From Statehood to World War II
Based on its burgeoning economy, New Mexico became the 47th state in the union in 1912, effectively marking the end of the frontier period, a phase of violence, uncertainty, and isolation that lasted about 300 years, longer here than in any other state. In addition to the painters and writers flocking to the new state, another group of migrants arrived: tuberculosis patients. Soon the state was known as a health retreat, and countless people did stints in its dry air to treat their ailing lungs. One of these people was J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose mild case of TB got him packed off to a camp near Pecos for a year after high school. He loved northern New Mexico and became familiar with some of its more hidden pockets, so when the U.S. Army asked him if he had any idea where it should establish a secret base for the Manhattan Project, he knew just the place: a little camp high on a plateau above Santa Fe—its name was Los Alamos. This was the birthplace of the atomic bomb, a weird, close-knit community of the country’s greatest scientific minds (and biggest egos), all working in utter secrecy. Only after Fat Man and Little Boy were dropped over Japan was the mysterious camp’s mission revealed.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition