Do you know Arizona’s traditional five C’s? I’m talking about the most important elements of Arizona’s economy during the state’s development from a U.S. territory through statehood and well into the 20th century.
According to a Northern Arizona University telephone poll a few years ago, only 3 percent of survey respondents could identify all five C’s: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate.
Starting major mining operations in the 1870s, Arizona since 1910 has been the “copper capital of America, producing more copper than all other 49 states combined.”
After Father Eusebio Kino brought cattle into Arizona in the 1690s, cattle ranching grew to a peak of 1.75 million head in 1918 and remains at near 1 million head today.
Cotton was introduced as a cash crop to the Salt River Valley in the early 1900s, became Arizona’s largest money-making crop by 1940, and remains an important state agricultural product.
From the first groves planted near Phoenix in 1889, through expansion to Yuma and Mesa, grapefruit, oranges and lemons became important Arizona citrus crops and remain so today.
Arizona’s climate has always attracted visitors for its therapeutic benefits, shining a spotlight on the state’s natural beauty and providing a stellar environment for recreation — resulting in a steady migration of permanent residents to Arizona and a dynamic tourism industry.
As Arizona prepared for statehood in 1912, it adopted a Great Seal of the State of Arizona, incorporating the five C’s to feature industries of the state. Today that seal adorns official state documents, stationery and statute books. (It’s worth noting that several versions of an Arizona Territorial Seal used previously prominently depicted cactus, perhaps Arizona’s first C.)
Anyone growing up in Arizona through the 1970s was taught about the five C’s, not only because of their importance to the economy but also their meaning to Arizona’s heritage.
In a 1984 report to constituents, Rep. Morris Udall recognized the historic value of the five C’s but also economic changes that were occurring:
“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 is moving from a mining and agriculturally oriented economy to a high-technology and service-based economy.”
While the five C’s are still important, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the largest contributors to Arizona revenues in 2012 were services, real estate, trade, government, finance and insurance, health care and social assistance, and manufacturing — representing 82 percent of the total.
What about the future? Last December Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild introduced a two-year plan for the city that focuses on jobs and economic development. His five T’s may be applicable to the entire state of Arizona: Technology: manufacturing, research and development, sales and service; trade with Mexico and beyond; transportation of people and goods; tourism (group and individual); and teaching of all ages, at all levels.
Who knows? Maybe in the year 2114 one of my great-great … grandchildren will be reviewing Arizona’s 21st century five T’s.
In any case, the five C’s have been a vision of progress and prosperity for more than 100 years. I like the way Bruce Dinges, publications division director for the Arizona Historical Society, put it in the Arizona Capitol Times last year:
“The cowboy, the miner, the farmer, the fruit grower and the health-seeker are inextricable parts of our history — and our mythology. They personify who we are and what we strive to be. But, most of all, they are reminders of the optimistic outlook and pioneering spirit that continues to motivate Arizona and Arizonans. From this perspective, they are as relevant as ever.”
Next week: The first of five articles that highlight each of the five C’s, beginning with copper.