In 1921, the Tempe Normal School Cadet Company posed under the U.S. and Arizona flags with the silver cup they won in the State Cadet Rifle Match at Tucson.
The young men were officially the First Regiment of Arizona, and the Arizona flag behind them carries their regimental designation.
Rifle teams were popular in the early days in Arizona. They frequently competed in state and national matches, and it was one such match, a national competition held at Camp Perry, Ohio, in 1910, that the Arizona flag was designated.
Arizonans were pushing hard for statehood in 1910, and were beginning to think about adopting a flag for their fledgling state.
When the Arizona rifle team realized they would be the only team competing at Camp Perry without a flag, they decided to design their own. They gave the job to one of their team members, Charles Wilford Harris.
Harris used colors and designs with historical significance – red and gold for the Spanish colors believed to have been carried into Arizona by explorer Coronado, copper (in the form of a copper star) for the mining industry, and blue and gold previously designated as Arizona’s colors.
The 13 rays on the upper half of the flag – originally seven gold and six red – commemorated the original 13 U.S. colonies. A red bar across the flag represented Arizona’s involvement in the Indian wars.
The flag was sewn by Nan D. Hayden, wife of Carl Hayden, who was one of the team members and later Arizona’s longest-serving representative in Congress.
The first flag served the state unofficially for the next five years. Finally in 1915, three years after statehood, the red bar on the flag was removed, and the Legislature prepared to adopt the design as the official flag of Arizona.
There were immediate objections from Arizona’s Rough Riders, veterans who wanted the state to adopt the flag they had carried in the Spanish-American War, and the proposal was dropped.
In 1917, another effort was made to adopt the flag. J.J. Edwards of Yuma proposed reversing the sequence of rays to seven red and six gold – the present configuration – and moved that the Legislature adopt the flag.
Many legislators were hostile to the idea, calling the Harris design grotesque and proposing such changes as the addition of the Arizona coat of arms, a Gila monster or a gold eagle on a bright blue field. (The latter was rejected for fear it might be confused with the flag of Japan.)
Despite the controversy, the Edwards motion was voted on. It was generally thought the bill would fail, but it passed and, when Gov. Tom Campbell withheld his veto, automatically became law five days later.
Arizona’s state flag became official on February 21, 1917.
This Times Past article was originally published on October 26, 2001.
Photo courtesy university archives, Arizona State University; research by Jane Eppinga. ©Arizona Capitol Times.