And it was Abe Lincoln who signed the bill creating the Arizona territory in 1863. Such facts and figures make up the new Arizona Almanac ($12.95, WestWinds Press), compiled by Dean Smith, a former newspaper writer and director of publications at Arizona State University for more than 25 years.
In a handy little guide that will appeal to newcomers and old-timers alike, Smith has put together a compendium of the state's history and useful information on government, entertainment attractions, points of interest, geography and climate.
The paperback guide is published by the Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company of Portland, Ore., which has produced almanacs for several other states. Two years ago, the company commissioned Smith to chronicle Arizona. He was a logical choice. A resident of the state since 1933, Smith has written 16 books and more than 200 magazine articles. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Arizona State University.
Now retired from ASU, he and two assistants compiled the information and have organized it into an accessible, readable fashion from Adobe to Zoos.
There are tables of past attorneys general, record temperatures, mileage between Arizona cities and annual events. There is a pronunciation guide: CHOY-yah. HEE-lah. PIE-yoot.
Sprinkled throughout the pages are plenty of nuggets about the state's past, dubbed "Looking Back": The 1881 Tombstone gun fight, former Gov. Evan Mechem's ousting, the Salt River floods of 1978 and 1980. As a historian, Smith said, "It was tempting to turn it into a history book. I had to fight that." His favorite period of Arizona history is the first decade of the territory - the Apache Wars, the end of the Civil War, the years when Geronimo cleverly eluded the Mexican and U.S. armies. But the almanac, which will be updated every two years, doesn't wallow in the past. A prominent entry is Gov. Jane Hull and her all-female cabinet. "The diversity of the state is its great charm," Smith said. Like his almanac, "There is a little bit of everything."
(The Arizona Republic, Nov. 12, 2000)