University of Arizona

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Finding the Things You’re Not Looking For at UA Special Collections

Finding the Things You’re Not Looking For at UA Special Collections

I love archives because every time I’m in one I find something of intellectual curiosity and value.  Much of the time what I find is the sort of item that an undergraduate professor once told me was really only useful for “good cocktail party conversation.”

At least he deemed it “good.” 

In my short time here at Special Collections I stumbled upon something far more personal. Dear Reader, this is exactly the kind of thing you could use at a cocktail party.  One of my major projects has been to update some of the images for each archival collection’s webpage; this means that I’ve had the opportunity to go through many collections this summer, rather than processing just one.  When I got to AZ 206: Correspondence Relating to the Arizona State Flag I was not hopeful for a good image.  The entire collection consists of one skinny folder.  Yet, as I opened the folder, the page on top turned out to be a letter written to my Great Aunt, Mrs. Kirt L. Hart, née Marie Hartman. 

The story unfurled that for the first fourteen years or so of statehood, Arizonans did not tend to use the state flag.  Its meanings and history were lost to the public.  In 1926 my great aunt took it upon herself to find out what the colors and rays meant.  She received a letter back from Charles Harris, State of Arizona Adjutant General and creator of the flag, listing the following:

 

·         Colors: the state colors of blue and gold, and red and gold to honor the historical value of the banners that the Coronado Column used during the first Spanish expedition into Arizona. 

·         Copper star: for the outstanding state industry.

·         Thirteen rays: to honor the original colonies, as Arizona was the last state admitted within the continental limits of the US.

·         Setting sun: to represent Arizona as a western state.

My great aunt was part of a movement then, to help “make the Arizona State Flag better known and have it displayed more often.”  In the end the Secretary of State, James H. Kerby, called upon local groups including the Tucson Women’s Club to get the word out.  And they did: included in this small collection of correspondence is a clipping of a newspaper story, not only with a full reprint of Mrs. Kirt L. Hart’s letter from the flag’s creator, but also with a fake conversation between the column’s author, Effie Leese Scott, and the flag itself.

This find has renewed in me a sense of the small world that we live in.  These relatives had no children that I know of, and I do not know much about them.  I have a glimpse into their lives now, though: a treasure trove of information.  I even found out that 75 years later I lived directly across the street from where the Kirt L. Harts did in 1926!  You never know what you’ll find in an archive, especially when you’re not looking for it.  Come on down and take a look yourself.

-Sharlot Hart

Arizona State Flag Description, 1926