In 1941, Arthur Horton, a professor at Arizona State Teachers College, the precursor of ASU, published a remarkable Survey of Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun. What makes it still valuable is that it provides us with the most authoritative examination of Phoenix in that decade, or at any time until perhaps the 1960s.
The exhaustive report is also helpful in understanding a decade that meant far more than American involvement in World War II and its effects on Phoenix (which I wrote about here). That lasted less than four years out of 10. Much more was going on.
The decade began with a strong local economy, almost entirely thanks to the New Deal’s enormous largesse toward Phoenix and Arizona. The stimulus spending worked and helped pull Phoenix out of the Great Depression. By 1940, Americans were doing better and traveling, including visiting the mostly new resorts including the Arizona Biltmore, Camelback Inn, Jokake Inn, Adobe House, Ingleside Inn, Wigwam Guest Ranch and San Marcos at Chandler, as well as Phoenix’s premier hotels. The “Valley of the Sun” tourist promotion launched by the Chamber of Commerce and the railroads was paying off. To be sure, not everyone was doing better: 10,000 in the county, most in Phoenix, were on relief.
Agriculture remained the mainstay of the Salt River Valley’s economy. According to Horton, Arizona had 1.1 million grapefruit trees, 625,000 orange trees; 17,000 lemon trees; 5,000 tangerine trees, and 2,675 lime trees. Most of these were in the American Eden in and around Phoenix.