Arizona may be young but it has plenty of history. The 48th state has its fair share of events, cultures, and traditions worth documenting. It’s also home to some great historical societies that bring this history to life. These societies focus on different aspects of history that are each uniquely Arizonan. Here are the best historical societies in Arizona.
Back in 1864, Arizona was still a territory and the nation was in the midst of the Civil War. In an effort to document history, Arizona lawmakers created the Arizona Historical Society. Today, the AHS remains the oldest historical agency in the state. Their 73 certified museums contain collections exceeding three million objects pertaining to Arizona’s rich history. Visiting one of their museums provides unique insight into how the past shaped Arizona’s future. Their efforts are also seen through museum workshops, history presentations, and grant programs in every corner of the state.
The “Wickedest Town in the West” is alive and well thanks to the Jerome Historical Society. Once the fourth largest city in Arizona, Jerome’s population plummeted after the closing of the local mines in the 1950s. Jerome had already become a virtual ghost town by the time the Jerome Historical Society was formed in 1953. However, the group has helped preserve the rich history of Jerome’s heyday. Today, the group owns eight commercial buildings, including the acclaimed Mine Museum, and an archive over 11,000 photos and documents. Their annual Ghost Walk is a tour of the history of Jerome complete with dramatic performances from locals.
Glendale’s history can be traced back to the 1880s. That’s when Illinois transplant William Murphy constructed the Arizona Canal—a 40-mile canal along the Salt River in an area that eventually became Glendale. This is just one of the many historical tidbits found at the Glendale Historical Society. They aim to collect, preserve, and distribute information regarding Glendale’s past. They offer tours of local landmarks including Manistee Ranch and Sahuaro Ranch. Additionally, their research library includes yearbooks, newspapers, city maps, and other publications that reveal the rich history of this local city.
What Tubac may lack in size it makes up for in history. The word Tubac is derived from a Pima Indian language meaning “low place.” The Pima’s are just one of five distinct groups that have occupied this small southern Arizona area. The Tubac Historical Society aims to promote a better understanding of the diverse history relevant to its area and the American southwest. They support their mission through educational programs, preservation of historic sites, and through events. They host everything history lectures to picnics in an effort to bring their mission to light.
The B-26 Marauder Historical Society is the largest organization dedicated to the history of the famous B-26 Martin Marauder. This medium-range bomber was a hugely influential aircraft in World War II. Society members from around the world help to gather archives, documents, maps and publications related to the plane. Tucson is home to the organizations headquarters. It is home to international archives, a restored Martin B-26, and large events aimed at honoring the many World War II veterans.
The Tempe Historical Society promotes programs, events, and conversations aimed at illuminating Tempe’s history. The group began in 1969 and immediately began gathering artifacts related to Tempe’s history. Their rich collection can be found at the Tempe History Museum. The museum creates new, featured exhibitions each year that showcase Tempe’s history. The society focuses on Tempe’s history from the 1870s through the post-World War II-era population boom. Additionally, they host many events geared towards local history such as the talk series Arizona Storytellers.
The Arizona Jewish Historical Society was founded in 1981 in order to preserve the heritage of Arizona’s Jewish communities. They own and operate the Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, a historic former synagogue and church built in 1921. The historic landmark includes a museum gallery and hosts cultural programs. The society maintains a collection of over 50,000 documents, photographs, and artifacts relating to Jewish life in the American Southwest. Their educational programs include documentary screenings, book discussions, and helping to run the “We Remember the Holocaust” project in downtown Phoenix.
As far as history goes—the Grand Canyon is hard to beat. The epic canyon’s history dates back thousands of years. The Grand Canyon Historical Society celebrates this history by promoting studies and preservation efforts of the natural wonder. Founded in 1984, the society hosts myriad field trips and outings and engages in research and projects related to the Grand Canyon’s history. Their education outreach is seen through their magazine, The Ol’ Pioneer, and their participation in historical symposiums.
Seligman is known as the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66.” In 1987, Seligman gained that title after the state of Arizona dedicated Route 66 a historic highway. The Seligman Historical Society preserves the historic buildings and artifacts from the town that has become a destination for Route 66 fans. They currently support the Seligman Historic District and have been raising funds for the restoration of the historic Cottage Hotel.