Kissin’ Jenny and the glass eye

Bawdy house girls“Oh, that glass! I woke up thirsty in the night, and, do you know, I’ve been having a crazy dream ever since that I swallowed a marble.”
— Quote attributed to Kissin’ Jenny

A lady of the evening known as Kissin’ Jenny and a vain state legislator with a glass eye can be credited with making Phoenix the capital of Arizona.
This nugget of Arizona trivia is the latest bit of useless information unearthed in researching places we will pass through on a cross-country bicycle ride this fall. The desert metropolis of Phoenix will, I believe, be a place of rest and recuperation in our journey, beginning Sept. 18 in San Diego and ending Nov. 21 in St. Augustine, Fla.
But more on Kissin’ Jenny:

Prescott's territorial courthouse, circa 1885

Prescott's territorial courthouse, circa 1885

In 1889, Arizona’s Territorial Legislature had to decide whether to keep the capital in Prescott, a bustling mining town that became the first capital after the U.S. Congress created the Arizona Territory in 1863. In 1867, Prescott lost the seat of territorial government when the Fourth Territorial Legislature voted to move the capital to the more populous town of Tucson further south.
Stung by a severe blow to its economy caused by the move, Prescott’s movers and shakers lobbied hard to get back the capital. They prevailed in 1877 when the Ninth Territorial Legislature, after entertaining bids from Phoenix, Florence and Tucson, decided to send the capital back to Prescott, in Yavapai County. And that’s where it stayed until 1889.
Old Phoenix, 1885

Phoenix, 1885

During the 15th Territorial Legislature of that year, according to state historian Marshall Trimble, the delegates of Maricopa County, where the upstart town of Phoenix was located, resorted to a bit of chicanery in yet another legislative tussle over the location of the capital.
“Knowing that the vote would be close, the Maricopa delegates needed to ensure that a Yavapai County delegate would miss the crucial vote,” says a three-volume 2004 work edited by Benjamin P. Shearer, The Uniting States: The Story of Statehood for the Fifty United States. “Making a deal with ‘Kissin’ Jenny,’ a lady of the evening who worked in Prescott, the Maricopa delegates saw to it that their fellow legislator was delayed.
Arizona state capitol

Arizona state capitol

“This fellow wore a glass eye, and after visiting with Ms. Jenny, he took his eye out and fell asleep. Jenny took the eye and swallowed it. When he awoke and found his eye missing, he refused to go out in public, and she was unwilling and unable to give the eye back. The plan worked, he missed the vote, and the capital was moved to Phoenix.”


Filed under Americana, Cycling across America

7 responses to “Kissin’ Jenny and the glass eye

  1. Ben P.

    Interesting. The postcard image of Phoenix reminded me of some artwork housed at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.

  2. Ben P.

    Almost 3,000 hits!!

  3. Fritz Teetsel

    The old map of Phoenix, how would I p-urchase a copy of that map???


  4. Fritz,
    Thanks for looking at the blog. It seems that the original of the map is in the library system at the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. See Web site:
    But if you go to Google and type in “old Phoenix map” and then to “images,” you’ll find that reproductions of the map seem to be available from a Web site called Good luck.

  5. I am trying to figure out how to send you a copy of my poem
    “Kissin’ Jenny” from “AZ Women Weird Wild and Wonderful,” which was named Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year by WMA, 2010. It also won the Will Rogers Medallion Award at AWA. I do not find a way to “COPY” nor your e-mail address on this Blog. Please e-mail me. Buckshot Dot

  6. I would like to send you my poem “Kissin’ Jenny” from my
    book “AZ Women Weird, Wild and Wonderful.” I got the comment “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” ?????
    I don’t want to subscribe to anything, just wanted you to have the poem. Buckshot Dot

  7. I haven’t reread everything on your blog, but I suppose you include somewhere that the story of the glass eye is almost certainly fictional — although I still believe it was a “thread of the truth” that started the whole fabrication of the reason Phoenix is the capital of Arizona.

    Thanks for including the poem. . . . Buckshot Dot

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