New Book Details Pluto's Arizona Connection

Courtesy of Lowell Observatory

The distant planet (or dwarf planet) of Pluto will forever be tied to Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory, the place where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930. And that connection endures: Lowell's scientists played key roles in the recent New Horizons mission, which sent a space probe hurtling past Pluto.

That relationship is the focus of Pluto and Lowell Observatory: A History of Discovery at Flagstaff, a new book by Kevin Schindler, a longtime Lowell employee who's now the observatory's historian, and Will Grundy, a Lowell planetary scientist who heads one of the New Horizons teams.

"We have a lot of visitors who come up here and are excited about learning about Lowell, and particularly Pluto," Schindler says. "When they leave, they're always asking, 'Is there something I can read to learn more?'"

That was part of the reason for writing the book, but Grundy says New Horizons added a new chapter to Pluto's story — one that wasn't included in earlier books about the planet.

That mission is the focus of the second half of the new book, but Grundy notes that even before New Horizons, Pluto's story was tied to Arizona. In the 1950s, for example, a Lowell telescope was used to determine Pluto's rotation period. Later, another telescope in the area helped discover Pluto's moon Charon, and methane on the planet's surface was detected at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson. "It's almost sort of like our little planet," Grundy says.

Schindler says the book is a culmination of his more than 20 years at Lowell, during which he learned about Tombaugh's history and the circumstances of Pluto's discovery. He did additional research at New Mexico State University, where Tombaugh's post-Lowell correspondence is kept. "There really was a lot of neat stuff, especially the personal stuff — letters between him and his parents, and how they found out about the discovery," he says.

The book includes contributions from Tombaugh's daughter and son; from Lowell trustee W. Lowell Putnam, the great-grandnephew of observatory founder Percival Lowell; and from S. Alan Stern, principal investigator on the New Horizons mission. Additionally, Lowell Director Jeffrey Hall and astronomer Gerald van Belle wrote an epilogue on the well-known debate over whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet.

That debate "resonates with people in a way that doesn't have anything to do with science," Grundy says. "They stick up for the underdog."

Schindler adds: "The closer people live to Flagstaff, the more outspoken they are that Pluto is a planet."

Kevin Schindler and Will Grundy's book Pluto and Lowell Observatory: A History of Discovery at Flagstaff is available at Lowell Observatory and on Amazon. Proceeds from sales of the book support the observatory's educational and scientific endeavors.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

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The Infamous Murder at a Phoenix POW Camp

Courtesy of Arcadia Publishing/The History Press

When residents of the Phoenix area think of Papago Park, they likely envision unique buttes, hiking trails, Hole in the Rock, the Phoenix Zoo and residential areas. But during World War II, a section of that part of the desert was home to Camp Papago Park, where about 375 Americans guarded more than 4,000 German prisoners.

Writer Jane Eppinga recently published Death at Papago Park POW Camp, a book that covers the history of the camp — including the murder of Werner Max Herschel Drechsler and subsequent executions of seven men implicated in the crime.

Eppinga said she first stumbled on the topic about two decades ago. "I was reading a military book and saw that there was a footnote about an execution at Papago Park," she said. "The more I started looking, the more involved I became in it. It’s such a strange story."

There wasn’t much information to be found at first. Eppinga said she used a Freedom of Information Act request to access court-martial papers, which she finally found in the National Archives. “I went to Washington, D.C., and actually looked at the archives and folders and got copies of the court-martial,” she said.

She also spoke to members of the military, such as Captain Jerry Mason, who provided photos for the book.

During the course of her research, Eppinga said, she was most surprised to see how Drechsler — who had provided German secrets to U.S. Navy authorities — was handled when he arrived to the camp. “Why the Americans didn’t take better care of him is what is amazing to me," she said. "They knew that he would be recognized by his compatriots in Papago Park. He only lived about seven hours once he got to Papago Park.”

Seven decades later, Eppinga said she finds that the topic of what happened at Papago Park still brings mixed reactions. “There’s still feelings, if you bring it up, of what was wrong or right in the case,” she said.

To learn more about the case and purchase Death at Papago Park POW Camp, click here.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Meet the Author of Our Wildlife Guide in Tucson

Bobcats are among the Arizona species featured in the Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide. | Maribeth Brady

Do you have your copy of our new Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide yet? If not, you can pick one up this week in Tucson — and get it signed by the author.

Brooke Bessesen will appear from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, February 10, at Antigone Books (411 N. Fourth Avenue), a Central Tucson institution since 1973. Bessesen will talk about the book and sign purchased copies. Joining her will be Arizona Highways Art Director Keith Whitney and some of the photographers who contributed images to the publication.

Subscribers to the magazine may remember Antigone Books from our September 2016 issue. Tucsonans continually rank Antigone among the city's best independent bookstores, and it's also a trailblazer — it's the first 100 percent solar-powered bookstore in the United States.

The Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide contains detailed information on 125 of Arizona's native species — mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. It's been a rousing success so far and is about to head into its second printing. If you can't make it to the Tucson signing, you can pick up a copy on our website.

Bessesen has worked with wildlife for decades and recently has focused on conservation research. A longtime certified veterinary technician for the Phoenix Zoo, she also writes scientifically under its auspices. To learn more about the author, visit her website.

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Book Excerpt: Capturing the West on Film

Tourists view the Grand Canyon at Bright Angel Point in 1929. | Fox Movietone News Collection, Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina, MVTN 2-970, June 3, 1929, Time Code Reading 03:08;00;18.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today, we present a selection from the new book Celluloid Pueblo: Western Ways Films and the Invention of the Postwar Southwest, by Jennifer L. Jenkins. The book tells the story of Western Ways Features, which Charles and Lucille Herbert founded in 1936 to document the landscape, regional development and cultures of Arizona and the Southwest. To purchase the book from the University of Arizona Press, click here. See more photos from the book at the end of the excerpt.

In late May of 1929, Charles and Lucile Herbert drove into Arizona in an REO Speedwagon with 1200 pounds of motion picture and sound gear.  Their primary assignment from Fox was to capture the sounds of the West with the new Movietone synchronized sound recording system which had debuted in 1928.  For nearly three weeks they recorded Southwestern vistas, cowboy songs, Native dances and artisans, a Cowgirl beauty pageant, tourists at Grand Canyon, and 2000 head of bawling cattle—which the home office rejected because the deafening mooing, recorded by a sound truck parked in the middle of the herd, sounded artificial. (Hence the later need for Foley sound, so real sounds could be faked.)  In 1929, the Herberts’ audio-visual documentation offered the nation and the world a fresh view of a mythic place in the public imaginary. Images of grand occidental landscapes and Native peoples defined the West in the U.S. imagination of the day, just as the cinematic West defined “America” for the rest of the world. The southern Arizona footage captures Borderlands activities in late spring: cattle round-up, cactus bloom, and warm days at the Indian School at Mission San Xavier del Bac. These subjects distinctively define borderlands Arizona by the picturesque trifecta of ranches, exotic flora, and Spanish colonial missions.  This collection also includes craft films of Navajo silversmiths and weavers, sheep and goat-herding on the Navajo reservation, and footage of the Prescott-based Smoki Indian burlesque.  The Herberts’ Arizona sojourn culminated in six reels of sound film about Grand Canyon. This 1929 footage, shot for newsreel appeal, records the sights and sounds of recreation and tourism, regional development and boosterism: in short, these reels illustrate the position of the West in the cinematic construction of Modernity in the final summer of the Twenties. 

Attention to exotica marks all of the Herberts’ Arizona Movietone films, which are aesthetically positioned between the stateliness of the past and the gawkerism of the moving image. Over and over Herbert visually quotes 19th century landscape painting and silent film, while adapting the frame to Modernist ideals through mechanistic technology. Sound is an amelioration and a curiosity, but the picture truly tells the story. So with Cactus Bloom.  With remarkable economy, Herbert manages in eight shots to convey the scale and proportion of the saguaro cactus, the delicacy and appeal of the flowers, the comparatively verdant desert setting in which the cacti grow and bloom, and their statuesque command over humans in the environment. Even with the saguaro as subject, the god-in-nature sublime of the 19th century is scaled down, humanized and human-centered by the intervention of the motion picture camera.

The San Xavier footage shows the children at play in the schoolyard, a patio space originally built as a cloister for the adjacent Mexican Baroque mission church. The architecture of the space presents arches and finials to frame the shots, while the quadrangular layout of the patio presents natural linear perspective for composition.  The playground contains a wooden slide, a swingset, see-saws, and a very low basketball hoop and backboard.  Placed at the southwest corner of the cloister, the camera is well-positioned to pan the space, capturing the children as relaxed, laughing and truly at play. When the school-bell begins to ring, the recording capabilities of Movietone sound are evident.  These decibel levels rival the Ronstadts’ cattle in sheer volume and intensity.  As the bell-ringing continues, the nuns arrange the children in double lines to march past the camera to the classrooms on the east side of the playground.  Experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison included this sequence in his pastiche of found film, Decasia (2002), using the nitrate decomposition on the film as an aesthetic element.  The eerie Michael Gordon score, combined with the rippling images of black-clad nuns leading the children into the shadows, lends a sinister tone to the sequence in Morrison’s film.  With original sound in place, this footage presents a lively group of youngsters returning to the classroom after recess.  Herbert sets the frame at long shot and child’s eye level, recording the activity of a typical school day.  He is particularly adept at fixed-camera work here, using pan shots to track the figures’ movement so naturally that it feels like a movement of the viewer’s eyes.  Yet the camera remains in its corner throughout the sequence, which includes a scan of the play yard, the line-up and marching, and the children’s entry into their classrooms, cheered on by the ubiquitous reservation dog. The final shot is a vanishing point composition down the cloister arcade toward an arch that frames the Santa Catalina Mountains to the north. Franciscan Sisters stand on either side of the passageway, framing the arch that frames the vista, and reminding us of the Catholic containment of the transhumant Native peoples of the region. This is a classic Charles Herbert image, with foreground, middle, and background arranged in concert to create a complex and aesthetically meaningful image.

The Herberts’ time at Grand Canyon captured a specific period in history: June 2-14, 1929.  Whereas many of the other Arizona films depict a somewhat timeless West, the Canyon reels are tied to specific events leading up to the opening of the first steel bridge over the Colorado at rim-level. The earliest reels show tourists boarding biplanes for Canyon flyovers and aerial tours. A few days later, the Herberts  witness Native demonstration dances outside the Hopi House concession on the South Rim and follow tourists as they saddle up for mule rides. The final reel depicts the June 14, 1929 opening of the original Navajo Bridge. In all cases, the then-new process of synchronized optical sound captures unscripted comments from bystanders who were often unaware that their comments were being recorded.  Unlike the more staged films shot in southern Arizona and along the border, the Canyon reels contain spontaneous crowd remarks that add a dimension of realism characteristically omitted by newsreel editing. These films offer a remarkable time-capsule glimpse of the Canyon during the final summer of the Roaring Twenties, when tourism was in full swing and visitors flew over, rode into, and drove across Grand Canyon.

For more information about Celluloid Pueblo: Western Ways Films and the Invention of the Postwar Southwest, click here.

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Get Your New Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide Signed

People involved in producing the Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide attend a book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. From left to right are Arizona Game and Fish Department photographer George Andrejko, Arizona Highways Art Director Keith Whitney, contributing photographer Peggy Coleman and author Brooke Bessesen. | Courtesy of Brooke Bessesen

The new Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide, which features 125 of our state's native species, is getting rave reviews. And if you missed our book-signing events last month, you're in luck, because another two are scheduled for November.

Author Brooke Bessesen and others who contributed to the book's photography and design were on hand at September's events at Changing Hands Bookstore locations in Phoenix and Tempe, and at Barnes & Noble in Scottsdale. Bessesen says both events were a success and saw big attendance numbers.

Next month's book signings are Saturday, November 5, at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 701 S. Milton Road in Flagstaff; and Saturday, November 12, at 6 p.m. at Encanterra Country Club, 36400 N. Encanterra Drive in San Tan Valley. You can keep up on other signing events by following Bessesen on Facebook.

If you can't make it to an in-person event, you can always buy the book at the Arizona Highways online store (or in person at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue) or on Amazon.

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Book Excerpt: After the Blue Water Left

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today, we're pleased to present an excerpt from the new book A New Form of Beauty: Glen Canyon Beyond Climate ChangeThe book, published by University of Arizona Press, combines Peter Goin's photographs with essays by Peter Friederici in an examination of how the Colorado River basin, particularly Glen Canyon and Lake Powell, is being impacted by the longest dry spell in modern history — one that shows alarming signs of becoming the new normal. A selection of photographs from the book follows the excerpt. It will be released October 31; to learn more or order the book, click here.

Hite is the little marina and National Park Service enclave way up in Utah where the Colorado River slowed and Lake Powell began. No: scratch that. It was.

1999: From the roadside pullout high on the cliffs above, the sparkling blue water is alive with boats, a tourist brochure come to life. The lake is brimful: no bathtub ring mars the rocks. The little settlement below hums with activity. Big SUVs back down the ramp to launch speedboats equipped with giant outboards. Families emerge from a little store laden with sodas, bags of ice, bait. Up at the overlook, an interpretive sign tells the story of Cass Hite, an early gold miner in this country. He left behind his name, but little else. No wonder: he was looking in the wrong place. The riches to be found here, it’s clear, were not buried in the ground, but rather to be extracted from the desert’s real treasure—its water.

2004: The blue water is gone, dozens of vertical feet of it seemingly evaporated into the hot air. In its place, much lower and narrower, a chocolate-brown river runs between cracked mud flats. A lone generator runs somewhere, but the traffic is gone, the store and ranger station shuttered. Ridges and swales of sand and clay have pooled in parallel series, making the roads and buildings seem an afterthought, hopeless as shaking a fist at the dry desert wind: it is a wilderness of sediment, crinkled and fractured, reminiscent of the pile of gunk left in a driveway after a really dirty car has been washed. Long cement ramps slope down from the buildings toward the river, turning into gravel and then into dried mud in a drawn-out and finally hopeless pursuit of boat-launching opportunities. Up here, on the rim of the interpretive sign, someone has pasted a bumper sticker: “Free the Colorado.” The years of what look like drought have been a boon for those who have always hated the dam and what it stands for, returning dried-up stretches of once-drowned tributaries to something of the sandstone grandeur that they’d once had.

Next to the bumper sticker someone has scrawled, in jagged black pen strokes, “Will the last person to leave please turn the Hite out?”

2014: Desolation is the new normal, at least if you are measuring according to what we once thought of as the typical give-and-take of a reservoir. Lake Powell has experienced a lot more taking than giving, and the water has not returned to Hite. From above many of the mud flats look green with tamarisk and tumbleweed. But the lake is a fading memory. And it becomes increasingly hard to remember what the place looked like when the water was higher. Stand on a canyon rim, and even though you know that the water below has through eons carved out the cubic miles of rock that are now filled with air it is a big leap to imagine the land the way it once was. Same with the many dozens of vertical feet and trillions of gallons of Lake Powell that have evanesced into sky: even where their passage is marked with the chalky white of the bathtub ring, the mind’s eye has trouble painting deep still water on the scene.

This is a landscape of grief, in other words, where the heart’s desire to remember with precision what the place was like—whether that means for you the predam canyon, or the sparkling lake—collides with the brain’s trickling loss of memory. It will not be the same place again, and we cannot remember our way back to just how it was. Grabbing onto the way it was is like grasping for lost youth, a quest as pathetic as it is doomed. Sure, the geographical coordinates may be the same. But what is at Hite now is neither old river nor not-so-old lake. It is a new sort of place, one that poses new questions for us.

The most immediate is: is this what the future looks like for us, not just on the once-shore of a once-lake but throughout the arid West and so many other arid places worldwide—a cracked and blighted desolation, dirt gathered under unwashed fingernails, tumbleweeds clogging the irrigation canals, hordes of modern-day Okies fleeing a new Dust Bowl and facing an uncertain welcome in what they hope will be wetter climes?

There is a fair chance of that. And so a prudent society, in the face of impending shortages, might decide that the population in its most arid regions should at a minimum not grow any more. Maybe it should even shrink to accommodate the great likelihood of future shortages.

Between 2000 and 2014 Arizona’s population grew by well over a million people—almost 25 percent. The Arizona Department of Water Resources, expecting continued population growth, predicts that the water demands of the state’s residents will grow by another 20 to 25 percent within the next twenty years.

The job of the engineers and the politicians and the bureaucrats is not going to be enviable: figuring out how to get water to the places that need it, or whose people are most willing to pay for it. Figuring out whose taps to shut off.

And the job for the rest of us everywhere is also a challenge: figuring out how to reimagine this place, and every place.

Copyright 2016 by University of Arizona Press. Republished with permission. To purchase A New Form of Beauty: Glen Canyon Beyond Climate Change, click here.

All photographs by Peter Goin.

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Get to Know Arizona's Animals in Our New Wildlife Guide

Evelyn D. Harrison's photo of a Gila woodpecker appears in the Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide.

More than 100 of the animals that have appeared on Arizona Highways' pages for decades are on display in a new guidebook.

The Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide, which is now on sale on the Arizona Highways website and at select booksellers around Arizona, features 125 of the animals, from pronghorns and peccaries to Gila monsters and humpback chubs, that call the state home. It's organized by animal type, with four sections: mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians and fish.

Wildlife expert Brooke Bessesen wrote the text for the book. Bessesen is a longtime certified veterinary technician for the Phoenix Zoo who also writes scientifically under its auspices. Yvonne Kippenberg's photo of a coyote graces the book's front cover; other photographs were provided by Arizona Highways contributors and by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which additionally provided special assistance in editing and fact-checking the book.

"The wildlife guide is an excellent addition to our collection of guidebooks," says Kelly Vaughn, managing editor and books editor of Arizona Highways. "We’re thrilled to feature some of Arizona’s most interesting native species."

The Arizona Highways Wildlife Guide is available at the magazine's online store,, where shoppers can also purchase other guidebooks, coffee-table books, children's books, calendars, holiday cards, décor, jewelry, accessories and more.

Arizona Highways, published since 1925, has subscribers in all 50 states and more than 120 countries, and it's regarded around the world as the authority on Arizona travel. In addition to the new Wildlife Guide, the magazine also publishes guidebooks on hiking, camping, fishing and photography. For more information, visit

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Hawkeye Huey, the 5-Year-Old Photographer, Releases New Book

In October 2015, Arizona Highways introduced its readers to Hawkeye Huey. Now, Hawkeye and his father, Aaron, are introducing the young photographer to the world.

Hawkeye, who's 6 now, built up a devoted Instagram following as he traveled the American West as a 5-year-old, shooting photos, with his parents (Aaron Huey is a National Geographic photographer). Their travels included Arizona, and we featured some of Hawkeye's photos and an interview with Aaron last year in a story titled Hawkeye Huey Was Here.

Now, the Hueys have collected some of Hawkeye's best work in a new hardcover book with a lengthy title: Cowboys Indians Hobos Gamblers Patriots Tourists & Sunsets. It went on sale last week.

The family says they hope "that this collection of his images and the journey [Hawkeye] took with his father will help you to see the genius of the creative vision that is inherent in all children."

To order a copy of the book, click here.

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More Arizona History: Making Bricks in Tucson

Here's our third and final look at At Work in Arizona: The First 100 Years, an Alliance Bank of Arizona book project that explores Arizona's economic history. The book is available at Alliance's Arizona locations and online with a donation of $100 or more. The donation supports education-focused nonprofit organizations in the state.

Tucson Pressed Brick Company, Tucson | Circa 1920s
The Tucson Pressed Brick Company, located along the Santa Cruz River on the west side of town, provided affordable, fire-resistant bricks for homes and developments from 1908 to 1963. In the early decades, brick makers at the company built rectangular, coal-fired stove kilns of unfired bricks (pictured) to kiln them.

(Photo credit: Arizona Historical Society)

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Marilyn Monroe's Arizona Connection

Here's another photo from At Work in Arizona: The First 100 Years, an Alliance Bank of Arizona book project that explores Arizona's economic history. The book is available at Alliance's Arizona locations and online with a donation of $100 or more. The donation supports education-focused nonprofit organizations in the state.

Marilyn Monroe, Bus Stop, Arizona State Fairgrounds, Phoenix | 1956
Norma Jean Baker, known forever as Marilyn Monroe, co-starred with Don Murray and Eileen Heckart (right, in dark glasses) in Twentieth-Century Fox's 1956 comedy Bus Stop. Adapted from William Inge's two plays, Bus Stop and People of the Wind, the production was partly filmed in downtown Phoenix and at the Arizona State Fairgrounds during the Phoenix Junior Chamber of Commerce's annual Rodeo-of-Rodeos. Monroe, who stayed at the city's historic San Carlos Hotel during the filming, won a Golden Globe for her performance, while Murray earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Arizona, which had been a popular vacation retreat for Hollywood A-listers for decades (the Arizona Biltmore's main pool was alleged to be Monroe's favorite), became a regular location for filmmakers after 1945 for its distinct Western landscapes, lightly populated rural vistas unfettered by power lines and development, and Western cities and towns rarely seen in motion pictures.

(Photo credit: Thomas Parks, Thomas Robinson Collection)

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