The Pima County Public Library has not found a definitive answer on when Tucson started to be called the “Old Pueblo.” There is a mention of the origin of term “Old Pueblo” in a 1937 Arizona Highways magazine. This article states that Tucson is called the “Old Pueblo” because of the wall that used to surround the old city.
There was an article in the Arizona Daily Star about the origin of the term. The article stated:
“Ironically, it was not the Spanish-speaking residents who came up with the name, but Anglos trying to bring in business. When the railroad first came to town on March 20, 1880, Mayor R.N. "Bob" Leatherwood was so proud of the accomplishment that he sent telegrams to the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the president of the United States and even the pope. In his telegram to the pope, Leatherwood said:
"The mayor of Tucson begs the honor of reminding Your Holiness that this ancient and honorable pueblo was founded by the Spaniards under the sanction of the church more than three centuries ago, and to inform Your Holiness that a railroad from San Francisco, California, now connects us with the Christian World."
“Notice that Mayor Leatherwood said "ancient and honorable pueblo? Reporters liked Tucson's catchy new nickname, but after a while it began appearing in the newspapers as the "A. and H. Pueblo," perhaps to save space. There is no telling when A. and H. evolved into The Old Pueblo, but we do know why it caught on. "“About 40 years later, Tucson businessmen borrowed that Southwest imagery to boost Tucson's tourist economy. In the 1920s, the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club was formed to bring tourists, snowbirds, health seekers and retirees to Tucson.
They peppered their ads with the phrase "Old Pueblo" to brand the location with its exotic Spanish-Indian past.”
Buehman, Estelle M. Old Tucson; a hop, skip and jump history from 1539 Indian settlement to new and greater Tucson. Tucson, Ariz., State Consolidated Publishing Co.1911
“Old Pueblo.” Arizona Highways. December 1937. Page 2.
The term “Old Pueblo” is used in a 1911 book titled: Old Tucson; a hop, skip and jump history from 1539 Indian settlement to new and greater Tucson.
"Life in the Old Pueblo: Here's how Tucson came to own its charming nickname." Arizona Daily Star. October 17, 2010.
The Joel D. Valdez Main Library reference staff has checked the following resources to find an answer to this question:
1. Pima Public Library, Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Vertical File—“Tucson Through Time.”
2. The Arizona index: a subject index to periodical articles about the state
3. From the Librarian Files—Arizona History
4. City of Tucson web site
5. Sonnichsen, C. L. Tucson. The Life And Times Of An American City; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c1982.
6. “Tucson Sunshine Climate Club.” Arizona Daily Star. Feb. 16, 1979.
7. “Tucson Sunshine Climate Club.” Arizona Daily Star. August 2, 1979.
8. Henry, Bonnie. Tucson Memories. Tucson, Ariz.: Arizona Daily Star, 2006.
9. Henry, Bonnie. Another Tucson. Tucson, Ariz.: Arizona Daily Star, 1992.
10. Pima Public Library, Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Vertical File—Tucson (Name).
11. Pima Public Library, Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Vertical File—Tucson First.
12. “Cultural truths lurk with nickname of ‘The Old Pueblo.” Arizona Daily Star, August 13, 1997.
13. Votto, Mary Paganelli and Reynolds, Kate. Insiders' guide to Tucson. Guilford, Conn: Globe Pequot Press, 2008.
14. Barnes, Will C. Arizona place names. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, c1988.
15. Granger, Howell. Arizona's names: X marks the place. [Tucson, Ariz.?]: Falconer Pub. Co.: distributed by Treasure Chest Publications, c1983.
Find the information you need by calling the library's Infoline at 520-791-4010 or by sending your question to Ask a Librarian.