Collections Dept.: Unburied Treasure from the Cartwright School

Robrt L. PelaSeptember 1, 2023
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It was a treasure trove that had been hiding in plain sight for almost 40 years, this pile of old telephones and rag dolls and copper license plates. “They were a part of the Cartwright Heritage House Museum,” says social sciences specialist Andrea Earrera of the many artifacts uncovered earlier this year at the Cartwright School near 59th Avenue and Thomas Road. “The museum opened in 1986, but [closed] after a Civil War rifle was stolen in the early 2000s… and the contents just stayed in this building and were forgotten.” The district plans to reopen the museum as soon as next year. They’ll display the stove and the Bibles and the tiny cotton dresses originally belonging to the Cartwright family, who in 1884 moved onto the land where the Cartwright School is now located. They founded the school district that bears their name in 1921 and left behind a collection of relics that tell a story of Arizona before it was a state.

Photos by Angelina Aragon
Territorial Doll

Older than the state of Arizona, this doll’s name is Sugar Pie Cartwright. “I was relieved that her hair is made of wool,” Earrera says. “A lot of old dolls have human hair, which is scary.”

This wall-mount Stromberg Carlson telephone from the 1920s cannot take photographs or update your Insta account.

The fabric of this tiny cotton dress has teeny horseshoes burned into it by hand.
1918 Rules For Teachers

This framed document from 1918 was found in the home of a former Cartwright School superintendent. “None of these rules are relevant to school-teaching today,” Earrera promises.
Gas Stove

The story goes that teacher Lola Cartwright Mann, twelfth-born of the 14 Cartwright children, cooked beans for her students on this ancient gas stove.