The name Tucson is derived from the Native American word “Chuck-Son,” meaning, “Village of the dark spring at the foot of the mountains.” For centuries, Native Americans lived peacefully as nomads in the desert region until Anglo-Saxon settlers moved into the area in the late 1600s.
The first mission to be built in Arizona was built in 1700 by Christian settlers. The mission brought Christianity, order, and a small community to the otherwise sprawling native American settlement.
The second mission was called Mission San Xavier del Bac and was built by legendary Father Espinosa between 1756 and 1763. The mission thrived in the region, converting Native Americans to the ways of the Christian life. The construction of this mission was completed in 1797, many decades after it began. When the mission closed its doors as an official mission post, it was turned into a convent for nuns. The original mission structure still stands today and is undergoing renovations.
Spanish soldiers founded the city of Tucson in 1775. In 1821, after a long and bloody war, Mexico won the independence of the state of Arizona from its European Spanish-speaking counterpart, Spain.
The new colonists were not wholly welcome by the Native Americans, but they were accepted more than the Apache raiders that had been plaguing the region for many years, stealing and committing aggressive acts of violence.
Less than a century after its acquisition by Mexico, in 1854, as part of the Gadsden Purchase, the state of Arizona officially became part of the United States. The Gadsden Purchase allowed America to purchase not only Arizona but also the state of New Mexico from Mexico.
Afraid that their position of power deteriorates with the new acquisition, a long and bloody war ensued over the two states with the Apache Indian tribe. Finally, in 1912, on Valentine’s day, Arizona became the 48th state to officially join the union.
1880 introduced a whole new era to Tucson, bringing in the first Railroad Train. This opened up Tucson to even a greater cultural and economic opportunity, as it allowed for free trade to be born in the state once seen as deserted. The railroad allowed materials to be transported to Tucson bringing the price of materials to the region down and the desire to produce goods up. With the railroad also came the first cattle ranchers.
Adobe housing, consisting of walls of mud and brick beneath slate roofs, was considered very primitive to the hoards of immigrants that flowed into Tucson. These starter homes were replaced with structures first made of imported brick and lumber and later with concrete to suit the needs of the newer residents of the region.
The Arizona Citizen was the first newspaper to be published, circa 1870. The pioneering editor and publisher of the Arizona Citizen were John Wassman, a newspaperman with a flair for business. The paper is now called the Tucson Citizen and is the longest-running newspaper in the entire state of Arizona.
Tucson served as the capital of Arizona for one decade: from 1867 through 1877. In 1877, it was decided that nearby Phoenix would be the capital city. Tucson still remains one of the oldest towns in the United States.
On September 4, 1886, Geronimo, an Apache Native American warrior who had battled the American soldiers for 30 years, surrendered to American troops in a canyon in Arizona. This surrender marked the final wave of Native American aggression towards the new white settlers disappearing, or at least becoming less hostile.
Truly modern times caught up to Tucson in 1906, when the first electric streetcar was introduced to the arid city. Tucsonans did not know precisely what to expect from this new invention or how to use it. Some of the older residents even feared it, as they likewise feared the fast-paced development and change that was descending upon the region that until this point had remained a classic Southwestern simple-town. Thus, residents were hesitant to ride it – both the streetcar and the wave of progression. It took several years for the streetcar to really catch on.
Tucson was to get another dose of modernization only a decade later in 1919 when the first municipal airport was created. The change was especially difficult for the Native Americans, who were fond of the old ways of life. The Native Americans believed that these new inventions were created by the evil spirits and that all those who used them would not rest in the afterlife.
Hollywood and all its glory came to Tucson in 1933 for the filming of the now-classic Western film, “Arizona”. This film is a fascinating movie for architectural historians as the buildings shot in this movie are no longer standing.
Air conditioning was also introduced to Tucson in 1933 when it replaced “Swamp Coolers”, though these pre-air conditioner units are still sold today if you’re lucky enough to be able to find one. The swamp cooler truly represented the early days of resourcefulness civilization and invention in the early Southwester town.
A swamp cooler is a large box-like frame containing a big fan that has wet pads in between the walls of the structure. The pads are usually made of cedar shavings or cellulose. The fan draws in the hot air from outside and pushes it through the dripping wet pads. These pads are made continually wet by a water pump that is housed within the box. The air is then cooled by about 20 şF from the outside air. As the air evaporates water molecules from the pads, the fan then blows the water-cooled air through the case and out a vent. It is also called a swamp cooler by evaporation. To get a simple idea of how a swamp cooler works, wet the back of your hand and blow gently on it.
A swamp cooler is preferred in some southwestern homes in the dry climate as it uses quite a bit less electricity than an air conditioner and is considerably less expensive. They are also very easy to maintain. Another benefit of a swamp cooler is the please scent of cedar that is blow out with the cooled air. Swamp coolers do not work well in high humidity areas, however, as the evaporation process takes considerably longer.