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William A. Keleher Pictorial Collection

Identifier: PICT-000-742

Scope and Content

The William A. Keleher collection consists primarily of photographs created or collected by Keleher and his family. The collection is divided into 2 series: William A. Keleher Research Photographs and Keleher Personal and Family Items. Most of the research series pertains to his research on territorial New Mexico, although some photos relate to Keleher's business and civic activities in Albuquerque. This material includes items related to several notable historical figures, including Elfego Baca, William Bonney (a.k.a. Billy the Kid), Erna Fergusson, Edmund G. Ross, Clyde Tingley, and Lew Wallace. There are also two albums of Asahel Curtis photographs. The family series is primarily photographs of William A. Keleher, his second wife (Loretta Barrett Keleher), and their children.


  • 1823-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1880-1950


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for copyright compliance. For more information see the Photographs and Images Research Guide and contact the Pictorial Archivist.


William Aloysius Keleher was born November 7, 1886 in Lawrence, Kansas to David Keleher and Mary Ann (Gorry) Keleher. Three years later, the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where William enrolled at St. Mary's Parochial School. He studied there until 1900 when he began work as a messenger for the Western Union Telegraph Company. Although he started as a counter clerk, he quickly moved up to telegraph operator. For several years following, William tried his hand at different careers working for a short time for the Bluewater Development Company and later for the local Board of Education. The writing skills he exhibited while in that position attracted the attention of local newspapermen and, in 1908 he began work as a newspaper reporter. Overtime, he wrote for and later acted as city editor for both the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Evening Herald. While working as a reporter he met many well known New Mexicans including Elfego Baca. Also during this time, he became interested in law while observing the events at the Bernalillo County Courthouse. By 1913, he was a law student at Washington and Lee Law School in Virginia. After only two years in Law School, he received his Bachelor of Laws degree in June 1915 and was admitted to the New Mexico bar in August of that same year.

Shortly after returning to Albuquerque, Keleher found work as City Attorney. Following his tenure in this position, he joined a legal practice with George S. Downer which operated until 1930. In 1931, Keleher founded another practice with A. Howell McLeod. That successful firm still exists today.

Outside of his law practice, William A. Keleher was also an active citizen of New Mexico. He served as chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee of New Mexico for several years beginning in 1928. In 1932, Governor Arthur Seligman appointed Keleher to the State Board of Finance where he served until 1949. Later, he served as Conservator of the First National Bank of Albuquerque when that bank failed in 1933. He was appointed by Governor Hockenhull to investigate the labor trouble in the coal fields near McKinley County in 1933. The committee produced the Mechem-Keleher report on the "Gallup Coal Strike." The Federal government was eventually forced to step in and settle the strike. Other important appointments included Keleher's service on the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now known as New Mexico State University) Board of Regents, the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents, and the Old Lincoln County Memorial Commission. William A. Keleher held several important private sector positions as well serving as legal counsel for the Public Service Company of New Mexico and director of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States.

Possibly William A. Keleher's most important extra-legal activities were his writings. For most of Keleher's life he was an avid scholar of New Mexico history. However, it was not until the Texas Bar Association and the New Mexico Bar Association Meeting at Amarillo, Texas on July 5, 1929 that he became an authoritative author on the subject. At that conference he presented a talk on the Maxwell Land Grant which grew into his first book the Maxwell Land Grant. After publishing that work, Keleher went on to write, The Fabulous Frontier (1945), Turmoil in New Mexico, 1846-1868 (1952), Violence in Lincoln County, 1869-1881 (1957), and Memoirs, 1892-1969 (1969). Despite the demands of writing these books, Keleher kept his regular hours at his law firm.

For his accomplishments, Keleher was honored by and invited to join many groups. Those groups included; Phi Beta Kappa, Zeta Chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity, Tucker Chapter of Phi Delta Phi (legal fraternity), Albuquerque Country Club, Elks, and the Immaculate Conception Church. Eventually, Keleher was also honored by several institutions of higher learning. He received an honorary Master of Arts in 1946 and an honorary LL.D in 1968 both from the University of New Mexico. Also, in 1968 he received an honorary LL.D. from the College of St. Joseph (also known as the University of Albuquerque). In 1964, William A. Keleher joined an elite group as a member of the New Mexico Hall of Fame.

William A. Keleher's personal life kept him equally busy. He was married twice. His first wife, Mae J. Kelly, passed away in 1923. They had one daughter, Mary Ann. In 1932, he married Loretta Barrett of Forest City, Iowa. They had four sons: William Barrett, Michael Lawrence, John Gorry and Thomas Franklin. Loretta was a graduate of the University of Iowa. She came to the University of New Mexico (UNM) in 1925 taking a summer teaching position in physical education. While at UNM she added horseback riding, volleyball, golf, track, and riflery to the physical education requirements for sophomore and freshmen women. Outside of UNM, Loretta Keleher was also involved with the Immaculate Conception Church where she served as president of the Ladies' Altar Society.

William A. Keleher passed away on December 18th, 1972. Loretta Keleher died on July 31st, 2000.


UNM Campus News, 8/21/2000 "In Memoriam Loretta Barrett Keleher."

Keleher, W.A. Memoirs, 1892-1969: a New Mexico Item, Santa Fe, Rydal Press, 1969.

Reeve, Frank Driver, History of New Mexico, v.3. New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1961.

The Historical Society of New Mexico Hall of Fame Essays. Albuquerque, New Mexico, The Society, 1964.

Albuquerque Journal, August 4, 2000 "Keleher Expanded Women's Physical Education at UNM" Kropp, Simon F.

That All May Learn; New Mexico State University, 1888-1964. Las Cruces, New Mexico State University, 1972.


1050 items (11 boxes, 1 folder) : 1050 photographs


The William A. Keleher pictorial collection contains a variety of materials pertaining to the history of New Mexico. As a historian, Keleher conducted thorough research on the territorial era of the State. As a prominent lawyer and citizen of the State in the 1900's, Keleher's legal work and volunteer efforts helped shape the modern condition of New Mexico. Many of the photographs relate to his research, career and other interests.


The collection is divided into two series:

Series 1: William A. Keleher Research Photographs circa 1823-1970

Series 1 is divided into 13 subseries:

Historical figures

Historical groups

Historical, unidentified people

Contemporary people

Native Americans

Albuquerque buildings

Albuquerque scenes

Non-New Mexico places

Military buildings and forts

Miscellaneous people and groups

Miscellaneous and unidentified places

Miscellaneous images

Asahel Curtis albums

Series 2: Keleher Personal and Family Items circa 1900-1970

Physical Location

B2. Shelved by Pictorial Number. Box 11 shelved in Big Box location by Pictorial Number. Large folder filed in large drawers by Pictorial Number.

Photographs Available Online

Portions of the William A. Keleher Pictorial Collection are available online via New Mexico’s Digital Collections.

Related Material

Keleher - Biographical, Vertical File, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Albuquerque Photograph Collection. Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Pictorial materials were separated from the William A. Keleher Papers.
Finding Aid of the William A. Keleher Pictorial Collection, 1840-1970
Kari Schleher, Laura York, Natalie Heberling, Eileen Hogan
© 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English
Funding provided by: Dr. Tobias Duran, Center for Regional Studies

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