Sky-fall 104 years ago – Arizona State Quarter Coin

Today, the Arizona State Quarter Coin remembers the sky-fall event of July 19, 1912 near Holbrook that created over 14,000 small rocks.

In the November 1912 American Journal of Science, Warren M. Foote authored an article describing the shower:


It was doubtless the literary exaggerations of the 18th century and similar causes which prevented early geologists and astronomers from investigating the reports of falling sky-stones.

But in the fatherland of yellow journalism we sometimes find a journalistic restraint, under conditions that are worthy of remark, and which prove the labor of the news-gatherer to be of value to science.

In the last week of July, the following account appeared in several Arizona papers:

Friday evening about six-thirty a meteor, or some other body of a like nature, passed over Holbrook going almost due east at a rate of speed that would make a swift-moving express train seem as though it were standing dead still.

The noise it created was very loud and lasted for at least a half a minute and sounded somewhat like distant thunder or the booming of a cannon in the distance.

It left a large cloud of smoke in its trail and several of our citizens heard it explode a couple of times. A few saw it and nearly everyone heard the noise it made.

Reports from Winslow are that several people saw the body pass over the town, and the noise was heard at St. Joseph, Woodruff, Pinedale, and Concho.

That either all or part of the body fell near the section house at Aztec, six miles east of here, there seems to be little doubt.

A few small pieces were brought in here. One piece larger than an orange fell into a tree in a yard at Aztec cutting the limb off slick and clean and falling to the ground, and when picked up was almost red-hot.

Other particles of the body fell in the same vicinity and an eye-witness states that for about a mile to the east he could see little puffs of dust arising from the sand, evidently where fragments struck.

About two dozen people went to Aztec to pick up pieces of the meteor Sunday afternoon and the field is now pretty well cleaned up.

The largest found weighed over 14 pounds, while several of about 5 pounds were picked up, and numerous small pieces.

They are very brittle, heavy, and appear to have many small particles of iron in them.

As the writer of the present article lacked the time for making the two-thousand mile journey from Philadelphia, the additional and confirmatory data were secured by correspondence with witnesses of the fall and with finders of the stones.

Following are the main facts of the fall and find, as gathered.

Between 6.20 and 6.40 p. m. on July 19th, 1912, a large meteor was heard traveling in an easterly direction and passing over Winslow, Holbrook, and Aztec, points along the Santa Fe Railroad, which here parallels the Rio Puerco River.

It made a very loud noise, lasting for half a minute to one minute. This noise has been variously likened by witnesses, to the rumbling of a rapidly driven farm wagon on a rough road, to escaping steam, to distant or long continued thunder or the booming of a cannon.

It was heard at Concho, St. Joseph and Woodruff and at Pinedale, some forty miles away. One large explosion was quickly followed by several small ones in rapid succession.

Charles Von Aachen and his son then saw numerous stones fall at Aztec, raising many puffs of dust for a mile or more over the dry sand of the desert, like those produced by bullets or the first drops of rain in a heavy shower.

They did not see the stones in the air. Some fell near a building, and one is said to have severed the branch of a tree.

The meteor was not seen during its flight, as it was too early in the evening for its luminosity to be visible. Its speed could not be estimated, but it was “terrific” according to one account.

Its path was indicated to many by a train of thin smoky vapor which spread out after the meteor passed. One observer estimated that the explosion occurred one or two miles above the earth. The weather at the time was slightly cloudy.

The stones were scattered over an ellipsoidal area roughly estimated by two finders to be about one-half mile wide and three miles long.

As frequently recorded in meteoric falls, the longest diameter of this ellipsoid was in line with the trajectory of the meteor, being east and west.

Most of the smaller fragments lay on the top of the loose sandy soil; the larger pieces were about half buried, some to a depth of six inches, apparently having fallen slantingly from the west.

The large and small stones, according to all answers received, were said to be indiscriminately spread over the ground, without regard to size.

In previous stone showers the small stones have been found first in the line of flight, then the medium, and finally the largest.

The violent disruptions near Holbrook might account for the lack of such separation of the sizes, provided an explosion occurred near the end of the flight.

Just such a late disruption was evidenced by the nearly fresh fracture of many fragments.

Visitors from nearby towns soon gathered the larger stones.

Von Achen, who saw them fall, reported that they were too hot to pick up.

Two accounts state that they became lighter in color after cooling.

Except for about ten kilos sent away, all were acquired by the Foote Mineral Company of Philadelphia.

There is an Aztec post-office in Yuma Co., Arizona, but no post-office or telegraph station at Aztec, Navajo Co.

Hence the name of Holbrook, six miles distant, is used to designate the fall.


Mr. Foote continued his article describing in depth the features and composition of the small stones.

The Arizona State Quarter Coin shows with images of the location of the sky-fall and a small sample of the over 14,000 stones.

Arizona State Quarter Coin