Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Why you never asked a man's name in Arizona


Arizona has been, historically, a place where a man who has made some "mistakes" in his life can start again. In fact, it was a good place to try all over again, if you had committed a crime elsewhere. And many people who came to Arizona did just that, they left their past behind. And they also left their names behind.

That is not to say that Arizona was populated by criminals, it just meant that there was a better-than-average chance that your new neighbor might be one. And that's how the tradition of not asking a man's name in Arizona began.

The correct term to address a stranger was "partner". You could, of course, give your name, but if a stranger chose to not give his, well, you didn't push it. There were a lot of John Smiths in Territorial Arizona!

In fact, it got so bad that if your name actually was John Smith, no one would believe you. This happened to an early pioneer who ran a respectable flour mill in Phoenix in the 1870s and 80s. He had his name legally changed to John Y.T. Smith just to overcome this difficulty. The YT stood for "Yours Truly", by the way.

John Y.T. (Yours Truly) Smith, Phoenix, Arizona.

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