Contributed by Sharlot Hall Museum, Library and Archives
Sharlot M. Hall: Arizona's Curator
Sharlot M. Hall was a forward-thinking woman, a woman of vision and daring living during an era when most women didn't dare have any vision at all. Born in 1870 in Kansas, she traveled on the Santa Fe Trail at the age of eleven to the Arizona Territory with her family in 1882, settling near modern-day Prescott Valley. Though for the most part an autodidact, Sharlot was highly literate, having been encouraged to read and write from a young age by a woman she greatly admired, her mother Adeline. Determined to become a poet, she entered several writing contests and was published. When a bill was introduced to Congress to enter the Arizona and New Mexico territories as one state, Sharlot wrote an epic poem entitled "Arizona" in opposition to it, eloquently describing why Arizona deserved separate statehood. The bill was defeated, conceivably due to Sharlot’s efforts. During her lifetime, Sharlot published over five hundred articles, stories and poems. She also authored ten books. She is most lauded for her collections of poetry, “Cactus and Pine” and “Poems of a Ranch Woman.”
Sharlot developed an intense fascination and love for Arizona and southwest frontier life and history and sought to conserve what she understood to be its vanishing heritage and traditions. In 1909, Sharlot was appointed Arizona’s territorial historian, the first woman to hold any salaried office in the territory, a post she would hold until 1912. Sharlot galvanized a movement that would preserve much of Arizona’s heritage for generations to come. During her tenure, she visited prehistoric ruins, Indian Reservations, and Arizona pioneers, amassing an extensive and impressive collection of artifacts, oral histories, and documents. In July of 1911, Sharlot embarked on a ten week expedition across the wild, remote Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon, touring some of the most rugged parts Arizona had to offer.
As early as 1907, Sharlot Hall envisioned a museum for Arizona’s collections. Twenty years later, she signed a contract which allowed her to house her extensive collections in the 1864 Governor’s Mansion, the territory’s first capitol in Prescott, and to operate it as a public museum. For the remainder of her life, Sharlot worked to preserve the old log building and Arizona’s past. Sharlot’s immense efforts stirred others to contribute to the preservation of Arizona history. Following her death in 1943, the museum was officially named after Sharlot Hall.
The images, documents, letters, newspaper clippings, and ephemera (some rare and rarely seen) were selected from a collection encompassing over eight (8) cubic feet of materials held at Sharlot Hall Museum Archives. The resources chosen document two of the many roles Sharlot played in her diversified, singular life; those of historian and museum curator. They also reflect upon her personal life, illuminating Sharlot as a woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, an activist, and a politician.