The Maricopa Historical Society installed a new display at the Maricopa Public Library, exhibiting the cotton-based fashions of the U.S. First Ladies.

Cotton was king in Maricopa between 1940 and the 1960s. Over the ages, cotton has had many uses, including fashions for the first ladies of the United States. In 1976, the U.S. cotton industry made two sets of First Lady Fashions to show the versatility of American cotton and to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States. One set of fashions was sent to the southern states and the other to the western states; the latter ended up in Casa Grande.

The Casa Grande Valley Cotton Wives showcased the fashions at the Francisco Grande Resort in 1976. The Casa Grande Museum protected the dresses in the 1990s when Pennee Murphree, wife of a Maricopa cotton farmer, acquired them. By 2012, the dresses had been modeled in about 20 fashion shows.

In 2011, the Maricopa Historical Society presented “First Ladies Coming to Maricopa” to commemorate the Arizona Centennial. The Pat Murphree Family donated 23 dresses and accessories to Maricopa Historical Society in 2017 in memory of Pennee Murphree and Casa Grande Valley Cotton & Ag Women.

On display are two full size dresses, pictures of 14 dresses, an American Girl 1930s outfit, gloves, shoes, and other items. The display can be seen during regular library hours at 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

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