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Contributed by Arizona Highways
Arizona Highways magazine was born in the early 1920s. As automobiles emerged as the preferred mode of transportation in the U.S., a handful of states throughout the country developed magazines to entice motorists to travel newly developed roads. Sponsored by the states' departments of transportation, these magazines provide a unique resource for examining how the automobile changed the history of travel and helped to shape identities of place in America. Of these magazines, none date as far back or have featured the iconic photography that has made Arizona Highways a national treasure.
The very first publication in 1921 was a simple newsletter, with the first true magazine format of Arizona Highways published on April 15, 1925 by the engineers in the Arizona Highway Department (now the Arizona Department of Transportation). From the very beginning, the magazine contained travel stories and scenic photographs, although in the early years the photos were black-and-white. Those early issues also contained page after page detailing the Arizona Highway Department's road-building projects. To liven those pages, the editor speckled them with cartoons, promoting the careers of such humorists as Hal Empie and Bill Mauldin, who later won a Pulitzer Prize for his illustrations of soldiers Willy and Joe during World War II.
While in the first dozen years the magazine was focused on road construction topics aimed primarily at engineers and contractors, in 1937 the magazine changed dramatically. Raymond Carlson joined the staff as editor and shifted the focus from professional to consumer. Carlson introduced a literal "Who's Who" of landscape photographers inside the pages of the magazine to showcase the physical beauty and diversity of Arizona's landscape, flora, fauna, and people. Under Carlson's leadership, the true spirit of the magazine was born and endures to this day.
In the December 1940 issue, Carlson began to add a few color photographs by Max Kegley, a renowned photojournalist who specialized in Arizona's people and landscapes. Kegley is best known for his photographs of cowboys, Indians, rodeo sheep drives, and Arizona's unique topography.
The 1940 color issue included a number of Kegley's scenic photos, two pictures of Indian ruins, an Indian portrait, Mission San Xavier del Bac, cacti, and the first of what has become a tradition in the magazine: saguaro sunset photographs. Following that first color issue, Arizona Highways became a pioneer in color printing technology. Regular issues of full-color photography, including a 16-page portfolio of Arizona canyons, began in January 1944. In December of 1946, Arizona Highways made history by publishing the first nationally circulated magazine with full color on every page.
The lead photograph in the 1944 full-color portfolio was by Josef Muench, the German gardener who became one of the world's leading landscape photographers and a prolific contributor to Arizona Highways for more than 50 years. Josef's son, David Muench, followed in his father's footsteps to become among the world's great landscape photographers and continues to contribute to Arizona Highways today.
In the post World War II years, Carlos Elmer, who was known worldwide for his stunning landscape photography, was also an active collaborator for 50 years. Elmer used a large-format camera to capture what he called "the wide look of Arizona."
Photography legend Ansel Adams, who worked primarily in black-and-white images, was also a frequent contributor in the early years. In fact, the pages of Arizona Highways were among the very first places where his color photography appeared. The most famous of his photographs that appeared in the magazine include: Arches, North Court, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona, 1968 and Saguaro Cactus, Sunrise, Arizona, 1942.
Through the years, dozens of great landscape photographers have helped the magazine develop its reputation for outstanding scenic photography. The list includes Pulitzer Prize winners and internationally acclaimed photographers whose work has appeared in publications such as Life, The Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Time-Life, Readers Digest, USA Today, Scientific American, Native Peoples, and American Indian Art.
In addition' Jerry Jacka captured iconic images that were accompanied by his wife Lois' lively narratives; the duo's words and pictures brought to life the artistry of American Indian jewelry, weavings, basket making, and pottery. For decades the Jackas shared the best of the Indian artisans with the world through the pages of the magazine. More than 1,500 of Jerry Jacka's photographs have appeared in Arizona Highways magazines and books. Five issues of Arizona Highways have been devoted entirely to his work, and he was featured in the PBS special: Legends & Dreamers of Arizona Highways.
The legacy of the great photographers from the magazine's early years continues today with a superb range of contemporary photographers. Of particular interest are Navajo photographers LeRoy DeJolie and Monty Roessel who provide photos of remote areas of the tribal lands that few people ever see. Also of note are aerial photographers like Adriel Heisey, who built his own ultralight airplane that he pilots himself to get a raven's view of the state's multifaceted terrain.
Jack Dykinga, who won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1971, blends large format landscape art photography with documentary photojournalism. He is a regular contributor to Arizona Highways and National Geographic. Another frequent contributor,Tom Till, is one of America's most published landscape and nature photographers. Over 250,000 of Till's landscape, history, and travel images have appeared in print since 1977, including features by National Geographic, The New York Times, Outside, The New Yorker, Life, and Reader's Digest.
The compelling photographic images of Arizona Highways have captured the imagination of the nation and the world for nearly a century. As an example of the magazine's growing popularity and national significance, Time magazine reviewed the publication in an article: "People Like Pictures" (Time, 924/1951, Vol. 58 Issue 13, p77). An excerpt from the article follows:
In its 36-page October (35 cents a copy) issue, the 30 color plates are of birds, sorghum-growing, and eye-catching photographs of autumn in the Southwest; the articles are on such subjects as Indian fighters and a ghost mining town. When 44-year-old Editor Carlson, a onetime small-town (Miami, Ariz.) newspaperman, began running Highways in 1937, it was a house organ for road builders, its pages a hodgepodge of construction notices and contractors' ads. With his $100,000 yearly appropriation from the state, Carlson kicked out the ads, and turned Highways into a mirror of the beauties of Arizona.
He ran color pictures of Indians, western life, animals, but mostly of scenery. Without promotion or agents (forbidden by state law), Highways gained 200,000 readers, of whom only 14,000 are in Arizona.
As the 1951 Time excerpt illustrates, the popularity of the magazine soared after World War II, prompting an increase in page count to 40 and then to 48 pages. In January of 1992, the page count was increased to 56 pages, with all but one devoted to stories and photographs. Just one remaining page was used to promote the magazine's books, calendars, and other products. The magazine's circulation rate also grew steadily from 1,000 copies in 1925 to over 500,000 copies in 1973.
Arizona Highways received several awards as its popularity increased, demonstrating the quality of its content. In addition to scenic photographs and portraits, the magazine was beloved for its historical articles, which were written in a colloquial style for a popular audience. Thomas C. Cooper catalogued the magazine's historical articles in "History in Arizona Highways: An Annotated Bibliography," which was featured in a Spring 1974 issue of Arizona and the West. Cooper notes that "in 1955 the Photographers' Association of America cited Arizona Highways for its use of color and professional talent in photography. The American Association of State and Local History commended the magazine for its constant attention to history and for illustrating it well."
This collection contains a sample of Arizona Highways issues from 1921 to 2013. It serves as a model for a larger collection currently in development which will contain all of the Arizona Highways volumes from 1921 to present.