WHEN YOUR VOTE COUNTS, WHERE’S YOUR EYE?

 

As the legislative season of 1889 approached in the Arizona Territory, the capitol city had been established in the mining town of Prescott, but there was a growing movement to transfer the capitol to Phoenix. The city in the “Valley of the Sun” was growing rapidly because of the spreading citrus groves and farm land fed by the Verde, Gila, and Salt Rivers, and the mines around Prescott were conversely dwindling. If it hadn’t been for a glass eye, and the work of a lady of the evening, perhaps, when the Territory became a State in 1914, the capitol would have still been in Prescott.

When the legislature met, the enterprising members from Maricopa County moved legislation to transfer the capitol to Phoenix. At this time in the history of the Territory, there was a growing imbalanced of population between the northern and central areas. But, the Tucson delegation sided with the north to put a stop to the movement – a rivalry that still stands today. So, when the resolution came to the floor, the Prescott supporters went into action immediately and accepted the challenge. The result was a deadlock – a dead-even split. Neither side could muster a majority – not even the swing of one vote.

The debate raged. Neither side would give an inch, and weeks passed without action on the bill. It became obvious that some of the more nimble-witted members of the Phoenix faction would have to come up with a creative strategy.

So, a delegation was formed to visit a local establishment along Whiskey Row and see a popular lady-of-the-evening, commonly known as “Kissing Jennie.”   It was commonly understood by members of the legislature than one of the northern members had a particular liking and association with “Jennie,” and had spent long evenings in her company. So, with the encouragement of a well-greased palm, and a bit of a twinkle in her eye, she accepted the challenge.

It was also generally known among the members of the august body that this member of the legislature had a singular glass eye, of which he was justly proud, as well he might be, for it was the only glass eye known in the Territory.

In order to relax more completely in the company of Kissing Jennie, our legislator had the habit of removing his glass ornament and placing it in a glass of water at the bedside. On the evening appointed, Jennie was unusually thirsty and drank deeply of the container – easily within her reach. The glass bobble disappeared.

The following morning the legislator, being a proud and fastidious man, refused to appear at the legislature’s morning session. The Phoenix members moved the previous question on the bill to move the capitol. Members of the opposition were frantic – they were short ONE VOTE. In desperation they urged that the vote be held over until the afternoon. The central block, knowing that nature could not work that quickly, agreed. The north rushed off to button-hole the one-eyed colleague, but he was a vain man and refused to budge.

Then Jennie was implored to produce the eye, but she claimed that nature would not oblige. That afternoon the votes were counted, and the act to move the capitol to Phoenix was passed by the slim margin of one vote.

It may be a deplorable oversight that the great seal of the State of Arizona does not include as a center-piece a glass eye – one that twinkles in the summer in the Valley of the Sun.

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