What is Bisbee’s history canon?

Judy Perry mural indicating one of the sets of stairs on the Bisbee 1000.

Judy Perry mural indicating one of the sets of stairs on the Bisbee 1000.

What does “Bisbee’s history canon” mean? Just as with all other topics that have a “canon,” so does Bisbee history. And there are differing opinions as to what constitutes the canon.

A “canon” is the works that constitute what is important to a topic. The Protestant Biblical canon, for example, includes the Old and New Testaments, while the Catholic canon adds to that the books of the apocrypha. Many today argue that the Western canon of great literature, generally taught in colleges, omits many writings of people of color and women.

BIsbee’s history canon includes a number of stories that define the town, and it is those which are told time and again, while others seldom get aired. The Bisbee Massacre, this discovery of ore here by Jack Dunn, the great fire of 1908, the Bisbee Deportation of July 12, and a handful of others constitute the canon. Thousands of other stories are not included, each for one or more of many reasons.

Is Bisbee’s history canon, which came into existence decades ago, appropriate for today? That is a very good question. The decision on what is and isn’t included is a result of opinion and inertia.

I have just gotten started on a book to be called “Bisbee’s Backstory.” [Click here to see what it’s about.] I needed to make a list of 50 stories that would be appropriate topics for the book, so in a few minutes, I quickly noted down off the top of my head more than 80 items along the tour route from which to choose, ranging from the reason for Galena to the nation’s second-oldest cable system. I then went through the list to determine which ones are part of Bisbee’s “canon.” There were 21, in my opinion, from the Massacre to the streetcar system to the Copper Queen Hotel.

That’s only about a quarter of the story subjects I jotted down are part of Bisbee’s historic canon; it doesn’t mean that the other stories are not of great value in delivering the story of our community. Take, for example, the YWCA and Grace Dodge. Fabulous story. One any town could be proud to be a part of. Or the Pythian Castle.

Bigger canon needed

It has long been my opinion that Bisbee’s canon needs to be enlarged. Greatly. Even the canon itself needs to be fleshed out with greater life and detail. As I write “Bisbee’s Backstory,” that will be kept in mind. On this blog over the next month or two, you’ll be seeing brief articles about what certain stories are important to Bisbee’s story. As I’m writing a section for the book, I’ll include a post (to a great extent for local consumption) on why particular tales are important to remembering our overall past.

The first, which is being published today, is about the Copper Queen Hotel. It just happens to be the starting point of all Lavender Jeep Tours, and if you read the post on Bisbee’s backstory, you’ll see why that fits into the overall scheme.

But I’d like your opinions about the important tales of our history. Which ones do you believe aren’t getting enough play, and why. Just leave a comment here or under any of the individual blog posts.



What is Bisbee’s history canon? — 2 Comments

  1. Here are the 21 stories mentioned above that I consider part of the Bisbee history canon:
    Copper Queen Hotel
    Central School
    Fire at the Mercantile
    Pythian Castle
    Red Light district
    Stock Exchange
    Old Bisbee High School
    Glory Hole
    Queen Mine Tour
    Sacramento Pit
    Original smelter
    St. Patrick Catholic Church
    Cochise County Courthouse
    Iron Man
    Bisbee Massacre
    Lavender Pit
    Bisbee turquoise
    George Warren
    Town of Warren
    Streetcar system

    • My father used to tell us about when he was a kid (he was born in 1920), they used to watch the “fighting” going on across the border between the Mexican Army and Revolutionaries. Also, when he was older but still a kid, they were coming by wagon to Bisbee from the Elfrida area and were followed by a few Apache Indians on horseback. This was around 1930-1935.

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