Bisbee was the most prosperous city in the new state of Arizona on Feb. 14, 1912. It retained its rough edges, however, and celebrated statehood in true mining-camp style – setting off 48 sticks of dynamite in a mining hole near its downtown.
Next year’s centennial festivities will mimic that raucous salute – with a decrease in firepower necessitated by Homeland Security concerns. Copper mining ceased in Bisbee more than 30 years ago, but it remains the best place to envision what life was like in an Arizona mining town 100 years ago.
Its handsome Main Street, lined with substantial brick buildings, looks much the same as it did then. That streetscape was new when its residents celebrated statehood. Disastrous fires in 1907 and 1908 had leveled the wooden buildings in Tombstone Canyon.
The wealth of the city’s mining and merchant class made rebuilding a snap. Merchants set up shop amid the ashes, and most buildings were rebuilt within a year, using stone and brick this time.
Bisbee was officially Arizona’s third-largest city when President William H. Taft signed the statehood proclamation, with a population in the 1910 census of 9,019.
That figure, though, failed to include the residents who lived outside of what is now called “Old Bisbee,” including those who lived in Warren, Arizona’s first planned community, where stately mansions lined five-block-long Vista Park.