Ralph Henry Cameron was born in Southport, Maine, in 1863. He moved to Arizona in 1883, and operated a sheep ranch with his brother Niles in Flagstaff. In 1890, he and his partners turned to mining and filed numerous mining claims in and around the Grand Canyon. Beginning in 1891, Cameron and his associates built and operated the Bright Angel Trail as a toll road from the Grand Canyon's South Rim to the Colorado River. Also in 1891, Cameron was appointed Sheriff of Coconino County. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in St. Louis in 1896 and served on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors as Chairman, from 1905. In 1908, he defeated Democratic incumbent Marcus A. Smith to become Arizona's Territorial delegate to Congress. His term in as delegate was marked, above all, by the successful efforts to secure Arizona's statehood, which was approved by Congress and President Taft in 1911. Cameron, who expected Arizona's voters to reward him for his successes in securing statehood, lost in his first attempt for a Senate position in 1912, and lost again when he ran for the Governor's seat two years later. Cameron eventually won election to the Senate in 1920, where he served one term. He ran for the Senate unsuccessfully on two subsequent occasions, after which he retired from public life. Throughout his political career, Cameron continued to operate, often through proxies and associates, numerous businesses in the Grand Canyon region. He defended, often unsuccessfully, his tenuous mining claims in the Grand Canyon and his control over the Bright Angel Trail. He also battled with the Santa Fe Railway, the United States Forest Service, and the Department of Interior for control over mining claims and the tourism industry at Grand Canyon. He died in Washington, D. C. in 1953.
Scope and Content
This collection consists of materials relating to Ralph H. Cameron's political and business activities, mostly in the years between 1903 and 1912. Box 1 consists of manuscript files, including land and mining claims, financial documents, and political documents, including press releases regarding statehood and ranching. Also included with the manuscripts are materials related to bills introduced by Cameron, Letters Protesting the Statehood Bill, and Congratulatory telegrams. The Bills Introduced includes depredation claims reported to Cameron, for which he sought Congressional consideration, and consist of correspondence with the claimants and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Robert G. Valentine, copies of the legislation Cameron sponsored, and Congressional Committee reports on the proposals. Also included with Bills Introduced is material relating to a bridge over the Little Colorado River in Arizona for which Cameron sought Congressional funding. The material protesting statehood consist almost entirely of letters, many of them mechanically reproduced or copied verbatim, demanding that Arizona be allowed to maintain its provisions for a literacy requirement in voter registration. One file consists of congratulatory telegrams sent on the occasion of Arizona's statehood. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence. Among the most prominent subjects is Cameron's business activity at the Grand Canyon, including the Bright Angel Trail and the Cameron Hotel and Camps, and the conflicts that his interests triggered with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF), the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company, the Fred Harvey Company, the Hotel El Tovar, the United States Department of Interior, and the United States Forest Service. There is some discussion of travel and tourism to the Grand Canyon, including discussions by Cameron's agents of competing with the ATSF and Fred Harvey Company over visitors, but the bulk of the Grand Canyon-related materials deal with Cameron's tenuous land and mining claims and water rights in the canyon region. Cameron had many partners, agents, and competitors in his endeavors, and the collection reveals Cameron's struggles to have his land and mining claims recognized by the United States Forest Service, and his efforts to prevent the designation of the Grand Canyon as a National Park. Prominent individuals represented in the collection include attorneys E. M. Doe, T. E. Pollock, and Gifford Pinchot. A second major subject represented in the correspondence is Cameron's involvement in Republican politics in the early twentieth century. As Arizona's territorial delegate to Congress, Cameron fielded a variety of complaints and requests from constituents and other favor seekers. Also of particular note are numerous letters between Cameron and his allies and opponents over Arizona political appointments, including court seats, local postmaster positions, and the Arizona Territory's governorship. Furthermore, the collection reveals Cameron's deep involvement with the Republican Party's organization at territorial and national levels. The collection includes materials related to the 1912 race for the Republican nomination for President, between William H. Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. Cameron and his fellow Taft supporters wrote back and forth often in the Spring of 1912 as they worked to ensure that Arizona went with Taft. A few items deal with Cameron's failed campaign for the new state's Senate seat in 1912. Prominent correspondents on political issues include Cameron's secretary, B. W. Bernie Zachau, Arizona Governors Joseph H. Kibbey and Richard E. Sloan, Arizona Republican Party Chair Hoval Smith, Republican National Committee Chair Frank Hitchcock, Cameron's predecessor as Territorial Delegate, Marcus A. Mark Smith, and George U. Young. John Lorenzo Hubbell was involved heavily in Arizona politics. The collection also includes correspondence related to Cameron's requests to move the Navajo Indian Reservation's boundaries. Cameron also kept letters of introduction written on his behalf to prominent politicians and business leaders. Authors of these include William Dunseath Eaton, and Isaac Taft Stoddard. The collection also includes a small ephemera section, which consists of tourism-related materials, invitations, bulletins, Congressional Bills, newspaper clippings, and tickets to the 1912 Republican National Convention. Other subjects in the collection include: ranching, the Snake dance, and water rights in Arizona.