a holiday to officially commemorate the achievement. The official observance was created and named Arizona Statehood Day.

Traditional Observance of Arizona Statehood Day

Arizona Statehood Day is renewed annually each February 14. There are no Statehood Day trees to decorate or costumes to don. Nonetheless, the holiday continues successfully in its own educational tradition.

Current governor Doug Ducey’s office published a 2018 educational webpage, 10 things about Arizona Statehood Day, and a formal press release: Governor Ducey Arizona Statehood Day Statement

The educational tradition of Arizona Statehood Day is also carried out in libraries, museums and other cultural centers.

One particularly popular public site is housed in the government center in Downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Capitol Museum, which contains exhibits and information about Arizona’s statehood and continuing history. Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza is another popular heritage initiative that highlights and honors Arizona’s past.

Summing Up

Arizona is one of America’s youngest states, and was making significant contributions to the nation well before admission in 1912. Residents have remained mindful of their history and still identify with the proud roots of their heritage. Arizona Statehood Day signifies the importance of remembering the state’s colorful history and the passionate struggles that made Arizona the vibrant state it is today.