“For decades, school children in Arizona have been taught the five C’s: Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus and Climate. That’s what I studied when growing up in St. John’s and that’s what my children learned growing up in Tucson.
“The five C’s have been the driving force behind Arizona’s economy. They have traditionally been what made our towns and communities grow. They provided jobs and opportunities. The five C’s gave economic security to past generations and real hope to future generations.
“All that, however, is changing. Arizona, like the rest of the country, is undergoing an economic transformation. Whole new industries are being created, while others die or struggle to survive. Business as usual is changing. Arizona is moving from a mining and agriculturally oriented economy, to a high-technology and service based economy. This is changing the patterns of where Arizonans live and work.”
— Congressman Morris Udall, “Arizona–Where We Came From, Where We’re Going”, April 1984 report to constituents.
That was 1984. Change continues in Arizona, across the nation and the globe. But historically, Arizona’s prosperity was rooted in the “C’s.”
Postcards for tourists have documented the Five “C’s” over the years. This photo by Hubert A. Lowman published by Fred Harvey shows a group just off a Fred Harvey tour bus at Hopi Point gazing in awe at the colorful erosions ca. 1956. Preserved by the dry climate, Grand Canyon National Park has long been a popular Arizona attraction.
The First “C” Was Copper and Mining
Beginning in the twentieth century Arizona has always been the leading copper producing state in the nation. Arizona mines produce over half the country’s copper, and the metal generates more value than any other mineral mined in the state. As inflation increased its value, copper made $1.1 billion in 1981, a recession year, then $2.2 billion by 1988. From 1860 to 1938, Arizona mines extracted 8.6 million tons of pure copper.
Arizona used to be nicknamed The Copper State when this photo by Jim Sexton was published around 1960. Since then it’s been The Grand Canyon State. The photo shows part of the Inspiration Consolidated Copper Company operation at Miami, Arizona, including part of the tremendous waste pile.
The Second “C” Was Cattle and Sheep
Native Americans in the southwest did not domesticate animals until Spanish missionaries taught the Pima and Tohono O’odam peoples to raise cattle about 300 years ago. Mexicans became skilled vaqueros and cattle ranchers. After Arizona became part of the US, Texas cowboys moved longhorn herds to the territory. Despite early setbacks from northern Arizona snow and widespread drought, the number of cattle increased from nearly 169,000 in 1883 to more than 491,000 ten years later. Herds peaked at 1.75 million head in 1918, falling to 750,000 by 1940 and then increasing again to 1.02 million in 2009. But Arizona still ranks only 31st in the US for numbers of cattle.
In the 1880s Texas cowboys really did rope Arizona mavericks for branding. Then cowboys competed in rodeos, and finally the rodeos and roping lessons came to the dude ranches in the 1920s when this postcard was made.
Sheep ranching used to be popular in Arizona and even a few cattle ranchers crossed over to shepherd the wooly animals. By 1917, the number in Arizona peaked at 1.42 million head, then fell off during the depression years. After the 1960s, most sheep, and goats too, roamed the vast Navajo reservation. Total number in the state was 125,000 in 1997 and 150,000 in 2009. In 2007, Arizona ranked 11th in the nation for numbers of sheep and lambs.
Americans have long been fed both comedy and drama based on stereotypical portrayals of cowboys herding Herefords. If you want to ride a giant concrete rabbit, stop at Jackrabbit Trading Post on Interstate-40 a few miles west of Joseph City. Most color postcards from 1900 to 1940 were heavily “retouched” and colorized black & white photos, often at variance with reality.
The Third “C” Was Cotton and Agriculture
The third “C” for Cotton really represents all agricultural production, including the next two “C’s,” citrus and climate. Abundant sunshine in Arizona makes trees and flowers blossom in winter and crops flourish throughout the year, as long as you irrigate the thirsty desert soil. Virtually all crops in Arizona are irrigated from storage reservoirs or deep wells. With increased water production over the years, Arizona now ranks second in the country for acres of lettuce, second for lemons, third for duram wheat and third for both acres and value of vegetables grown, including melons and potatoes.
“Cotton does well here,” reported an 1897 Phoenix Chamber of Commerce promotional booklet, “but owing to its low price and the fact that there are so many other crops that pay better, no attempt is made to grow it.” In just a few years that changed. The country moved to wearing more cotton clothing and driving on cotton cord tires. When boll weevils attacked the crop in the southeast, Arizona farmers turned to resistant Egyptian varieties, especially long-staple cotton. Prices went brutally up and down from 1916 to 1935, but mechanical pickers and crop dusters continued to boost production. By 1939, cotton provided $12.5 million to the state, more than 23% of the total cash income of Arizona ranch and farm production. It had become the largest industry in the Salt River Valley and the biggest cash crop in the state.
Children were along side parents in the fields when this view was photographed about 1939 in southern Arizona. In the 1930s, growers advertised widely for migrant hand pickers who sweated both in the fields and their tents or rude shacks. (Hope you don’t mind—I colorized this card to fit the mood. The original is a black & white “Real Photo Post Card.”)
And the best years were yet to come. Cotton planting peaked at 690,000 acres in 1953 but yield per acre continued to grow. Production peaked at 1.6 million bales in 1981, with the most per acre of any field in the US. By 2008, Arizona cotton farmers grew 2.24 million tons of fiber on 260,000 acres with a yield again leading the nation at 8.6 tons per acre. The state produced half the long-staple cotton in the US in 1969. In 2007, Arizona ranked ninth in the nation for value of cotton and cottonseed. In the 1960s, cotton was the number one crop in Arizona, but alfalfa grown for feed was second. By 2008, acres in alfalfa exceeded acres of cotton, returning to the ranking in Arizona of a hundred years ago.
The Fourth “C” Was Citrus
For the citrus industry in Arizona by the 1930s grapefruit was king, then oranges and finally lemons. In 1938, Arizona shipped the equivalent of 4,536 rail car loads of grapefruit, 672 carloads of oranges and 11 carloads of lemons to other states. Production of grapefruit peaked at 8.2 million crates during the 1946-47 season. In 1991-92, 5.6 million cartons of grapefruit were shipped, but by 2008 only 200,000. In 1940 only 600,000 boxes of oranges were sold, compared to a 1968-69 peak of 10.5 million. By 2008 the number was back down to 760,000 boxes. More than twice as much money is made growing oranges now as grapefruit ($2.7 million vs. $1.2 million in 2007). But 25-times the income from oranges is realized by sales of lemons ($49.1 million in lemon sales in 2007). Arizona ranks second in the country for production of lemons and fourth for oranges and grapefruit. Lemon production peaked in 1974-75 at 14.4 billion cartons, dropping to 3 billion in 2008.
The Arizona Grapefruit Program Committee in 1951 was not above using sex appeal to sell its produce. The back of this Genuine Curteich Colortone card noted shipments began early in November and lasted well into July from two or three pickings.
Ranked by market value, beef cattle production was the top agricultural product in Arizona in 2007. The same year, Yuma County exceeded all other counties in the state for cash receipts from farm commodities, both crops and livestock combined. Pinal County was second with Maricopa county third. Both of those counties made more money than Yuma from livestock, but Yuma County earned more than twice the amount earned in Maricopa County from crops. Agriculture is still big business in Arizona, though less golden than in years past.
This postcard published by J. Homer Smith of Yuma and mailed from that city in 1915 shows orange trees interspersed with ornamental palms. I’m not sure how common this was at the time. The citrus groves I’ve seen around Yuma are monocultures.
The Fifth “C” Was Climate, For Health and Recreation
You would think the blistering desert heat in summer would make climate a liability for the Arizona economy, but such is not the case. Before the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines many tuberculosis patients were cured by living in tents, open huts and sanitariums with wide screened porches in the dry air around Phoenix and Tucson. Believing that much sickness was the result of polluted air in congested cities, many pioneers found the cold, dry, crystal clear air in northern Arizona “bracing” and “invigorating.” Natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, saguaro forests and ancient ruins were available to tourists not just because the railroads and highways brought them here, but also because the warm arid climate preserved these landscapes. Whether for health or recreation, climate attracted people to Arizona, supporting a significant portion of the economy. After the beginning of the Twentieth Century visitors started coming to explore, experience dude ranch life or soak up the winter sun at a resort. After World War Two trailers and RVs began bringing significant numbers of winter visitors, “snow birds” as they say. And with the development of air conditioning, permanent residents began to flock to Arizona for the southern suburban lifestyle.
The Climatic Hotel in Yuma was famous for promising free meals if ever 24-hours were to pass without a glimpse of the sun. They didn’t give away many meals. This card is postmarked 1912; another from 1908 shows it was the “Pilot Knob Hotel” then. I’m not sure about the “moving stairway.” (To fit the climate, I’ve added some more yellow tint to this yellowed black & white original.)
The Jokake Inn (pronounced “joe-CAULK-kee,” meaning “mud house” in the Hopi language) has been a popular winter resort since it opened in 1928. This 1946 postcard shows the pool and the main building of adobe bricks which survives as part of the massive Phoenician resort on East Camelback Road in Scottsdale.
The Five “C’s” Have Been Eclipsed by a Big “M”
Another “C” has been Computers and the high-tech electronics industry. Maybe Communications is another “C,” recognizing Arizona’s role as a transportation and communications corridor spanning the continent. Military “camps” might be considered another “C,” recognizing the role that military spending has played in the Arizona economy over the years, beginning with the first four forts in 1860, booming during the two world wars and finally spurring the manufacturing of weapons beginning in the 1950s. Following World War Two, Arizona retained three Air Force bases, a Naval Air Station, two Army bases and an ordnance depot, adding 18 underground nuclear missile silos in the 1960s.
This is an artist’s depiction of an intercontinental ballistic missile in its underground blast-proof facility at a once secret location in Arizona. The technology was replaced by submarines and cruise missiles. Now visitors can tour a silo near Green Valley preserved by the Pima Air Museum in Tucson. (I colorized this card red to fit the mood. The original is black & white.)
Ironically, the “growing” of trees and “harvesting” them with a permit from the US Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service is considered “manufacturing,” some say the earliest manufacturing sector in the state. With the largest continuous ponderosa pine forest in North America, the lumbering industry was an Arizona cash cow. Even after years of significant decline, the 19.4 million acres of forest in the state produced nearly 19 million cubic feet of wood harvest in 1998.
Many first-time visitors to Arizona are surprised by the amount of snowfall in winter. About a third of the state is high in elevation, especially the Colorado Plateau in the northeast corner. Pine and fir forest covers about 25% of land area, supporting in years past a thriving timber industry. This is the Arizona Lumber and Timber sawmill in Flagstaff about 1937, when there were 21 similar establishments in the state, employing 1,527 people and paying $1.3 million in wages out of a value of $3.8 million in products.
During that post-war boom that transformed Arizona, manufacturing grew to surpass the Five “C’s.” A concentration of aerospace and electronics factories, mostly in the two largest urban areas, blossomed in the 1950s and 60s. By 1980, the value of manufactured products from Arizona factories amounted to more than twice the total value of mining, agriculture and forest products ($2.05 billion vs. $896 million). Moreover, the income from transportation, communications and utilities ($897 million), retail and wholesale trade ($1.2 billion), the service industries ($2.2 billion), and government revenue ($2.7 billion) each alone exceeded any of the Five “C’s” by 1980.
Sources of statistics and rankings of the Five “C’s”:
Arizona Agricultural Statistics(annual)
Arizona Historical and Biographical Record(1896)
Arizona, its people and resources(1972)
Arizona’s Forest Resources, 1999(USDA, Forest Service)
A Survey of Phoenix. . .(1941)
The Arizona Atlas(1981)
http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/kids/five_Cs.htm Arizona Secretary of State, Kid’s Page.