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'Historic Photos of Phoenix,' a blend of facts, stories and photography

February 13, 2008

Eduardo Obregón Pagán, an associate professor at Arizona State University, has authored “Historic Photos of Phoenix,” a book that highlights the history of Phoenix, its important events, and its legendary figures.

Meticulously researched and documented, “Historic Images” is a remarkable blend of facts, stories, research and photography. It tells the story of the “Valley of the Sun” that reflects both a diverse and progressive spirit, and a unique culture that is the foundation of the city’s present-day popularity and prosperity.

“I am fascinated with the stories these photographs tell,” says Pagán, an Arizona native and history professor in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “They are the closest thing that we have to time travel, and they allow us to peek into the window of the past.”
“Historic Photos of Phoenix” includes nearly 200 rare photographs, many of which have never been published. The photos offer a glimpse into the history of the Phoenix community and include images of the Hotel Adams and Westward Ho, Riverside and South Mountain parks, the Cave Creek Flood of 1905, George Hunt as Arizona’s first governor, the Phoenix Senators baseball team, Arizona's Rough Riders, and many others.
With the coming of the railroad in the late nineteenth century, the town of Phoenix in the Territory of Arizona would experience a rapid inflow of settlers who would call themselves Phoenicians. These pioneers would ultimately help bring about Arizona’s statehood in 1912.
People came to the Valley of the Sun in search of employment, to make their fortune, to recover their health, or to escape a colder environment. In time, these immigrants, outlanders, newcomers, and transients of Phoenix left their mark on the rapidly expanding city. Now, more than a century later, traces of these first settlers have either been rewritten or erased completely.
“The early days of Phoenix were much more bilingual and multicultural than what the city has become,” says Pagán. “What began as an integrated settlement of Mexicans, Anglos, and Indians later became a segregated city that sought to civilize Indians and erase Mexican language and culture.
“Whites, Mexicans, Indians, and African Americans worked and lived together until the coming of the railroads when people began moving to the Valley from all parts of the country, eventually overwhelming the early generation of Phoenicians. After the arrival of the railroads, the schools and newspapers were no longer bilingual but monolingual and segregation began to carve up how people interacted with one another.”
In his book, Pagán recovers the forgotten past and gives readers a poignant glimpse at the early settlers who toiled to establish permanent homesteads. “Historical Photos of Phoenix” is a detailed snapshot of the people who did many of the same things we do today: work hard, provide for their families, and enjoy life.
“Some of my favorite photographs are the earliest ones in this collection. If you look closely at the clothing and hats of the people pictured, you won’t see anything like what Hollywood shows today about cowboys, Indians, pioneers, or the ‘Wild West.’ Men and women in Phoenix dressed pretty much like their counterparts did in larger cities.”
Having changed dramatically during the 20th century, Phoenix experienced an unprecedented growth after the Second World War, bringing with it a new style of architecture in the form of banks, offices, stores and government buildings.
“The Phoenix of 1910 was not the same city as the Phoenix of 1930. So many of our historical major buildings simply did not survive into the present day, so in some ways these images allow us to look at a place that no longer exists.”
Published by Turner Publishing, “Historic Photos of Phoenix” is part of Turner’s Historic Photos series, which highlights the history of the great cities, important events, and legendary figures across America.
“This book is unique for two reasons,” explains publisher Todd Bottorff, “the high quality of printing and binding and the fact that many have never seen these photos.”
With scenes of parades to politics, streetcars to celebrations, presidential visits to the Arizona Rough Riders, “Historic Photos of Phoenix” communicates the events and everyday life of two centuries of people and two centuries of America.
“The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is quite true, and I hope this book will give a greater appreciation of the history of Phoenix history to all readers,” says Pagán.