Did You Know: California Girl Helped Make Arizona's Nickname Official

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 11:21am
Updated: Friday, February 27, 2015 - 3:19pm
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(Photo Courtesy of Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian)
State Representative Kate Brophy McGee (L), Victoria Smith and Marshall Trimble. Victoria is the California girl who wrote Trimble a letter questioning Arizona's official nickname. Rep. Brophy McGee was integral in making the Arizona nickname official.
(Photo Courtesy of Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian)
Governor Jan Brewer signs Arizona's nickname, 'The Grand Canyon State,' into law on Febraury 14, 2011.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)
Marshall Trimble is the Arizona State Historian. He helped make Arizona's nickname, 'The Grand Canyon State,' official.

All U.S. states have a nickname. Arizona also has one, sort of. Arizona has been known as The Grand Canyon State — but it took decades to make it official.

It’s on car license plates, state line welcome signs, and in just about every information guide about the state. Arizona’s nickname has been the Grand Canyon State since about the 1930s. But, Did You Know…the nickname was not made official until 2011 when a grade school girl told the state it didn’t have one?

“I got a letter, it was from a girl in California, and her name is Victoria Smith, and she was writing a paper on the states, she picked Arizona. And she wanted to know what our official nickname was," said Marshall Trimble, the Arizona State Historian. He's been appointed to the position by every governor since 1997.

“I can tell right away by her letter, she was very bright. She says 'I did my research and I could not find where it officially says that Arizona is a Grand Canyon State.' And she said, 'Mr. Trimble can you tell me is it?' And I said I thought it was," he said.

Trimble said he was stumped, so he began researching and through the state library archives, it was discovered no legislature had ever made the nickname official.

“And I told her, I said 'I tell you what I’m gonna do, I make a promise to you, I’m gonna get it changed. I’m gonna have them change this to the official Grand Canyon State.' And it took me two years to get it through the legislature down there," Trimble said.

That’s because House Bill 2549 was getting stuck in the legislative process.  After several months, with the help of a freshmen state legislator, the bill was pushed through.

“When I went down to testify at the state legislature, I said 'if we don’t look out somebody else is going to copyright that thing' and they all laughed. And then I kind of jabbed them a little bit, and I says and you know what, 'I hear rumors that Las Vegas is thinking of taking the name' and them were fighting words," he said.

On Feb. 14, 2011, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Arizona’s official nickname. And for the occasion the young California girl was invited to attend the signing. Trimble says this was a life lesson for all.

“Because a lot of times you think, 'oh, my vote doesn’t really count, my letter doesn’t count. Why do I want to get involved, it won’t make a difference anyway?' But this, in this case, one letter, from one school girl made something big happen here in the state of Arizona," he said.

By the way, Trimble said Arizona has had several nicknames. It was once the Baby State for being the last one to enter the Union, until Hawaii and Alaska came onboard. It was also known as the Valentine State after it became a state in 1912. He says it was even called the Sand Dune State. 

But the Grand Canyon State was the nickname that stuck.

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