The people of what would become the state of Arizona suffered three decades of waiting for statehood, so they were understandably excited and eager when it was announced that President William Taft would officially declare statehood on Feb. 12, 1912.
But then came more waiting.
The Washington correspondent of The Arizona Republican sent a note to the newsroom on Feb. 10, 1912, that Taft would delay the statehood announcement by two days. The newspaper said Arizona’s territorial governor, Richard Sloan, got word around the same time.
The fact that the new statehood day would be on Valentine’s Day was not mentioned. What was mentioned was that the original statehood day would have coincided with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
The reason for the delay was that Taft had scheduled a visit to New York.
“The principal cause of disappointment to the people of this state is not over the delay of a couple of days, but because they could not celebrate admission and the anniversary of Lincoln’s birth on the same day,” read a front-page story.
The editorial board was not as polite.
“This decision has been made by the president because he happens to want to take a trip to New York Monday forenoon and; perforce, he hasn’t the time to affix his name to the statehood proclamation before he starts,” an editorial from Feb. 11, 1912, read.
“So far as the president is concerned the issuing of the statehood proclamation is a very simple thing. The principal part of the work is the copying of some other proclamation by a stenographer.
“The president has a dozen lawyers at his beck and call, any one of whom could pass upon the legality of the paper in five minutes. All William H. Taft would have to do is write his name, which happens to contain an even dozen letters, with two I’s to dot and a T to cross.
“Surely, the necessary time could have been taken for the performance of that gigantic task.”
Even on Feb. 14, Arizona was kept waiting. The signing of the proclamation was supposed to take place at 8 a.m. Arizona time. But the telegram informing the new state’s leaders did not arrive until after 9 a.m. The state’s first officer, Sidney P. Osborn, secretary of state, took the oath of office at 10:30 a.m.
Governor-elect George W.P. Hunt started his walk to the Capitol from the Ford Hotel, at Second Avenue and Washington Street, around 11:15 a.m. He made good time, according to a Republican article. He didn’t look tired, “though the exertion had brought his wide expanse of forehead that in later years has reached unusual depth, a beaded canopy of perspiration.”
Hunt and others milled around until just before noon, when Hunt took the oath of office, its final word ending “less than a minute before the noon hour,” the paper reported.
Only a few hundred people were present for the oath.
“It was a trifle strange that the inauguration exercises should attract so few people,” a Republican editorial said. “That an event to which Arizonans have looked forward for years, an event that has been more than any other one thing the topic of conversation the past year and a half, should draw only a few hundred people for the climax of this most interesting and important happening is past comprehension.”
It’s not as if people weren’t in town. The famed orator and three-time Democratic candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan, was at the Capitol for the ceremony and delivered his own speech in downtown Phoenix at 2 p.m. That speech attracted 5,000 people.
Maybe Arizona residents were just tired of waiting for statehood.
Written by Richard Ruelas