This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

J.J. Cottrell of Alhambra, Arizona in 1901


If you're an Arizona history fan, don't worry if you've never heard of J.J. Cottrell of Alhambra, Arizona. I'm obsessed with Arizona history, especially Phoenix, and I had never heard of him until a few minutes ago this morning while I was paging through a pdf of the 1901 Portrait and Biographical Record of Arizona. But J.J. is exactly the kind of person who fascinates me in history, a person who was there, who built it. So no, don't be concerned that you will need to remember anything, and no, this won't be on the test. Let's time-travel back to 1901 and meet J.J.

Or rather, the late 1800s. Since this book (you can read it here if you want to http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t2v41081x;view=2up;seq=932;size=150) was published in 1901, obviously J.J. sat for this photo before that, possibly many years before that. I would say that in the photo that he is in his fifties or sixties, and it's not unusual, even today, for people to submit for publication (or posting to the web) a photo of themselves in their younger days. So this photo could have been fairly current, or it may have been many years old. I don't know.

The Alhambra Brick Yard (on the bottom)

By the way, J.J. was included in this book because he established a big brick-making business in 1887. And he did it in a little community called Alhambra, which was centered at Grand Avenue and Indian School road, and which is now just part of Phoenix. So, although J.J. just made bricks, it's reasonable to say that he helped transform the look of Phoenix. I'm sure many of the bricks his company made are still in buildings in Phoenix, either in the original buildings, or re-used in other buildings, which was a typical practice through the early 20th Century.

Just taken as a photo of a 19th Century man, this photo is great. His haircut would be acceptable today, but his mustachios, which would have been fairly conservative at the time, would be a little goofy nowadays. His wire-rimmed glasses were the latest thing then, and wouldn't come back into fashion again until the late 1960s, popularized by John Lennon.

His heavy wool coat, even though the lapels are very short by today's standards, would be something that I would be comfortable wearing today (although not in the summer!). The tie, however, is a style that you only see men wearing with tuxedos nowadays. And vests would have been very typical for men then, where they would have carried most of their stuff, like their watch, their wallet, and their 'baccy.

Even the fact that he uses the first two initials of his name is very typical of the period. Nowadays we associate it with men like J.P. Morgan, as if only men like him did that, but lots of men did. It was just the style at the time.

So that's J.J. Cottrell. I like how he's looking out confidently. He was one of those "unrealistically optimistic" people who believed that a great city could be built in the middle of the desert. You know, a shining city, with tall buildings and maybe thousands of motor cars driving around someday. And as confident as he looks, I wonder if he would be surprised to see his city today, and how successful it has become?

Thank you for time-traveling with me.


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