President William Howard Taft signs the bill admitting Arizona as the 48th state in 1912.
If our advanced high-speed rail system backward dependence on overcrowded airliners works, I'll be on a panel next Friday at the national convention of Netroots Nation in Phoenix. The topic: How Progressive Arizona Became Tea Party Arizona.
Because panelists never get to say as much as they'd like, I'll set the table here.
Arizona indeed began as a capital-P Progressive state. This included a weak, almost figurehead of a governor and a strong Legislature, as well as the initiative and referendum where the people could essentially legislate on their own. Statewide officials were required to stand for re-election every two years. They could also be recalled.
Importantly for a state where mining interests and railroads exercised enormous power, the state constitution created a Corporation Commission with wide-ranging regulatory power over the capitalists.
All these were hallmarks of the Progressive Era, which developed as a response to the robber barons and inequality of the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s.
Theodore Roosevelt busted the trusts and more vigorously applied tools that had been passed by Congress earlier, such as the Sherman Antitrust Act and Interstate Commerce Commission. He signed the Pure Food and Drug Act, which, like many Progressive measures, was a result of horrors exposed by muckraking journalists
Had TR won in 1912, he would have gone much further, enacting reforms that had to wait for his cousin, Franklin.