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Albert B. Fall Papers

Identifier: MSS-131-BC

Scope and Content

The collection contains papers covering Fall's career as U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior. It includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, congressional records dealing with oil scandals and Mexican affairs, and federal court transcripts and briefs relating to his legal troubles. It is divided into eight series.

Relating to the Oil Scandals, 1921-1928: Contains correspondence and documents relating to the scandals over deals Fall made involving the Teapot Dome Oil Reserves in Wyoming and the Elk Hills Oil Reserves in California.

Teapot Dome and Elk Hills Reserve Litigation: Contains defense memoranda, notes, court documents and correspondence regarding charges of conspiracy and bribery against Fall in the matter of oil leases at the reserves.

Personal Correspondence: Fall's personal correspondence includes papers relating to Tres Ritos Ranch (Three Rivers), and correspondence of Mark B. Thompson, Las Cruces lawyer and Fall's close friend Tres Ritos Ranch (Three Rivers).

Patrick Coghlan, owner of most of the lower Tres Ritos Valley near Tularosa, borrowed money from Numa Reymond, a Las Cruces financier, which resulted in eventual foreclosure. Fall and two partners, whom Fall later bought out, purchased the foreclosure judgment. Fall established himself at Three Rivers in 1906. In 1913 Fall consolidated his holdings with those of his son-in-law Mahlon T. Everhart and formed the Tres Ritos Cattle and Land Company (hereafter referred to as TRCLC). Harry F. Sinclair subsequently purchased a one-third interest in TRCLC. In 1921 Fall borrowed $100,000 from Edward L. Doheny to purchase adjacent land newly offered for sale which controlled TRCLC's water supply. TRCLC eventually encompassed 90,000 acres and figured prominently in the Senate investigations of the 1920's.

Mark Thompson was a Las Cruces lawyer and close personal friend of Albert Fall. Thompson was one of the attorneys who represented Fall during the oil scandal litigations.

Mexican Affairs, 1912-1923: Contains papers relating to Mexican Affairs, 1912-1923. Albert B. Fall was one of the first two U.S. Senators from NM and served in the Senate from March 27, 1912, to March 4, 1921. In 1918 he was appointed to the Committee on Foreign Relations and served as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Mexican Affairs.

Includes documents by Henry Ossian Flipper. Fall employed Flipper as an interpreter and translator for the Senate Subcommittee, and later appointed him as his special assistant in the Interior Department. Flipper, the first black graduate from West Point (1877), was dishonorably discharged from the Army, reputedly due to racial prejudice. For many years, Fall unsuccessfully attempted to have Flipper reinstated. In 1976 the Army changed Flipper's dismissal to an honorable discharge. He received a full executive pardon in 1999.

Department of the Interior, 1914-1923: Contains papers relating to activities of the Department of the Interior, Fall's activities as Secretary of the Interior, and domestic and foreign affairs, 1914-1923. Also contains papers relating to patronage and favors.

Clarence C. Chase Papers: Contains the Clarence C. Chase papers. Chase was Fall's son-in-law, and Collector of Customs in El Paso in the early 1920s.

Newspaper Clippings: Contains newspaper clippings, pamphlets and clippings from the Congressional Record. Also contains scrapbooks of newspaper clippings regarding Mexico, oil scandals, and sugar.

Federal Court Proceedings: Contains subpoenas, transcripts and briefs pertaining to three different federal criminal court cases involving Fall. Also contains records of a federal suit against Mammoth Oil Company. This series is divided into three subseries.

U. S. v. Albert B. Fall, et al, contains subpoenas and court transcripts in the federal criminal cases against Fall, Edward L. Doheny (Sr. and Jr.) and Harry F. Sinclair for conspiracy to defraud and accepting/offering a bribe. Includes court transcripts in the federal criminal case against Doheny and Fall. In 1922 Harry F. Sinclair was Chairman of the Board of Directors and the largest stockholder of Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation. He was also the controlling stockholder of the Mammoth Oil Company, incorporated February 28, 1922, which held the oil and gas lease to Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3, Wyoming, aka Teapot Dome.

U. S. v. Pan American Petroleum Co., contains court transcripts and printed briefs in U.S. v. Pan American Petroleum, contesting the naval leases.

U. S. v. Mammoth Oil Co., contains court documents in the Mammoth Oil Company federal court litigations. In late 1922 the Board of Directors of Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation authorized an exchange with Harry F. Sinclair of its common stock for Mammoth Oil Company stock owned by Harry Sinclair, and giving Sinclair Consolidated an option to make another such exchange. In 1924 the U.S. Government sued Mammoth Oil Company, Sinclair Crude Oil Purchasing Company, & Sinclair Pipe Line Company, respecting the validity of 1922 and 1923 contracts between the U.S. Government &Mammoth Oil Company.


  • 1851-1927
  • Majority of material found in 1922-1927


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publications or distribution.

Biographical Information

Albert Bacon Fall was born November 21, 1861, in Frankfort, Kentucky, where he first studied law. In 1883 Fall married Emma Garland Morgan in Clarksville, Texas, and came to New Mexico in 1885. He settled in Kingston in 1886 where he prospected for gold and silver, worked as an underground miner and a cowboy, and became friends with Edward L. Doheny, a fellow prospector and miner. In 1887 Fall moved to Las Cruces, where he continued studying law.

In 1888 Fall entered frontier politics as a Democratic candidate for the New Mexico Territorial Legislature, the only election he ever lost. He was admitted to the Territorial Bar in 1889 and opened his first law office, beginning his legal career as a specialist in Mexican law, Southwestern resources, and water rights. In 1889 Fall was elected to the Dona Ana Board of Acequia Commissioners; in 1890 he was elected to the New Mexico Territorial House of Representatives (Lower House), was selected Floor Leader, and appointed Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 1892 he was elected to the Territorial Council (Upper House). In March 1893 President Grover Cleveland appointed him Residing Judge for the Third Judicial District of New Mexico and Associate Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court. He resigned that post in February 1895.

In 1896 Fall was reelected to the Territorial Senate and in 1897 was appointed Solicitor General for the Territory. Fall served as president of the New Mexico Bar Association in 1897. In March 1898 during the Spanish-American War he enlisted in the 1st Voluntary Infantry, was commissioned captain, and served until 1899. Following the New Mexico Statehood Convention in 1901, Fall was appointed a Democratic delegate and went to Washington, D. C. in the cause of statehood. He was reelected to the territorial council in 1902, his last political office as a Democrat.

Severing his connections with the Democrats he became a Republican in 1902. His legal and political reputation grew, his El Paso firm prospered, and in 1906 he purchased Tres Ritos (Three Rivers) Ranch which figured prominently in later Senate investigations. In April 1907 Fall was again appointed Attorney General (formerly Solicitor General) of New Mexico Territory. Fall was a Republican delegate to the 1911 New Mexico Constitutional Convention and participated in framing the state constitution.

Elected by the New Mexico legislature to the U. S. Senate in 1912, Fall was one of the first two senators from the new State of New Mexico. Re-elected, he served in the Senate until March 4, 1921. Appointed to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1918, he served as Chair of the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Mexican Affairs where he was a staunch advocate for the protection of American property and lives in revolutionary Mexico. On March 5, 1921, President Harding appointed him Secretary of the Interior. Fall served two years, resigning March 4, 1923, to return to private legal practice.

On April 7, 1922, Interior Secretary Fall leased the Teapot Dome Oil Reserves to Harry F. Sinclair and on December 11, 1922, leased the Elk Hills Oil Reserves to Edward L. Doheny. The Doheny agreement also provided for the construction of extensive storage tanks at Pearl Harbor for refined naval fuel oil reserves to fortify against an anticipated attack by the Japanese in the Pacific. In 1923 Congressional investigations began which revealed that Sinclair had purchased a 1/3 interest in Fall's Tres Ritos Ranch, and that Doheny had lent Fall $100,000 in 1921 to purchase land, newly offered for sale, which was adjacent to Tres Ritos and controlled its water supply. The Congressional investigations resulted in criminal prosecutions against Fall, Doheny and Sinclair. Fall became the center of the famous Teapot Dome scandal which was a major campaign issue in the 1924 presidential election during which Democrats alleged that widespread corruption was rampant among Republicans in Harding_s Administration.

Fall, Sinclair, and Doheny were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Sinclair was found guilty of contempt and served nine months. In October 1929 Fall was convicted of receiving a $100,000 bribe from Doheny. Doheny was later acquitted of bribery respecting the same bribe for which Fall was convicted. Both cases were tried by the same judge in the same court, with the same two federal prosecutors and the same defense counsel. Fall was sentenced to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, the only defendant convicted in the original cases stemming from the 1923-24 Senate investigations.

During his bribery trial, Fall's failing health worsened and he suffered a hemorrhage of the lungs. A panel of four Court-appointed doctors thereafter declared him too ill to continue the trial, stating his life would be endangered, but Fall insisted the trial proceed. Due to his fragile condition, he had to be carried in and out of court, constantly attended by a nurse. In April 1931 Fall lost his appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals, ending eight years of investigation and litigation. Showing compassion for Fall's condition, the Department of Justice allowed one day to be tacked onto his sentence, making Fall eligible to serve his sentence as a Federal prisoner in the New Mexico State Penitentiary at Santa Fe, near a good hospital and close to his family. Driven by ambulance from El Paso, Fall entered prison July 20, 1931. During his entire incarceration he remained confined to his bed in the prison hospital, where he was diagnosed with multiple illnesses including chronic tuberculosis. After serving nine months, Fall was released May 9, 1932, again departing in an ambulance.

The first presidential cabinet member to be convicted and imprisoned for a felony committed while in public office, the scandal tainted Fall permanently. It ruined his career, eclipsed his prior achievements, and marked him for unsavory renown in every general account of American history. He spent his last years in near poverty, his health broken and his reputation destroyed. In 1929 after other creditors foreclosed on Fall's mortgage, E. L. Doheny acquired control of Tres Ritos Ranch and subsequently foreclosed on Fall for failure to repay the $100,000 loan, allowing Fall to continue living on the ranch for a nominal rent. Fall was evicted in 1936 following Doheny's death. He died November 30, 1944, in the Hotel Dieu, a Catholic hospital in El Paso. For the remainder of his life Fall insisted that his transactions with Sinclair and Doheny were legitimate business loans, totally disassociated from the leasing of the naval oil reserves.


19 boxes (10 cu. ft.)


The collection contains papers covering Fall's career as U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior. It includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, congressional records dealing with oil scandals and Mexican affairs, and federal court transcripts and briefs relating to his legal troubles.

Detailed Finding Aid

To see a more detailed, item level list of the contents of this collection, select below.

Related Material

Thomas B. Catron Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. Richard Lowitt Papers on Bronson M. Cutting Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Papers of Albert B. Fall Huntington Library, San Marino, California A microfilm copy of the Fall papers in the Huntington Library is available at the Center for Southwest Research, call number F801 F3 A3.

Separated Material

Photographs transferred to the Albert Bacon Fall Photograph Collection.

Map of Alaska, 1917, Department of the Interior, General Land Office, et. al. was transferred to the Map and Geographic Information Center, Centennial Science and Engineering Library, University of New Mexico (Nov. 2010).

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Albert B. Fall, The Memoirs of Albert B. Fall. David H. Stratton, ed., ElPaso: Texas Western Press, 1966.
  • Howard Bryan, "Teapot Dome Scandal Fading Away," The Albuquerque Tribune, Friday, May 31, 1974.


A microfilm copy of the Fall papers in the Huntington Library is available at the Center for Southwest Research, call number F801 F3 A3.

Processing Information

Collection was reprocessed in 2005.
Finding Aid of the Albert B. Fall Papers, 1851-1927 (bulk 1922-1927)
Processed by D. Trujillo
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 131 BC::Albert B. Fall Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss131bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131