“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
One of the most interesting bits of feedback since I began writing this blog two years ago comes from a woman with the nom de plume “Buckshot Dot.”
, whose real name is Dee Strickland Johnson, is an author and poet of some renown with a speciality in the “cowboy” genre. She had stumbled across a June 10, 2009, post
to Jim’s Bike Blog about how Phoenix became the Arizona state capital rather than Prescott or Tucson. Figuring prominently in the tale are a prostitute called “Kissin’ Jenny” and a vain state legislator with a glass eye.
I had unearthed this nugget of Arizona trivia while doing research on the places I would pass through during a transcontinental bicycle ride along the Southern Tier of the United States, from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., in the autumn of 2009. It was too good not to post.
Buckshot Dot, I learned in an exchange of e-mails, has also told the story of Kissin’ Jenny in a book of verse called Arizona Women — Weird, Wild and Wonderful
. The book, published by Cowboy Miner Productions of Phoenix, won a Will Rogers Medallion Award
in 2007 for “outstanding achievement in the publishing of cowboy poetry.” The Western Music Association named it the “cowboy poetry book of the year
” for 2008.
Kissin’ Jenny plied her trade in the latter half of the 19th century when Arizona was still a rambunctious territory and its legislators couldn’t seem to make up their minds on where the capital should be.
“Arizona’s first Territorial Capital was Prescott in 1864, next was the old town of Tucson in 1867, and Prescott once again in 1877,” Buckshot Dot wrote in her e-mail. “In 1889 the 15th Legislature
met at Prescott to determine which town would be awarded the capital — Prescott in Yavapai County, Tucson in Pima County or that upstart town between them known as Phoenix in Maricopa County.”
Politicians then, as now, were not above using a bit of chicanery to achieve their goals, and that’s where Kissin’ Jenny figures in the story.
“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.”
But I’ll let Buckshot Dot tell the tale in verse:
My name is “Kissin’ Jenny”– and I’ve earned it, don’t you know.
I’m the foremost Prescott girl of my profession.
The Maricopa County gents all treated me to drinks
on the eve of that big shindig of a session.
The 15th Legislature, Arizona Territory,
from the competition, looked like quite a race!
The delegates from Prescott determined (that’s the story)
to put the capital back in it’s rightful place.
One of Yavapai’s staunch delegates, a regular of mine,
Was meticulous and vain and very proud,
He just wouldn’t venture anywhere without his fine glass eye —
much less meet with politicians in a crowd.
First he would avail himself of two or three libations;
Then he’d tap upon my door, and I would heed.
Then with terms of adulation, he would woo me for awhile,
And then the evening’s business would proceed.
On the morning when the session was fixing to convene,
He awoke and asked me, “Where is my glass eye?
I put it in a glass of water right here beside the bed!”
I said, “Bill, the best laid plans can go awry:
One of the "soiled doves" who worked in the saloons and brothels of the Old West
“In the night I woke up thirsty, and I drank that water down.
I didn’t know that your glass eye was in it!”
Well, Yavapai’s contingent were soon pounding on my door
Crying, “Hurry, Bill, we cannot spare a minute!”
Well, Bill explained the problem — how I’d swallowed his glass eye,
And had they any reason, then, to doubt it?
The delegates demanded that I cough the darn thing up!
Did they really think that I would up and spout it?
But I couldn’t — or I wouldn’t — how were they to know which one?
And they knew Bill would refuse to go without it.
And all of you know, surely, how developments transpired —
Prescott lost without Bill’s vote. You’ve heard about it.
Well, Yavapai and Pima both cursed their darn hard luck,
And Phoenix still remains the capital city
and all because some floozy got real thirsty in the night.
(Don’t you find that situation kind of witty?)
Do you think that I swallowed old William’s glass eye?
Do you think that I was paid to go and hide it?
Is there buried in the back yard a red lace camisole
With a glass eye, wrapped up carefully inside it?
I suppose that I should tell you — or shall I let you guess?
It’s been, Oh, so many long long years ago!
Did I really swallow Billy’s now famous old glass eye?
Well, now, wouldn’t you just really like to know!
“With the Yavapai County delegate unwilling to attend the legislative assembly,” says a Wikipedia entry on the affair, “the bill to move the capital to Phoenix passed by one vote.”
Legislative Act No. 1, signed by Gov. C. Meyer Zulick on Jan. 26, moved the capital to Phoenix on Feb. 4, 1889.