Tucson, Arizona, the state's second-largest city and the seat of Pima County. It is on the Santa Cruz River, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Phoenix. The city lies as much as 2,400 feet (732 m) above sea level in the Sonoran Desert and is ringed with low mountains.
Tucson is the business and shipping center for the nearby copper-mining region, one of the richest in the country. It is also the center of a farming and ranching area producing mainly cotton and cattle. Manufacturing has undergone significant growth since World War II. Leading products are electronic equipment, missiles and aerospace instruments, steel and aluminum goods, and construction materials.
Tucson's warm, dry climate and nearby mountains have made it a popular health and tourist center. Tucson International Airport provides regional and national service, and flights to Mexico. Adjoining the city is Davis Monthan Air Force Base.
A notable example of the area's Spanish heritage is the historic mission of San Xavier del Bac, south of Tucson. ( Living exhibits of desert wildlife are displayed at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson Mountain Park. Also in this park is Old Tucson, a replica of the town in the 1860's and an amusement park. Giant cacti grow in Saguaro National Park, near Tucson.
On the University of Arizona campus, near downtown Tucson, are the University of Arizona Museum of Art; the Center for Creative Photography, a museum of photography; and the Arizona State Museum, which has archeological displays. Art shows, theatrical productions, and a symphony orchestra are sponsored by Tucson civic groups.
The area was inhabited by Pima and Sobaipuri Indians when Eusebio Kino, a Spanish missionary, founded the mission of San Xavier del Bac south of the present city in 1700. Tucson itself grew around a Spanish army garrison established in 1776. The city was part of Mexico from 1821 to 1853, when it passed into American hands through the Gadsden Purchase. Tucson was the Arizona territorial capital, 1867–77. In 1880 the Southern Pacific railroad reached the city. In the 20th century, Tucson became an industrial and tourist center.