On March 20th, 1880 there was great cause for celebration in Tucson as the Southern Pacific Railroad had at long last arrived, linking the Old Pueblo by rail with the outside world. There was the usual speechmaking, ballyhoo and booze along with much self-congratulation. Telegrams were being sent to various dignitaries around the nation. In their eagerness to boast and fortified with alcohol it was decided to send the following telegram to Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican.
“To his holiness, the Pope of Rome, Italy:
The mayor of Tucson begs the honor of reminding Your Holiness that this ancient and honorable pueblo was founded by Spaniards under sanction of the Church more than three centuries ago and to inform Your Holiness that a railroad from San Francisco, California now connects us with the entire Christian World.
R. N. Leatherwood, Mayor”
Nobody knows for certain what transpired but a few minutes later the telegrapher at the railroad station came running up with a reply. He handed it to Tucson’s colorful mayor, who then addressed the crowd of partiers.
“His Holiness the Pope acknowledges with appreciation receipt of your telegram informing him that the ancient and honorable city of Tucson, founded by Spaniards under sanction of the Church more than three centuries ago has at last been connected by rail with the outside world and sends his benediction, but for his own satisfaction would ask, ‘Where the hell is Tucson?’ ”