The History Of Phoenix Arizona

The capital city of the state of Arizona and fifth largest city, by population, in the entire country, Phoenix has a rich and interesting history. While numerous gravity defying sky scrapers line the Phoenix skyline today, the city has grown leaps and bounds from the bare dry Salt River valley that was once home to the Hohokam tribe of Native Americans.

More about the history of Phoenix, AZ:

Early Beginnings

For more than 2,000 years, the area that is now covered by Phoenix was occupied by the Hohokam tribe of Native Americans. The tribe constructed a series of canals to distribute water all over the Salt River valley, in order to make the area habitable. Some of those canals are still used today.

Around 1450 AD, the tribe vanished from the area. While historians are not sure why the tribe vanished, it is assumed that an extended drought that occurred in the area around this period is to blame.

Founding And Incorporation

The Phoenix area came under US control after the Mexican-American war; around 1848. Around 20 years later, John W. Swilling, founded the Phoenix. Swilling and his group of settlers saw the agricultural potential of the area and decided to build a series of canals, just like the Hohokam Indians that previously inhabited the area, to solve the water problem.

The name Phoenix was suggested by Darrel Duppa, a member of Swilling’s party. He suggested that the area would rise from its state of ruin, after Hohokam Indians left, to prosperity, the same way that the mythical phoenix rises from its ashes. From just 250 original settlers, the population of Phoenix had grown to 2,500 people by the time it was incorporated in 1881.

The arrival of the Southern Pacific Train in 1887, would transform Phoenix from an agricultural area into a major trade center; transforming the area forever!


Phoenix became a state capital the same day that Arizona became a state, February 14, 1912. This marked another major milestone in the city’s growth.

While the area’s economy initially centered on the five Cs i.e. cattle, climate, cotton and copper, it would be later transformed after World War 2 by the arrival of tech companies.

The transformation of the local economy, together with the introduction of home air conditioning – which made the hot weather more tolerable – worked to attract more people to the Phoenix area. Between the 1960s and early 2000s, the annual population growth rate averaged 4 percent.

Today, Phoenix is home to more than one a half million residents. Covering more than 520 square miles, the area continues to attract more residents with each passing day.

Must attend Annual Events in Phoenix AZ

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