1914: A Gathering of Good Roads Advocates in the Grand Canyon State

April 16, 1914

Public officials and other good roads advocates from both Arizona and neighboring New Mexico met at a country club in the Warren District community of southeastern Arizona’s city of Bisbee.  “The occasion assumed all of the qualities of an interstate love fest,” proclaimed the Arizona-based Bisbee Daily Review newspaper.

Just over two years earlier, New Mexico and Arizona had joined the union and in the process became the two newest states – a distinction they would hold for about 45 more years until Alaska and Hawaii likewise came on board. Delegations from New Mexico and Arizona were now together at that Bisbee country club to promote their shared support for new and improved roads in that corner of the nation and praise each other for their respective efforts to date. 

While New Mexico Governor William Calhoun McDonald could not attend that early-afternoon event due to a last-minute schedule conflict back home, others from the Land of Enchantment were at the country club on behalf of both him and their state. Arizona Governor George W. P. Hunt was on hand with his own delegation.

The event started off with introductions and an informal reception, followed by lunch. The Bisbee Daily Review noted, “With coffee and cigars came the speeches which furnished an hour of [enlightenment] and entertainment.”

The first of the speakers was Hunt. The Arizona governor, who had taken to calling himself the “Old Walrus” due to his handlebar mustache and hefty weight, held forth about the importance of good roads and the partnership between both states in this regard. The Bisbee Daily Review reported, “The Governor expressed approval of the co-operation between New Mexico and Arizona in establishing public highways that would be excellent in themselves and of mutual value in building up the Southwest.”

Other speakers that afternoon included James A. French, New Mexico’s state highway engineer.  French took the time to pay tribute to the roadwork accomplished to date in Arizona and then touch upon the highways network under development in his own state. Arizona’s state highway engineer likewise addressed the group. His name was Lamar Cobb, and the Bisbee Daily Review asserted that it was “to his guiding genius the good roads policy of Arizona is entrusted.”

Cobb talked about the progress being made with the construction of roads in his state and attributed those results to his division engineers. He also used his moment in the spotlight there to talk about the fiscal needs involved in getting future work done, saying that the money from a bond issue of five billion dollars would allow the creation of 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) of roads within the state. “The work would be done more swiftly and more economically than if left to the action of the respective counties,” reported the Bisbee Daily Review in summarizing his other remarks on that hoped-for bond measure for the next state legislative session.

After that gathering at the country club, Hunt and others in attendance traveled via automobiles on a recently constructed road to the city of Tombstone in that same region of Arizona. Hunt’s plans for the next day entailed traveling with a group to Tucson to continue emphasizing the importance and benefits of goods roads in the Grand Canyon State.

The meeting of Arizona and New Mexico officials on that Thursday underscored both the ever-increasing push for new and improved roads throughout the nation and the willingness of states to join together to promote that message. These two priorities were very much embodied by the 43-year-old Lamar Cobb, both at that joint meeting in the southeastern part of his state and towards the end of the year when he would become one of the founders of the American Association of State Highway Officials.

The above photo, which was taken during that decade, depicts a road near the town (now city) Chandler in Arizona’s Salt River Valley region.

For more information on the history of highways in Arizona, please check out https://azdot.gov/sites/default/files/2019/07/cultural_good_roads_everywhere.pdf

Additional information on the history of highways in New Mexico is available at https://dot.state.nm.us/content/dam/nmdot/Infrastructure/EDS/2004-1.pdf

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