May 15, 2022

William Randolph Hearst brings 15 Congressmen to Prescott

(Forgive the typo!)
In 1903, William Randolph Hearst was a 40 year-old newspaper baron and US Congressman from New York who was under serious consideration for the Democratic nomination for President the following year. He desired statehood for the southwestern territories of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona and took a delegation of other congressmen and their wives on a whirlwind trip through those three large land masses to find evidence that they were worthy of statehood to bring back to Washington.

On the 17th of October, the special train would stop in Prescott and he would be completely surprised at what he found.

Hearst first went to Chicago where a special train was waiting. One reporter described it as “magnificent.” A shiny, new engine pulled a composite car, a baggage and smoker car, two sleepers, and an observation car. The party consisted of 37 people including one senator, fifteen congressmen, and their wives. Two members of the Arizona Territorial legislature would later join them including JF Wilson of Prescott.

The first stop on the trip was New Mexico and Albuquerque. Next stop was Arizona. They arrived in Williams in the early morning of the 16th where the delegation immediately headed to spend the day at the Grand Canyon. They left the Canyon around 10:30pm and paused at Ash Fork before arriving in Prescott. 

They arrived around 6am, when the special train announced its arrival “by the screeching of the whistle…awakening echoes from the mountainside and awakening many sleeping citizens as well,” the Weekly Journal-Miner remarked.

A committee of ladies was appointed to entertain the wives and daughters of the congressional party. At 8am they boarded a large carriage known as the Tally Ho, which was drawn by six horses. It led a small parade of vehicles down Cortez St. toward the Plaza. They arrived at a platform which was built for the occasion on the Gurley St. side of the Plaza. Here, at 8:30am, Mayor Burke gave a welcoming address.

The mayor immediately gave the congressional delegation the keys to the city and offered to them “its freedom, its hospitality and its undisguised welcome,” the Prescott Morning Courier reported.

To Hearst he said: “you are a product of this mighty west... [He was born in San Francisco;] and are making a titanic fight for the rights of…the people of Arizona [who] indulge in hopeful anticipation for statehood as a result of your personal visits and efforts in that behalf.”

One hurdle Arizona had to overcome in its quest for statehood was the public perception of the area based on fictional wild west novels. Mayor Burke dealt with this perception describing the territory as having “peace within our borders [with] the laws respected and order prevailing everywhere.” It was a land of “brave and patriotic people devoted to the flag." Burke reminded the men that Arizona was “larger in area than nearly all of New England…with mountains seamed with precious metals, with fertile valleys and a climate absolutely unsurpassed.”

The party was then led through Murphy Park and got back to the Plaza by 9:00. “The pupils of the public and private schools were arranged on the street on the north side of the Plaza…and each was provided with a flag which was waved as a token of welcome.” However, although the kids stood two deep, the Journal-Miner lamented that “the children did not turn out in large[r] numbers.”

Mayor Burke walks along side Wm R Hearst 10/17/1903

The delegation was then taken to Prescott’s new school building “and went through it from the upper floor to the basement. “This was one of the greatest surprises to them,” the paper revealed, for they did not expect such a modern and well equipped educational institution. “Mr. Hearst remarked that New York would be proud to replace some of her present structures for a building as modern and up to date as this.”

None of the delegation had yet eaten that morning, so after the tour of the school, they were brought to the Hotel Burke “where an elaborate breakfast was served.” At 10am they left for the depot, but had to wait until 10:45am for the northbound train to arrive before they could depart for Phoenix.

“Nearly every one of the party met old friends and acquaintances here,” the paper remarked. One congressman from Missouri said “that he had met more old acquaintances in Prescott than in any town they had visited. He also remarked that Prescott was the best looking town that he had seen since he left his native state, and when he left Congress he thought of coming out here to locate.”

From Phoenix, the party would go through El Paso and then a handful of of cities in Oklahoma before heading home. 

Republican leaning newspapers believed the trip was entirely too short to do any good, but all the papers considered Hearst an ally in the quest for statehood and even the conservative ones called him "a friend of Arizona."

Some thought Hearst's tour was really for publicity in seeking the presidency. However, another man from New York, Alton Parker, won the nomination before losing to incumbent Teddy Roosevelt in 1904.

ALSO ENJOY: Fight! Badger vs. Bulldog vs. Hypnotist

A 1911 episode of an animal fight with a visiting hypnotist who regretted becoming involved. (Gory details withheld.)


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Buffalo Times, 10/13/1903; Pg. 5, Cols. 4-5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 10/21/1903; Pg. 2, Cols. 4-5.

Arizona Republican, 10/17/1903; Pg. 1, Cols. 4-5.

Prescott Morning Courier, 10/19/1903; Pg. 1, Cols. 4-5.

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