The controversial term of Albert Bacon Fall, Secretary of the Interior, 1921-1923

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The controversial term of Albert Bacon Fall, Secretary of the Interior, 1921-1923
Chamberlain, Kathleen Patricia
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ix, 163 leaves : ; 29 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
1921 - 1924 ( fast )
Teapot Dome Scandal, 1921-1924 ( lcsh )
Political and social views ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, History.
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kathleen Patricia Chamberlain.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
28483437 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L57 1992m .C42 ( lcc )

Full Text
Kathleen Patricia Chamberlain
B.S., The Ohio State University, 1969
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
1 '
£ I 'st i~c\

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Kathleen Patricia Chamberlain
has been approved for the
Department of
July 27, 1992

Chamberlain, Kathleen Patricia (M.A., History)
The Controversial Term of Albert Bacon Fall, Secretary
of the Interior, 1921-1923
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
Albert Bacon Fall is widely known for involvement
in the Teapot Dome scandal, but overall assessment of
his years in President Warren G. Harding's cabinet is
incomplete. The problem, therefore, was to recreate
Fall's cabinet term and determine the extent to which
he personally impacted Interior Department programs.
Government documents and manuscript collections
provided a sense of Fall's involvement in specific
events and programs while contemporary periodicals and
secondary sources helped determine the extent to which
they had already been covered. Research revealed
Fall's sweeping concern for resource development and
expansion of the West's economy, a concern manifested
in every Interior Department program from expansion of
the Bureau of Mines and U.S. Park Service to the leas-
ing of the Navy's oil reserves.
Two difficulties were encountered. A shortage of
information on the inner-workings of the Interior
Department made it necessary to rely on Fall's often
self-serving reports. Also, because Fall's personal

papers are located in New Mexico, California, Washing-
ton, and Ohio, questions had to be answered by tele-
phone, and sometimes could not be answered at all.
This paper concentrates on Fall's successful
policies and programs. He brought management ability
to the position resulting in millions of tourist dol-
lars to western states through national park expansion,
new Bureau of Mines helium research, and a streamlined
Office of Land Management. At the same time, it would
be short-sighted to deny Fall's ability to undermine
himself, his programs, and relationships with other
cabinet members. His rigid belief in individualism and
unbridled capitalism allowed no compromise with oppos-
ing views. As a result of this research, a detailed
picture of Fall's controversial, tumultuous term is
presented, including his successes and failures, abili-
ties and weaknesses.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Thomas J. Noel

To my two grandmothers
neither of whom had anywhere near the opportunities
available to women today
both of whom would have been very proud
of this accomplishment.

There is nothing more rewarding than finishing a
major project, and so completion of this thesis brings
a huge sense of accomplishment. However, nothing of
this magnitude is done alone. My thanks go to my
academic advisor, Tom Noel, who encouraged my interest
in western history and has been an inspiration to me.
Mark Foster's editorial magic is evident on nearly
every page of this manuscript, and I thank him for his
guidance and patience.
Several members of my family also deserve thanks.
Too often my son, David, had to put up with my frustra-
tions and requests to proofread. And my cousin, Lucy,
offered words of encouragement when I needed them most.
Assistance given to me by staff members at the
University of New Mexico Special Collections Library,
the New Mexico Records and Archives, and by Samuel
Shepard, former Bureau of Mines librarian, was much

1. INTRODUCTION.......................* . 1
Purpose and Scope of the Study........ 2
Overview of the Literature .................. 5
Notes..................................... 13
2. THE ROAD TO THE CABINET .......... 15
Fall Eyes the State Department........ 16
Fall Accepts Cabinet Position ............ 19
Opposition to the Appointment..... 21
Political Success and
Economic Disaster ...................... 24
The Conservationist Opposition .... 27
A Frontier Attitude in the Cabinet .... 28
Notes .................................... 32
OF THE INTERIOR............................ 35
Getting Started............................ 38
Implementing Efficiency . ............ 39
Expanded Projects ......... ..... 41
Economic Stability ..................... 43
Administrative Failures ............. . 46
Notes................................... 49

4. EXPANSION OF THE PARK SERVICE.................. 52
Introduction of Services ...................... 53
Assists Western States .................... 54
Fall Undermines Successful Park Program . 57
The All-Year Southwestern Park .... 58
Fall's Role............................... 59
Opponents Fight the Park................... 61
Fall Lashes Back........................... 62
Significance of the Park................... 63
Notes.............................,........ 65
The Banning of Tribal Ceremonies .......... 70
Circular 1665 Bans Dances.................. 71
The Pueblo Indians Land Bill................... 73
Fall Requests Legislation ................. 76
Protest from New Mexico.................... 80
The Leasing of Indian Oil Lands................ 86
Rattlesnake Dome.......................... 88
Denial of Foreign Leases .................. 89
Fall's Legacy............................. 90
Notes . ................................. 92
6. TERRITORIAL DISPUTES .......................... 96
Interference with the State Department . 97
Fall's Influence Fades .................... 98
Battles with the Department of Agriculture 100
Forest Service Versus the Land Office . 101

Forest Service Versus the Land Office . 101
Western Rebellion ...................... 103
Development of Alaska...................... 107
Alaska's Legislative Nightmare .... 107
Need to Relax Regulations........... 110
Battle for the Forest Reserves .... 113
Notes ....... ... ........................ 116
The California Reserves.................... 123
The Teapot Dome Reserve .................... 125
The LaFollette Resolution .............. 127
Analysis of Teapot Dome Literature .... 132
Accounts 1924 to 1935 ................ 133
A Revisionist Look at Teapot Dome ... 138
Rekindling of Interest, 1960 to 1977 . 139
Journal Contributions .................. 145
The Question of Bribery................. 146
Notes................................... 148
BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................... 153

Albert Bacon Fall has been stereotyped by histori-
ans who have generally focused on his guilt in the
Teapot Dome scandal. His tumultuous career as a crimi-
nal lawyer in late nineteenth-century New Mexico terri-
tory, his participation in frontier politics, even his
term as New Mexico's first United States Senator from
1912 to 1921 have been recorded in only a few disserta-
tions or relegated to the popular literature of wild
west writers. Fall's two years as Secretary of the
Interior under President Warren G. Harding were filled
with tremendous controversy and conflict. Neverthe-
less, the Fall years have generated little interest
aside from an occasional mention of his anti-conserva-
tion policies and the unresolved debate over whether or
not he took a $100,000 bribe from Edward Doheny, a
bribe for which Fall went to prison and Doheny was
Only one biography of Fall exists, and that is a
personal history written by his granddaughter, Martha
Fall Bethune. While a fascinating study, it does not
pretend to be a factual account and barely touches Upon

his political career. A 1955 dissertation titled
"Albert B. Fall and the Teapot Dome Affair" by David H.
Stratton, offers an overview of Fall's career with
primary emphasis on the Teapot Dome scandal. A 1966
dissertation, "Senator Albert B. Fall and Mexican
Affairs" by Clifford W. Trow, concentrates on Fall's
push for military intervention into post-revolutionary
Mexico. Neither is a full biography, and further study
is long overdue.
Purpose and Scope of the Study
This thesis attempts to fill a gap by examining
Albert Fall as Secretary of the Interior from 1921 to
1923. It will address his selection by President
Harding, what he hoped to accomplish by taking the
cabinet position, and his reservations about accepting
the position in the first place. It will define the
conceptual framework Fall brought with him to the
cabinet, the goals he sought to achieve, and the inner
workings of the Department of the Interior under his
direction. The thesis will also examine how his rigid
beliefs and inability to compromise created the con-
flict among cabinet members and special interest groups
that characterized his tenure. Finally, the thesis
will examine Teapot Dome historiography. Because there
are so many original documents housed in private col-
lections or spread geographically among individual

collections, this thesis will also point out areas
where additional research is required.
Fall did not want to be Secretary of the Interior.
Nobody had more misgivings about his selection by
President Harding than Fall himself. Public office had
already drained him economically, and eight years in
the foggy bottoms of Washington had aggravated his
chronic lung ailments and arthritis. He accepted the
position because he believed the prestige would benefit
New Mexico and thought he could influence foreign
policy through his personal friendship with the presi-
dent. Fall fully endorsed the so-called American Dream
and became a true symbol of Harding's "return to Nor-
malcy," a conservative response to American post-war
problems of inflation, demobilization, economic stagna-
tion, and international entanglements.(1) In an era
when the U.S. Supreme Court was reversing child labor
laws and social programs were being subordinated to
business needs, Fall's attempts to open what remained
of the public domain and relax government regulations
were not extraordinary.(2)
Fall was driven by several basic assumptions, and
these are seen in some form in every action he took as
Secretary of the Interior. First was an undying belief
in capitalism, an absolute conviction that American
greatness lay in the rugged individualism that had

built the country. Indian tribes would shed their
poverty and social decay, he thought, by abandoning the
communal way of life and embracing individualism. The
only effective way to jump-start the economy in the
West was to open public lands to individual settlers
and private enterprise. Fall believed, too, in the
sanctity of business and business methods, and he spent
his two years in office attempting to streamline opera-
tions, boost productivity, enhance profit, and cut red
This thesis will describe how these basic assump-
tions drove Fall's policies and governed his actions
from 1921 to 1923, and how his attempts to apply them
to other departments created conflict. While these
beliefs were Fall's strength, they were also his fatal
flaw. His rigid thinking prevented compromise with
other viewpoints. In fact, he seldom even bothered to
listen to them. Fall undermined his own widely ac-
claimed program of national park expansion and presided
over an Indian policy that failed dismally because he
could not see beyond his own narrow, pro-business
focus. His administrative expertise was overshadowed
by controversy within the cabinet and strife with
conservationists, Indian welfare groups, and foreign
investors. This damaged his prestige in the Harding
cabinet and the political hierarchy of New Mexico.

Fall's leadership ability introduced efficiency
into the Patent Office, the Pension Bureau, the Bureau
of Land Management, Geological Survey, and the Bureau
of Mines. It greatly expanded the domain of the Na-
tional Park Service. But his narrow scope so infuriat-
ed Indians and their supporters that they flooded
Congress with reform legislation after 1924. His
attempts to transfer the forests and oil reserves into
the Department of the Interior gave so much publicity
to conservation that no administration "in the near
future, at least, would dare to appoint a Secretary of
the Interior who was not friendly to conservation."(3)
Few will argue that Fall was a great Secretary of
the Interior, or even that he was a good one. He has,
however, been vilified on the basis of a very few
actions, and with little historical investigation into
the complexities and range of activities that charac-
terized his term. This thesis will study some of these
activities and hopefully awaken interest for further
research and writing.
Overview of the Literature
Research for this thesis was pieced together from
government documents, personal papers, newspapers, and
individuals. Federal documents include transcripts of
the Teapot Dome investigation conducted by the Senate
Committee on Public Lands and Surveys; selected tran-

scripts of criminal and civil cases that followed the
investigation; selected Congressional Record accounts,
1912 to 1924; and the 1921 and 1922 annual reports of
the Secretary of the Interior. The thesis incorporates
information from the Fall collection, University of New
Mexico Special Collections Library, and collections
located at the State Archives and Records in Santa Fe.
Newspapers consulted included The New York Times.
Albuquerque Tribune. Santa Fe New Mexican. Denver Post.
Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Rocky Mountain News,
as well as magazines such as Sunset, New Republic.
World's Work, and Dial, to name just a few. Specific
questions were directed to Peter Blodgett, curator of
the Henry E. Huntington Library, Western History Col-
lection, San Marino, California; the Washington State
University Library, Pullman, Washington; the Ohio His-
torical Society, Education Department, in Columbus,
Ohio; and the Federal Archives in Washington, D.C.
Unsuccessful attempts were made to find relatives of
Fall still living in New Mexico or in El Paso, Texas,
where he died.
This thesis utilizes a variety of secondary sourc-
es, almost none written solely about Fall. The leading
Fall historian is David Hodges Stratton whose 1955
dissertation gives an overview of Fall's life and
challenges the bribery conviction in the Teapot Dome

case. Stratton claimed that $100,000 was insufficient
to constitute a bribe, especially considering the
millions of dollars Doheny stood to gain from those oil
leases.(4) He further contends that given Fall's pro-
business ideology, he would have leased the oil re-
serves to Doheny and Sinclair with or without such
incentive. In journal articles that followed the
dissertationthe latest dated 1974Stratton further
elaborates his position, but his primary focus is the
Teapot Dome investigation and court cases.
William A. Keleher devotes one chapter to Fall in
his 1945 book The Fabulous Frontier: Twelve New Mexico
Items. but does little more than scratch the surface.
Even Fall's memoirs edited by David Stratton cover only
his life to 1890. Early writers like Marcus E. Ravage,
John Ise, and Harry M. Daugherty, Attorney General
under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, focused almost
exclusively on Teapot Dome. Ravage's work, The Storv
of Teapot Dome, was written in 1924 before the ink was
even dry on the investigation records. Not a scholarly
work by any means, it remained the only complete book
on the topic for years. Ravage wholeheartedly con-
demned Fall for "originality and ingenuity" in juggling
jurisdiction of the Navy oil reserves.(5) In fact,
Ravage condemned Fall five years before the courts
convicted him and sent him to prison.

John Ise's 1926 book, The United States Oil Poli-
cy. contains one chapter on Teapot Dome. In The Inside
Story of the Harding Tragedy. Harry Daugherty vents his
dislike of Fall and delights in the account of how
Senator Thomas Walsh "broke" Fall's arrogance. But
Daugherty's book is about Harding, not Fall, and there-
fore, only addresses his cabinet career in passing.
Two later books, Privileged Characters, published in
1935, and Teapot Dome, published in 1959, both by
Morris R. Werner, offer few additional insights and no
More recent books have also focused almost entire-
ly on Teapot Dome but within a larger framework. Burl
Noggle's exceptionally useful Teapot Dome: Oil and
Politics in the 1920s. written in 1962, details the
strength of Progressive conservation and Fall's clashes
with conservationists Gifford Pinchot and Secretary of
Agriculture Henry Wallace. An in-rdepth look at the
investigation and the trials that followed provide a
firm background upon which to launch additional stud-
ies. Noggle concludes that the Republican party all
but excommunicated Fall, and that the secretary "paid a
drastic penalty whether guilty or not."(6)
In 1963 J. Leonard Bates published The Origins of
Teapot Dome; Progressives. Parties, and Petroleum.
1909-1921. in which he details the withdrawal of the

Navy's oil reserves and the clash between the Depart-
ment of the Interior and the conservationists. Bates
discusses Fall's attitudes about conservation and his
early involvement with oil companies, but the focus of
this work is oil and not Fall. Gerald Nash's 1968
book, United States Oil Policy, offers a thorough look
at seventy-five years of U.S. oil policy. It details
international oil considerations and is particularly
helpful in understanding the post-World War I fear of
oil depletion and Fall's accusation that Secretary of
State, Charles Evans Hughes, promoted a weak foreign
policy regarding oil that allowed Dutch and British oil
interests dominate American firms. But United States
Oil Policy is not primarily about Fall.
Harding biographers Andrew Sinclair, The Available
Man: Robert K. Murray, The Politics of Normalcy and The
Harding Era: Francis Russell, The Shadow of Blooming
Grove. and Eugene Trani and David L. Wilson, The Presi-
dency of Warren G. Harding, all place Fall on the
periphery. Russell's best-seller gives the most de-
tailed information on Fall's relationships within the
cabinet and the development of the Teapot Dome scandal.
He attributes Fall's conviction to secrecy. Fall was
cagey in the transfer of the reserves, and he refused
to disclose his financial transactions. Murray con-
cludes that Fall became the instrument by which both

Democrats and Republicans aired their grievances
against the Harding administration.(7) Trani's synthe-
sis of published secondary accounts deals almost total-
ly with Harding.
Other historians have provided context on specific
topics. Kenneth Philp, Mar jane Ambler, and Robert M.,
Kvasnicka detailed Indian policy during the 1920s, the
role of Indian Commissioner, Charles Burke, and the
controversy that flared as a result of Fall's involve-
ment with western Indian tribes. Selig Adler, The
Uncertain Giant, explored Harding's foreign policy,
especially in Latin America and Mexico. Donald Swain,
Federal Conservation Policy; Samuel P. Hays, Conserva-
tion and the Gospel of Efficiency; Roderick Nash, The
American Environment, and Gifford Pinchot, Breaking New
Ground. address the Progressive conservation movement
that opposed Fall's public land policy. Hays assesses
the Ballinger-Pinchot controversy of 1909-1910, and
bullish nature of Roosevelt conservationists, with
which Fall would eventually collide.
Jack E. Holmes, Daniel T. Valdes, Robert Larson,
and Robert I. Vexler interpreted New Mexico political
history.(8) Especially useful were explanations of the
rise and fall of the Santa Fe Ring, the growing role of
the Democratic party in southern New Mexico versus the
conservative Hispanic voting block in northern New

Mexico, and an analysis of various personalities in-
volved in territorial New Mexico. Although Fall was
generally treated only as an incidental character,
works on other personalities proved useful. Betty
Glad's book on Charles Evans Hughes and Ellis Hawley's
compilation of articles on Herbert C. Hoover examined
Fall from the viewpoint of other cabinet members.(9)
A political biography of Senator Holm 0. Bursum, Fall's
successor, by Donald Moorman, gave detailed informa-
tion on the conflict between Bursum and Fall, and
J. Leonard Bates' doctoral dissertation on Thomas Walsh
told the Teapot Dome story from the side of the inves-
tigator. (10)
There are many collections yet to be explored.
Some thirty- to fifty-thousand papers are contained in
the Henry E. Huntington Library and Museum, the bulk of
them on Fall's senate and cabinet years.(11) This
collection is not open to students below the doctoral
level, however. Additional documents concerning Fall's
years in the Interior Department are housed at the
Washington State University Library and in collections
scattered across the country such as the Stephen Mather
papers at the University of California at Los Angeles
and the Warren G. Harding collection located at the
Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.

The most recent study of Fall's life is nearly
forty years old and in need of updating. Interesting-
ly, little has been written about Warren G. Harding
since 1977. There is a tremendous amount of research
and writing to be done on this fascinating man and on
the Harding administration as a whole. This thesis
attempts to fill a gap in the study of Fall's career
from 1921 to his retirement from public life in 1923.

1. Robert K. Murray, The Politics of Normalcy;
Governmental Theory and Practice in the Hardina-
Coolidae Era (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.,
1973), 2-7.
2. The U.S. Supreme Court between 1920 and 1923
declared the Child Labor Act unconstitutional in Hammer
v. Daqenhart. denied minimum wage salaries to women in
Adkins v. Children's Hospital, and denied Clayton Act
protection to labor unions during the United Mine
Workers Strike in 1921.
3. Burl Noggle, Teapot Dome: Oil and Politics in the
1920s (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1962), 147.
4. A discussion of this and other Teapot Dome theo-
ries is found in chapter 7, page 119.
5. Marcus E. Ravage, The Storv of Teapot Dome (New
York: Republic Publishing Company, 1924), 103.
6. Noggle, Teapot Dome. 211.
7. Murray, Politics of Normalcy. 122.
8. See Jack E. Holmes, Politics in New Mexico (Albu-
querque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1967) ;
Daniel T. Valdes, A Political History of New Mexico
(Denver: s.n. 1971); Robert W. Larson, New Mexico's
Quest for Statehood. 1846-1912 (Albuquerque: The Uni-
versity of New Mexico Press, 1968); Robert I. Vexler,
ed., Chronology and Documentary Handbook of the State
of New Mexico (Dobbs Ferry: Oceana Publications, 1978).
9. See Betty Glad, Charles Evans Hughes and the
Illusions of Innocence: A Study in American Diplomacy
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966); Ellis W.
Hawley, ed., Herbert Hoover as Secretary of the Com-
merce: Studies in New Era Throught and Practice (Iowa
City: University of Iowa Press, 1981).

10. Donald R. Moorman, "A Political Biography of Holm
0. Bursum" (Ph.D. diss., The University of New Mexico,
1962); J. Leonard Bates, "Senator Walsh of Montana,
1918-1924" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina,
11. Peter Blodgett, telephone interview with author,
7 May 1992. The collection is open to pre-doctoral
students or professional historians only.

On March 5, 1921, Albert Bacon Fall heard his name
read to the Senate as President Warren G. Harding's
nominee for Secretary of the Interior. The applause of
his fellow senators filled the chamber in a loud,
enthusiastic confirmation. Hastily, Fall scribbled his
resignation as senior senator from New Mexico and sent
the note by messenger to the desk where it was accepted
immediately. Fall slapped on his black Stetson and
gathered up his flowing black cape that was stylish
garb among upper class New Mexicans. A playful chorus
of Get out! and You're no longer one of us!" rained
down upon him as he hurried, grinning, up the aisle of
the Senate, and out the Republican exit door.(1)
One can only wonder whether or not Fall glanced
back at the seat near his own where prior to his elec-
tion to the presidency, Warren Harding was seated as
the junior senator from Ohio. Harding and Fall had
become cronies and poker playing buddies. Harding
admired the rugged, cigar-chewing New Mexican who
walked with the erect and forceful stride of a rancher
who'd spent hours in the saddle and whose Western drawl

stung with the directness of a man who believed he was
always right. No doubt Harding found Fall quite a
change from his Ohio colleagues for historian David
Stratton claims he "represented the epitomized western-
er. "(2)
Photos reveal a strikingly handsome man with black
hair "swept back in long loose waves behind his ears in
the old senatorial style," a sweeping mustache, and
dark, piercing eyes. By the time he joined the cabi-
net, Fall's hair and mustache were heavily streaked
with gray. Dr. H. Foster Bain, director of the Bureau
of Mines under Fall, once described him as forceful and
"sure of his ground." His code, Bain said, "was that
of the Frontier and frontier politics."(3) Fall's
granddaughter, Martha Fall Bethune, depicts him as
affectionate with his family. He dearly loved his wife
Emma and doted on his children. In her book Race with
the Wind, she describes his games with grandchildren in
order to get them to bed and his playful banter with
giggling teenage girlswhom Fall referred jokingly to
as "the plague of locusts"visiting his youngest
daughter Jouette.(4)
Fall Eyes the State Department
Harding was impressed with Fall's knowledge of
Mexican affairs, obtained by practicing law in New
Mexico and in Mexico.(5) A criminal lawyer in Las

Cruces in 1890s, Fall had also specialized in Spanish
laws including land grants, water rights, and Mexican
business law. His legal work involved organizing the
vast Chihuahua, Mexico, cattle and copper interests of
southwestern capitalist Col. William C. Greene, some-
times called "Copper King of Mexico." In this capaci-
ty, Fall learned the intricacies of the Mexican legal
system and simultaneously amassed a small fortune in
mining and land investments in Mexico.(6)
The 1910 Mexican Revolution and the series of
fragile governments that followed confiscated American
investments and threatened the businesses that remained
with talk of land reform and the almost endless specter
of more revolution.(7) The instability in Mexico de-
stroyed his investments and created an almost fanati-
cal, life-long nationalism in Fall. He severely criti-
cized President William Howard Taft and his Secretary
of State, Philander C. Knox, for what he considered to
be poor protection of American citizens, property, and
business in Mexico. In 1914 he sided with Senator
Henry Cabot Lodge to "empower the President to inter-
vene militarily in Mexico."(8) In 1916 he loudly de-
nounced General Pershing's half-hearted pursuit of
revolutionary Pancho Villa, which he believed was being
impeded by President Carranza.(9)

Joining Harding on the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee after World War I, he opposed President
Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations and demanded Ameri-
can military intervention into the unstable Venustiano
Carranza government. Unable to control anti-government
activities in Mexico's outlying states, Carranza's
presidency from 1914 to 1920 was marked by increased
in-fighting between the Mexican revolutionary army and
civilian demands for liberal land redistribution.(10)
Fall's knowledge of Mexican business, his noisy tirades
against administrative wait-and-see policies, and his
outrage at Mexican treatment of American businesses
convinced Senator Harding that his friend from New
Mexico was a leading authority on Mexico and Latin
Fall arranged a December 1920 meeting in Browns-
ville, Texas, between the president-elect and new
President of Mexico, Alvaro Obregon. Harding sent
personal correspondence to Obregon by way of Fall
expressing confidence that they would soon "inaugurate
a new era. .in which the people of both nations may
truly rejoice."(11) Fall's knowledge of Mexico and
Latin America and his ability to hobnob with Mexican
officials made Harding think seriously about appointing
him Secretary of State.

To promote his chances, Fall made himself useful
during Harding's famed front-porch presidential cam-
paign. He camped in Marion, Ohio, acting as self-
appointed "confidential scout" to the candidate.(12)
He wrote speeches and briefed his friend on foreign
policy, especially because Harding knew very little
about the subject. "I think a candidate ought to have
very little to say about foreign policy," Harding
remarked, "but I find questions are pressing from time
to time and I want to be becomingly prudent at every
stage of the campaign."(13) By taking on the role of
foreign policy advisor, Fall sought to fill a void that
he believed would guarantee himself the coveted posi-
Unfortunately for Fall, Republican party elders
considered the New Mexican too much of a "quick-draw"
for a position that required a level head and the
ability to compromise. His militant stand on Mexico
made him even less appealing. On the eve of his inau-
guration, Harding named Charles Evans Hughes Secretary
of State and offered the consolation prize to Albert B.
Fall Accepts Cabinet Position
The March 9, 1921, issue of Nation wagged its
editorial head at Harding's cabinet as a whole. "We
have," it reported, "a Cabinet about as ill equipped to

deal with the terrible problems confronting the world
as could well be put together. It was a good old-
fashioned, big business cabinet without a woman in it,
without a representative of labor. The nomination of
Harry Daugherty as Attorney General raised the most
eyebrows and questions about honesty. Of Fall, the
editorial merely questioned his "desire to get us into
trouble with Mexico."(14) Harding biographer, Robert
K. Murray, claims that "At no time was there opposition
to Fall on ethical grounds."(15)
As a New Mexico rancher, Fall was considered
pretty much a straight-shooter. It was well known that
he adored his wife Emma and treated her like a queen.
He generously granted loans to friends and seldom
pressed for repayment. He often accepted requests from
families to allow their ailing or erring sons a chance
to recuperate through hard work on his ranch.(16)
Fall dearly loved his only son Jack and his three
daughters, Alexina, Carolyn, and Jouette, After the
Teapot Dome verdict was handed down in 1929, Fall
replied to reporters, "This wasn't the tragedy of my
life. .The tragedy of my life occurred in 1918. This
was an incident."(17) He referred to the sudden,
devastating deaths of his son and daughter Carolyn
within one week of each other, victims of the 1918
Spanish flu epidemic.

Opposition to the Appointment
The Nation questioned the cabinet as a whole. The
Times scorned Fall's radical stand on Mexico.(18) Yet
neither apparently saw Fall as a threat to the cabinet,
to the public domain, or to the United States. One
person who did question the appointment, however, was
Fall himself. Secretary of State would have been the
crowning achievement to more than thirty years in
public office, but Secretary of the Interior was defi-
nitely second choice. Almost from the day of his
appointment to the U.S. Senate in 1912, Fall told
associates he intended to retire from public life. He
initially had refused even a second term in the Senate,
accepting only when party chairman Holm 0. Bursum
informed him that the party no longer wanted Thomas
Catron to represent it, and that Fall was obliged to
accept the seat to prevent Catron from returning to
Washington. The party agreed to finance Fall's entire
Fall had, after all, been a public figure in New
Mexico Territory for more than thirty years. Born in
Frankfort, Kentucky, in November 1861, Albert Bacon
Fall tackled myriad professions before settling on law
and politics. Because his confederate soldier father
lost his land during the Civil War, young Albert was
raised partly by his grandparents and partly by his

parents who moved often in search of employment.(20)
By age twelve, he worked in a Nashville, Tennessee,
cotton factory, then as a bottle washer for a Spring-
field, Tennessee, company. In 1878 taught school for
forty dollars per month in Bald Knob, Kentucky, and
began to read law. He prospected briefly around Eureka
Springs, Arkansas, and became an itinerate teacher in
Indian Territory.
By 1881 he moved to Clarksville, Texas, where he
continued to read law and worked as a bookkeeper. This
"temporarily impaired my eyesight and to some extent my
general health."(21) To restore both, he became a
cattle drover then a trail cook. He met and married
Emma Morgan, a Texas schoolteacher, in May 1882 or
1883.(22) Fall continued to read law off and on. He
took a job as a geologist that moved him to Mexico and
then to Silver City, New Mexico, in 1885. It was here
that he first met and became friends with prospector
Edward L. Doheny who would figure prominently in the
Teapot Dome scandal. By 1887 Fall abandoned geology
and mining, although he retained a strong interest in
it for the remainder of his life. He moved to Dona Ana
County in 1887 and set up a law practice in Las Cruces.
Fall remained there until 1905 when he purchased the
old Tres Rios Ranch near Tulerosa with the profits from
his Mexican investments.(23)

His law practice launched Fall into politics. He
reportedly defended some two hundred cattle rustlers
and 120 accused polygamists under the Edmunds Anti-
Polygamy Act, and managed to win acquittal for numerous
murder suspects including the accused killers of famed
gunmen Pat Garrett, John Wesley Hardin, and controver-
sial Las Cruces newspaper publisher Albert Fountain.
Between cases, Fall served on the Acequia Board that
administered the public ditch in Dona Ana Village,
joined the Democratic party in Las Cruces and served in
the territorial legislature in 1890.(24) He was ap-
pointed an associate justice of the New Mexico Supreme
Court by President Grover Cleveland in 1893 and terri-
torial attorney in 1897.
As a Democrat Fall became what New Mexicans de-
scribed as a "master of sulfurous phrases and political
vitriol."(25) Some time between 1900 and the 1902
elections, he bolted the party and offered his sharp
tongue to Republicans. Early studies claim he switched
because he admired Theodore Roosevelt even to the point
of volunteering to be a Rough Rider during the Spanish-
American War.(26) This may be partially true, although
there is little evidence that Fall actually knew Roose-
velt until years later when he and Senator Lodge kept
the ex-president informed of the Mexican situation

through letters. This exchange was the beginning of
their friendship.(27)
The domination of New Mexico politics by the
Republican Santa Fe Ring is probably the real reason
for Fall's switch. The Santa Fe Ring led by Thomas B.
Catron, one of the largest landowners in New Mexico,
was a loose coalition of "rings." From the mid-1870s
it controlled mining, ranching, land speculation, and
politics in New Mexico, and played a prominent role in
the Colfax and Lincoln County Wars of the late nine-
teenth century. Fall never really said why he bolted;
he merely commented "I know when to change horses."(28)
In retrospect, Fall played his cards wisely. In 1912
New Mexico joined the Union under a Republican adminis-
tration. Fall and Thomas Catron were appointed by the
state legislature as the first senators from the state.
Political Success and Economic Disaster
Political success did not translate to economic
success. Fall's mining investments in Mexico gone, his
Washington career depleted the rest of his fortune.
Son Jack ran the ranch until his death in 1918, but
afterward, Emma Fall struggled to lease grazing lands,
hire and supervise the ranch hands, and "run" the
cattle.(29) She was unable to make the ranch pay for
itself despite bumper apple and peach crops that yield-
ed $17,000 in 1920 and successful experimentation with

English and black walnuts. Cash crops barely paid for
upkeep while grain crops fed the stock. Newspaper
articles focusing on the Teapot Dome investigation in
1923 and 1924 claimed that by 1920, the Tres Rios Ranch
was in a sad state of disrepair.(30)
By 1921 Fall was tired, suffered from chronic lung
problems and arthritis, and wanted desperately to
return to his ranch. Less than a week before confirma-
tion as Secretary of the Interior, he wrote to daughter
Jouette "I do not contemplate to any degree of plea-
sure, remaining in public life four years in the Cabi-
net or any other position."(31) From the moment he
took the position, rumors began to fly of his impending
resignation. Fall told the press in January 1922 "I
have not resigned, I have not been asked to resign, and
I am not thinking of resigning," yet told law associate
Mark Thompson that he had probably done about all he
could do in his current position.(32)
Fall was also becoming disgusted with the politi-
cal process. By late 1920 the jockeying began within
the New Mexico political hierarchy for his senate seat.
Even before the announcement of his nomination to the
Cabinet, "senatorial aspirants began the traditional
chicanery and maneuvering to obtain endorsement as
Fall's successor."(33) Mark Thompson wrote "I am very
much afraid that during your incumbency, you taught

people of New Mexico the idea that the Senatorial toga
was about the biggest thing in the United States and
that its occupant was all powerful."(34) Fall must
have found that comment laughable considering how
little input he ended up having into the selection of
his replacement. Holm O. Bursum obtained Governor
Merrit Mechem's support over Fall's strong opposition.
Two years later Fall still opposed Bursum and on July
22, 1922, sent one hundred dollars to Thompson "to be
donated confidentially to Bursum's most promising
opponent, H.B. Holt."(35) By that time, however,
Bursum had undermined Fall's influence in Washington by
persuading Harding that to keep the seat Republican he,
not Fall, needed the patronage in New Mexico.(36)
Fall watched his political influence in Washington
and New Mexico dwindle. He survived on a public ser-
vant salary as his once magnificent cattle ranch sank
into debt. By 1921 he was ten years past due on his
taxes. As he resided alone night after night in the
Wardman Park Hotel in Washington while Emma struggled
with the ranch in New Mexico, he grew lonelier and more
convinced that the humid Washington climate only aggra-
vated his constant bouts of pleurisy, colds, and ar-
thritis. (37) Fall gave the impression of a tough,
robust westerner, but illness was beginning to take its
toll. In 1921 Fall was tired and wanted to go home.

"I am accustomed to doing things first and talking
about them afterward," he told his wife. "Any man in
the Government service who gets out of the rut, steps
upon the toes of someone else and must expect to hear
criticism and to meet opposition."(38)
He told his wife that he was entering his most
lucrative years, and believed he could get a salary of
at least fifty thousand dollars from private industry.
He wrote to associate James E. Anderson on January 17,
1923, that "I have declined the position of Associate
Justice of the Supreme Court twice within the last few
months."(39) Fall wanted little more than to turn his
back on Washington and return to his home. He took the
position of Secretary of the Interior because he be-
lieved he could influence foreign policy through his
personal friendship with President Harding and because
it was considered prestigious for the eight-year-old-
state of New Mexico. By 1923 the president no longer
sought out his advice on Latin America, and he was
entangled in so much controversy that he had lost his
political standing in New Mexico.
The Conservationist Opposition
Opposition to Fall's appointment was expressed by
the conservationist camp, especially former director of
the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, who said, "It
would have been possible to select a worse candidate,

but not altogether easy."(40) A July 29, 1921, con-
ference with Fall confirmed his opinion that the new
secretary was indeed an enemy of conservation and
Progressive conservation policies.(41) He pointed to
Fall's attitude as expressed by his many speeches in
the Senate and was convinced that the New Mexican had
not changed. After Fall maneuvered to bring control of
the forest reserves under the jurisdiction of the
Department of the Interior, Pinchot launched his cam-
paign of opposition.
Opposition also came from the Indian Rights Asso-
ciation, which in February 1921 warned the President-
elect against Fall on the basis of a hostile Senate
record against Indians.(42) Other than these individu-
als and groups, few dissented.
A Frontier Attitude in the Cabinet
Fall came to the position with strong convictions
and a rugged frontier background that would enable him
to modernize the Interior Department, but which would
also lead to conflict with special interest groups and
Cabinet members. He was self-educated and had taken on
jobs such as teacher, cattle drover, cook, rancher,
miner, and lawyer. He had a keen eye for opportunity
and strongly felt that a western brand of rugged indi-
vidualism coupled with unbridled capitalism spelled
greatness for America. Fall consistently used these

themes in the implementation of Interior Department
programs. Without the will to develop resources and
take economic opportunity, he told a Colorado Springs
audience in 1921, America was like a "miser who buries
his gold in the ground and carries the secret of the
hiding place to his grave."(43)
Fall concluded that capitalism would benefit not
only this, but successive generations.
The more we ransack her [Earth] the more we
learn, the more we learn the more we realize
how little we know and how much there is to
find out. .The more we utilize the resourc-
es that nature has given us the better for
everybody in the present and in the fu-
ture. (44)
In this attitude, David Stratton claims Fall was "a
remnant from a more extravagant age."(45)
Fall inherited the southern disposition to states'
rights, and he never altered that opinion. He accused
advocates of federal land ownership of putting the
American people into direct competition with Washington
and cheating the individual states of their proper
revenue.(46) Most of his programs reveal an acute con-
cern for the economic prosperity of states and a belief
that local governments, not Washington, should deter-
mine land use.
He possessed a strong sense of patriotism that
often manifested itself in xenophobic tendencies or
extreme nationalism. His demands for military inter-

vention after 1912 turned into a call for non-recogni-
tion of Mexico after 1919 and rumors in 1921 that he
was covertly supporting preparations within the United
States to overthrow the Obregon government. His oil
policy revealed a strong suspicion of the Japanese, and
a belief that Secretary of State Hughes was too soft on
foreign competition. He feared that Dutch and British
corporations in particular sought to squeeze American
firms out of the oil and gas market.
Fall exhibited outstanding organizational ability
and solid experience in business methods as seen in his
work in Mexico for Col. William Greene. Fall apparent-
ly believed that he could implement his organizational
skills to modernize his department. The chapters that
follow will show that Fall in many cases very success-
fully streamlined Interior Department operations and
expanded the responsibilities of bureaus such as the
U.S. Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of
Mines. In other instances, his programs were erratic,
or as in the case of the Indian Office, disastrous.
Fall's worst predicaments came when his policies invad-
ed others' "turf" or when he tried to force his convic-
tions onto other cabinet members.
Because of the short time involved, much of this
activity was happening concurrently, and so does not
permit a clear chronological account. The paper will

examine programs that impacted Interior Department
bureaus, personnel, and policies, and those that af-
fected others. It will begin with Fall's most success-
ful ventures and end with the most destructive, namely
Teapot Dome, maintaining chronological order as closely
as possible.

1. "Harding in Person Presents Cabinet," New York
Times. 5 March 1921, p. 1.
2. David Hodges Stratton, "Albert B. Fall and the
Teapot Dome Affair" (Ph.D. diss., University of Colora
do, 1955),104.
3. Ibid., 106.
4. Martha Fall Bethune, Race with the Wind; The
Personal Life of Albert B. Fall (El Paso, 1989), 126.
5. Francis Russell, The Shadow of Blooming Grove:
Warren G. Harding in His Times (New York: McGraw-Hill
Book Publishers, 1968), 408-9.
6. See Russell, Blooming Grove. 264; Clifford W.
Trow, "Senator Albert B. Fall and Mexican Affairs,
1912-1921" (Ph.D. diss., University of Colorado, 1966)
Samuel J. Astorino, "Senator Albert B. Fall and Wil-
son's Last Crisis with Mexico," Duauesne Review 13
(Spring 1968), 3-17.
7. For a review of the uprisings and threat of
violence that characterized Mexico after 1910, see
Edwin Lieuwen, Mexican Militarism: The Political Rise
and Fall of the Revolutionary Army. 1910-1940 (Albu-
querque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1968).
8. Earl F. Woodward, "Honorable Albert B. Fall of
New Mexico," Montana: The Magazine of Western History.
Winter 1973, 21.
9. Trow, "Mexican Affairs," 144.
10. Lieuwen, Mexican Militarism. 37.
11. Stratton, diss., 65.
12. Russell, Blooming Grove. 409.
13. Ibid.

14. "Mr. Harding's Cabinet," The Nation. 9 March
1921, 362.
15. Robert K. Murray, The Harding Era (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1969), 133.
16. Stratton, diss., 100.
17. Bethune, Race with the Wind. 135.
18. "Harding in Person, New York Times. 5 March 1921,
p. 1.
19. Donald R. Moorman, "A Political Biography of Holm
O. Bursum, 1899-1924" (Ph.D. diss., The University of
New Mexico, 1962), 220.
20. Albert Bacon Fall, The Memoirs of Albert B. Fall.
Southwestern Studies Series, ed. by David H. Stratton,
vol. 4 (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1966), 6.
21. Ibid., 17.
22. Dates were taken from Fall, Memoirs. and William
Keleher, The Fabulous Frontier: Twelve New Mexico Items
(Santa Fe: The Rydal Press, 1945), 180-210. The mar-
riage date in Memoirs was May 8, 1882, with May 7,
1883, inserted in brackets and no further information.
23. Stratton, diss., 106.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid., 15.
26. Keleher, Fabulous Frontier. 190.
27. George E. Mowry, Theodore Roosevelt and the
Progressive Movement. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1946),
28. David H. Stratton, "New Mexico Machiavellian,"
Montana: The Magazine of Western History. October 1957,
29. Stratton, diss., 348.
30. William G. Shepherd, "How Carl Magee Broke Fall's
New Mexico Ring," The World's Work. May 1924, 36.
31. Stratton, diss., 83.

32. Ibid.
33. Ibid., 73.
34. Ibid., 73-74.
35. Albert B. Fall, Washington, to Mark Thompson, Las
Cruces, 22 July 1922, TL [copy], Special Collection:
Fall Papers, Central Library, University of New Mexico,
Albuquerque. Hereafter, this collection will be re-
ferred to as Fall Papers.
36. Stratton, diss., 86.
37. Personal correspondence from Fall's residence in
Washington bears a Wardman Park Hotel return address.
Fall Papers.
38. Stratton, diss., 94.
39. Ibid.
40. Ibid.
41. Noggle, Teapot Dome. 21.
42. Kenneth R. Philp, John Collier's Crusade for
Indian Reform. 1920-1954 (Tuscon: University of Arizona
Press, 1977), 72.
43. "Forest Reserve to Become Pike's Peak National
Park," Colorado Springs Gazette. 29 September 1921, p.
44. Ibid.
45. Fall, Memoirs. 7.
46. U.S. Congress, Senate, Albert B. Fall [R-NM]
speaking for dissemination of public lands to individu-
al settlers in New Mexico, 64th Congress, 1st Sess.,
Congressional Record (7 February 1916), 53:2210.

The Harding administration inherited a post-World
War I recession, growing unemployment, agricultural
distress, business bankruptcies, and a poorly defined
international policy. Election of Warren G. Harding
was largely a repudiation of President Woodrow Wilson
and his unpopular League of Nations. The Republican
party in 1919 and 1920 focused so strongly on anti-
Wilson sentiment that it failed to develop a solid
program of its own. Consequently, normalcy, according
to Harding biographer Robert Murray, was simply a
conservative approach to problems, a reaction to the
confusion and "turmoil of Wilson's post war years."(1)
The Republican agenda called for a weaker international
commitment and emphasis on business. Domestic and
social policy were designed to facilitate economic
growth. "The conservative bias toward wealth was all
too apparent during the presidency of Harding."(2)
Historian Ellis W. Hawley concludes that this
commonly held outlook is short-sighted and that Harding
presided over a series of developments that made the
American economy the envy of the world. "It was an era

of new management designs and a continuous search for
new principles of capitalism."(3) Although Fall's
selection to the cabinet has almost universally been
viewed as one of Harding's most disastrous appoint-
ments, his policies meshed reasonably well with the
overall concept of normalcy.(4)
The Harding cabinet was a curious blend of two
basic management concepts. The older was that of
classic "retrenchment and protection" while the newer
encouraged government to take an active role in expe-
diting growth. Of those stressing government retrench-
ment, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon emerged
as chief spokesman.(5) He reduced federal spending by
twenty percent and phased out public programs begun
during the war. At the other end of the spectrum,
Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and Secretary of
Agriculture Henry Wallace revived major features of the
war system to provide a framework for constructive
group action and a more cooperative individualism.(6)
They believed economic problems were caused less by
swollen government and more by "misinformation, inade-
quate foresight and poor organization."(7)
Fall did not articulate a management philosophy,
but actually fell somewhere between the extremes. He
seldom bothered to forge group cooperation although
certainly did not prevent subordinates from doing so.

Under Stephen Mather "the Park Service formed a close
alliance with transportation and recreational groups
and continued to expand its domain." Under Dr. H.
Foster Bain, "the Bureau of Mines became a promoter of
cooperative conservation and safety programs."(8) Fall
saw big government as detrimental primarily when it
stood in the way of individual effort.
Fall was convinced that individually we are
the greatest people on the face of the earth
in all commercial and industrial matters, but
he was also convinced that collectively, as a
government, in business matters, we are and
always have been a failure.(9)
At the same time, he saw nothing wrong with government
taking an active role in creating wealth, and in fact,
perceived his role as a catalyst. Robert Murray states
that Herbert Hoover, one of the most influential mem-
bers of Harding's cabinet and a foremost advocate of
progressive management, genuinely supported Fall. The
Secretary of the Interior intrigued the stolid engi-
neer, and Hoover "was the first to praise his work when
he resigned in 1923."(10) Historian Robert H. Zieger
provides one clue to this unlikely alliance and that
was a mutual dislike of Harry Daugherty.(11)
Fall's approach was straightforward. Americans
and public servants alike, he claimed, should work, use
common sense, spend less than we produce, pay our
debts, and "recognize every man's right to a square
deal."(12) He tried to apply business ethics to gov-

eminent bureaucracy traditionally plagued by waste and
inefficiency. He insisted there was no magic cure to
America's problems, but expressed optimism in American
traditions. He chided those who sought solace in a
poorly defined "new order" or the "collapsionists" who
saw the U.S. "about to enter a long Dark Age of humani-
ty. "(13) Fall emulated Theodore Roosevelt's direct,
forceful approach to politics, and tended to run the
Interior Department like the lone frontiersman he was.
Getting Started
Secretary Fall emerges as a hard-working, though
flamboyant, down-to-earth administrator. He was a
familiar sight in Washington, usually clad in a Stetson
and puffing on a cigar "about the size of a lead pencil
and as poisonous as a cobra."(14) Syndicated newspaper
columnist, David Lawrence, called Fall a "star football
player," albeit one unable to coordinate his play with
the rest of the team.(15) First assistant secretary,
Edward C. Finney, declared Fall to be a fair, honest
supervisor who backed his employees. He was well-liked
despite a hot temper.(16) Soon after Fall took office,
says Finney, a chart of responsibilities was drawn up
to delineate duties between himself, assistant secre-
tary Francis M. Goodwin, and executive administrative
assistant Charles V. Safford, for the routine handling
of the department. Fall dealt primarily with matters

that impacted the president and other departments,
although he appears to have been reasonably familiar
with the workings of his bureaus.(17)
Bureaus under the Department of the Interior were:
the General Land Office, William Spry commissioner;
Indian Office, Charles H. Burke commissioner; Bureau of
Pensions, Washington Gardiner commissioner; Patent
Office, Thomas E. Robertson commissioner; Office of
Education, John J. Tigert commissioner; U.S. Geological
Survey, George Otis Smith commissioner;.Bureau of
Reclamation, Arthur P. Davis commissioner; Bureau of
Mines, H. Foster Bain commissioner, and the U.S. Park
Service, Stephen T. Mather commissioner.
Scott C. Bone was appointed by President Harding
as Governor of Alaska on June 23, 1921, and his primary
task was to "unravel government red tape, which . .is
retarding the development of industries in Alaska."(18)
Governor of Hawaii was Wallace R. Farrington. The
Interior Department also administered Howard Universi-
ty, Columbia School for the Deaf, and the Maryland
School for the Blind. It had jurisdiction over St.
Elizabeth's Hospital and the Freedman's Hospital, the
Capital Architect, and the General Education Board.
Implementing Efficiency
Of all the problems facing the United States in
1921, economic stagnation was perhaps the worst.

Therefore, Fall made renewal of prosperity through the
"development of the resources under the control of the
department" his principal objective.(19) As a result,
he initiated a substantial flow of cash to the U.S.
Treasury and individual states, an improvement over
predecessor, Walter K. Lane, who leased lands without
returning any money to states.(20)
Fall concentrated on ridding the Interior Depart-
ment of "red tape and technicalities" that hampered
development.(21) He sharply criticized the General
Land Office in March 1921 for allowing 19,000 unawarded
homestead claims to languish in Washington although
final proof had been made.(22) Some 14,000 more were
pending in the field held up by some supposed or actual
defect, but "due entirely to negligence, mistakes, or
possible incompetency of some of the local officials or
clerks."(23) Fall supervised development of standard
questions to be supplied to division chiefs and clerks
to determine the validity of a homestead claim, and by
1922 wrote, "I am now able to report that the examina-
tion of final homestead proofs is current."(24) As a
result over thirty million dollars of taxable proper-
ties were transferred to western states. The bureau
also reported a major reduction of correspondence
asking the status of a lease or demanding action on a

Fall worked administrative magic in the Patent and
Pension Offices as well. Commissioner Washington
Gardiner faced a work load of 99,100 pending pension
cases in March 1921 with clerks managing to wade
through only 42,672 cases in 1920.(26) Since the war,
the number of requests had climbed steadily, and Fall's
administrative decisions tended to liberalize the law
and increase the work load even further. On July 7,
1922, for instance, Fall reversed a May 1, 1920, policy
that had automatically assumed divorced women to be at
fault and denied them an ex-husband's pension. As a
result of the Mary M. Keaton case, divorced women could
submit proof that they were not at fault and have some
hope of receiving a portion of their husband's pen-
sions. (27) This and other decisions added to the
administrative burden.
Standardization of method and the addition of
clerks caused increased output of the Patent Office.
By December 1921 Commissioner Thomas E. Robertson
reported 53,817 cases issued just in the final ten
months of the year, an increase from 47,409 in all of
1920. In both cases, Fall managed to obtain budget
increases from Congress.(28)
Expanded Projects
Fall appointed Dr. John T. Tigert, professor of
psychology at the University of Kentucky, as commis-

sioner of the Bureau of Education, on June 2, 1921.
Tigert immediately surveyed teacher competency, certif-
ication, conditions, and salaries. Thus, by 1922 a
major reorganization and expansion of the Education
Bureau began with the addition of a new Division of
Physical Education and School Hygiene to meet a growing
need among American school children.(29)
Equally as pressing was the need for water pro-
jects in the West. Farmers suffering from economic
stagnation desperately required new reclamation pro-
jects. "Upon the whole," Fall wrote, "practically
every project is successful."(30) During Fall's term,
the Bureau of Reclamation started preliminary work on
the American Falls Dam on the Snake River in Idaho and
resumed construction of a dam to supplement the Yakima
project.(31) Commissioner Davis announced internation-
al negotiations with Mexico for a proposed lower Rio
Grande dam project to begin in 1922 or 1923.
Fall expressed strong interest in the feasibility
study of a potential Colorado River dam to provide
irrigation and flood control for the Imperial Valley,
California, via a multi-million dollar hydroelectric
plant in Boulder Canyon, Nevada.(32) As the study
neared completion in 1922, Fall drafted legislation to
authorize the undertaking.(33) Harding transferred the
project to Secretary Hoover on the grounds that he, not

Fall, possessed an engineering background. David
Stratton says the transfer was an embarrassment to Fall
for it removed work from his arena and indicated a lack
of confidence in him especially since engineering work
was almost finished at the time of the transfer.(34)
But Murray claims that Fall himself suggested that
Hoover chair the Colorado River Commission.(35)
Hoover's memoirs detail the circumstances sur-
rounding the incident and indicate that Murray's ver-
sion may be more accurate. Indeed, the engineering
studies were not completed in 1922 for even after
Congress approved construction of the dam and hydro-
electric plant in 1928, "Dr. Work and I selected a
commission of outstanding engineers to examine the
project again."(36) The Colorado River Commission was
charged with hammering out an agreement between seven
states, all users of the Colorado River and in bitter
opposition to each other over the project. Negotia-
tions were also taking place with Mexico, a country not
favorably impressed with Fall.
Economic stability
Fall's administrative ability depended largely
upon an abundance of personal energy, individual ef-
fort, and good relations with Congress. In late 1922
he advocated higher salaries for government scientists,
attorneys, and engineers in his department, and took

his demands to the Senate. Private industry, he ar-
gued, paid far more resulting in a huge turnover of
government professionals. "Some of the newer commis-
sions and offices of the government have been accorded
a salary scale more in keeping with the present day
conditions."(37) Fall asked Congress for legislation
to end the discrepancy, but resigned before action was
It is immediately apparent that Fall took econom-
ics quite seriously. He attempted to make several of
his bureaus profitable, and chided Congress for passing
up opportunities to increase Treasury revenues. In his
1921 annual report, he calculated the value of Indian
oil and gas lands to be six million dollars and set the
total value of Indian lands at $1.3 billion. Indians,
he said, were incapable of developing their own re-
sources, and because $1.3 billion represented tremen-
dous wealth to the United States, advocated programs to
work around their "natural inabilities."(38) Thus,
Fall implemented an Indian program that reformer John
Collier referred to as "inept and incompetent."(39)
It was in the Bureau of Mines where Fall tried to
implement his most radical economic program by citing
the need for complete charge of oil production, prices,
and royalties.on the public lands, forest reserves,
Indian reservations and naval reserves.(40) Dr. Bain

reported almost nine million barrels of oil and two
million gallons of gasoline taken from public lands in
1921.(41) At the same time, Commissioner George Otis
Smith of the U.S. Geological Survey reported prices
falling from $3.50 to $1.50 per gallon in the first
half of 1921, and an estimated loss of more than $2
million in royalties to the Treasury.(42)
Spurred by such reports, Fall proposed that the
Bureau of Mines store its oil rather than sell it at
market prices.(43) He also warned Congress that with
department clerks and attorneys working at breakneck -
speed to write leases before prices plummeted even
more, irreparable damage to the oil properties might
occur.(44) Ten percent of all royalties and rentals
could be placed into an administrative fund to pay for
storage of oil, and the result, Fall claimed, would be
an economic windfall for the government.
Fall also proposed that the Bureau of Mines be
removed from the congressional allocation system so
that it might be run in a more profitable manner. New
research on separating helium from natural gas, he
pointed out, was of such vital importance to the army
and navy that it must be free from such a cumbersome
process.(45) The Department of the Interior had opened
a laboratory to investigate helium repurification on
May 31, 1921, and Fall was absolutely convinced of the

need to proceed rapidly on this and other projects.(46)
The Bureau of Mines could operate more efficiently, he
thought, on a profit basis.
Fall was unsuccessful in obtaining a storage deal
and in removing the Bureau of Mines from congressional
control. He complained frequently and bitterly of
losses sustained by the federal government's short-

sighted fiscal irresponsibility. In his position for
only two years, Fall hardly had long enough to effect
such important changes, however. His annual reports
boast of new, expanded, and streamlined programs,
especially those contributing to the Treasury. These
successes have seldom been associated with the name of
Albert Fall.
Administrative Failures
While some programs thrived under Fall's direc-
tion, others suffered, none more than his Indian poli-
cy. Although Commissioner Burke exhibited concern for
social welfare and Fall advocated the expansion of the
Navajo and Jicarilla Apache reservations due to drought
and population increases, Fall's policies were designed
to replace communal life styles with individualism and
tribal authority with private development. The con-
flict between the Interior Department and Indians
initiated reforms that began in 1924 and extended into
Franklin D. Roosevelt's term.(47) Chapter five will

provide an in-depth look at Indian policy from 1921 to
Fall also tried with great regularity to expand
his jurisdiction to other departments. He accepted the
position of Secretary of the Interior partly because he
believed he could influence President Harding's foreign
policy, but soon discovered that the president listened
more and more to Secretary of State Hughes and ignored
his advice. Fall's maneuvering to gain jurisdiction
over the national forest reserves and to transfer the
U.S. Forest Service to the Interior Department earned
him such animosity from the Department of Agriculture
that it virtually guaranteed failure of his Alaskan
development plan, alerted conservationists, and eventu-
ally led to the Teapot Dome investigation.
Secretary Fall nearly managed to undermine one of
his department's most successful programs, expansion of
the U.S. Park Service. His enthusiasm regarding na-
tional parks and opposition to commercial development
within the network was at first lauded. The building
of auto camps, inexpensive lodging, and sanitation
facilities met the needs of a burgeoning new industry
tourismand encouraged over one million people in 1921
to visit the national parks and historical monuments.
"It was estimated that they left some ten million

dollars behind," and therefore, tourism supplied states
with badly needed income.(48)
By 1922, however, Fall infuriated conservationists
by eyeing the forest reserves for inclusion into the
park network and park advocates by selecting lands with
less than spectacular scenery. His support of an All-
Year Southwestern Park in New Mexico brought opposition
and humiliation. Although his program awakened an
interest in national parks and encouraged development
of state parks and recreations areas across the coun-
try, he went too far in his desire to promote economic
development through tourism.
One month after Fall took office, the New York
Times reported "The Department of the Interior is
working smoothly under the direction of Secretary
Fall."(49) He adhered carefully to the conservative,
pro-business dogma of the Harding administration and
presided over well-chosen, competent commissioners.
Fall espoused no formal philosophy of management, but
promoted a program of modernization and efficiency.
Despite some success, Fall's term of office has gener-
ally been remembered for its problems and failures.
Almost immediately after the Times wrote its praise,
the tranquility ended.

1. Murray, Politics of Normalcy. 16-17.
2. Eugene P. Trani and David L. Wilson, The Presi-
dency of Warren G. Harding (Lawrence: The Regents Press
of Kansas, 1977), 107.
3. Ellis W. Hawley, The Great War and the Search for
a Modern Order: A History of the American People and
Their Institutions. 1917-1933 (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1979), 58.
4. Ibid., 59.
5. Ibid., 66.
6. Ibid., 67.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid., 69.
9. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secre-
tary, Memorandum for the Press. 4 March 1922, Fall
10. Robert K. Murray, The Harding Era: Warren G.
Harding and His Administration (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1969), 194.
11. Robert H. Zieger, "Herbert Hoover, the Wage-
Earner and the New Economic System," in Herbert Hoover
as Secretary of Commerce. Ellis W. Hawley, ed., (Iowa
City: The University of Iowa Press, 1981), 112.
12. "Secretary Fall's Soliloquy on Quitting Harding's
Cabinet," New York Times. 4 March 1923, sec. 7, p. 14.
13. Ibid.
14. Evalyn Walsh McLean, Father Struck It Rich (Bos-
ton: Little Brown & Company, 1936), 253.
15. Stratton, diss., 105-6.

16. Ibid.
17. District of Columbia. Supreme Court. U.S. v.
Edward L. Dohenv and Albert B. Fall. Testimony of
Edward C. Finney (1926) Fall Papers.
18. "Harding Confers on Alaska," New York Times. 23
June 1921, p. 29.
19. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secre-
tary Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior.
1922 (Washington: GPO, 1922), 1.
20. Roy M. Robbins, Our Landed Heritage, The Public
Domain. 1776-1970 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 1942), 388.
21. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secre-
tary Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior
1921 (Washington: GPO, 1921), 12.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid.
24. Annual Report. 1922, 2.
25. Ibid.
26. Annual Report. 1922, 17.
27. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions.
Decision Regarding Marv M. Keaton. 7 July 1922. Fall
28. Annual Report. 1922, 13-14
29. Ibid., 7.
30. Annual Report. 1921, 9.
31. Annual Report. 1922, 72-4.
32. Ibid., 28.
33. Annual Report. 1922, 2.
34. Stratton, diss. , 87- 8.
35. Murray, Secretary of "Herbert Hoover," Commerce. 33.

36. Herbert C. Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert C.
Hoover; The Cabinet and the Presidency. 1920-1933 (New
York: The Macmillan Company, 1951), 117.
37. Annual Report. 1922, 12.
38. Ibid., 7-8.
39. Kenneth Philp, Crusade, 42.
40. Annual Report. 1921, 13.
41. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secre-
tary. Papers relating to the Teapot Dome investiga-
tion, TD [copy]. Fall Papers.
42. District of Columbia. Supreme Court. Dohenv and
Fall. Testimony of George Otis Smith (1926). Fall Pa-
pers .
43. Annual Report. 1922, 8.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid., 102.
47. John Collier became Commissioner of the Bureau of
Indian Affairs in 1933 under President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and implemented many of the reforms conceived
during and after Fall's term.
48. Robert G. Athearn, The Coloradans (Albuquerque;
The University of New Mexico Press, 1976), 264.
49. "Harding's Aid at Work," New York Times. 3 April
1921, sec. 7, p. 3.

With the growth of tourism after 1919 came demands
for more parks, facilities, and services. In 1921 the
U.S. Park Service reported more than one million visi-
tors prompting Fall to write:
I believe this unprecedented travel to the
national parks . .carries with it a very
illuminating factnamely that the parks are
stabilizing and inspiring influences in times
of national restlessness.(1)
As a result, Fall endorsed enlargement of the national
park network, a program that remained successful well
beyond 1923.
Historian Robert G. Athearn stresses the role
played by the automobile, America's newest toy, in
bringing attention to parks. Auto parks sprung up to
accommodate the so-called tin-can tourists.(2) In
1921, 340,286 cars carried tourists to the national
parks and monuments in the West.(3) Tourists demanded
improvements to the parks such as hard-surface roads,
sanitary facilities, low-cost cabins, and conces-
sions. (4) Almost overnight, the U.S. Park Service
mushroomed into one of the government's most active,
though newest, agencies.

The National Parks Act of 1916 had established the
National Park Service and park network. In 1921 eleven
national parks existed, and by 1923 Bryce Canyon, Utah;
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, and Great Basin, Nevada,
had been added. National historical monuments such as
Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, established under the 1906
Antiquities Act, were also administered by the Interior
Department, and in 1923, the Aztec Ruins in New Mexico
and Hovenweep in Colorado and Utah, were added. The
purpose of the national parks was to preserve plants,
wildlife, landscape, and geology, while making "these
assets highly accessible to the general population."(5)
Such a philosophy echoed Fall's belief that all re-
sources be "as easy of access as possible to the pres-
ent generation."(6) Generally, park lands were remote,
unsuitable for farming, and void of minerals. In other
words, says historian Patricia Nelson Limerick, "they
were commercially useless."(7) The prospect of so-
called useless land producing millions of tourist
dollars must have excited someone with Secretary Fall's
enthusiasm for capitalism.
Introduction of Services
On July 31, 1921, Fall and Commissioner Stephen
Mather left Washington on a whirlwind inspection tour
of all western national parks including Yellowstone.
The New York Times described an unscheduled event when

during an investigation on horseback, Fall encountered
a buffalo stampede.
Secretary Fall mingled with the charging
animals and raced with them until they had
been driven together at the buffalo farm...It
was stated by witnesses of the stampede that
the feat reguired an expert knowledge of
During this trip, Fall also considered potential new
park sites. The Colorado Springs Gazette speculated on
whether Pike National Forest was soon to become Pikes
Peak National Park. The newspaper lauded Fall's admi-
ration of the national parks, but added "Secretary
Fall. . has ideas radically opposed to those in
sway during the Roosevelt administration."(9)
Assists Western States
As a result of the tour Fall discovered how badly
states wanted to conduct enterprises within their
parks, despite a general Interior Department policy not
to approve projects that would interfere with the
purposes for which parks had been set aside.(10) In
August 1921 Fall opposed a bill introduced by Senator
Thomas J. Walsh of Montana that would permit damming
the Yellowstone River, claiming that "enactment of such
a measure would be inconsistent with the policy of
maintaining national parks as objects of beauty."(11)
Fall fully sympathized with states' need to gener-
ate income, however, and supported projects that al-
lowed them to produce revenue. The Park Service ex-

panded an existing auto camp in Yellowstone National
Park and erected new community houses for recreation
purposes, sanitation facilities, and lodging. Hard-
surface roads were begun in Rocky Mountain National
Park, Glacier, and Sequoia National Parks: a suspension
bridge was built across the Colorado River in the Grand
Canyon to allow horse travel between north and south
rims. The U.S. Park Service implemented a public
information program to entice visitors to the parks and
to provide historical and scientific material once they
arrived. In 1921, some 320,000 brochures were printed,
and by 1922 the demand soared to nearly one-half mil-
lion, with additional requests for films and
The park guide service was expanded, and a perma-
nent residence was completed at Mesa Verde to keep park
officials on the premises throughout the year. Educa-
tional institutions such as the Peabody Museum of
Harvard University and The Smithsonian Institution were
commissioned to conduct archaeological research in
Chaco Canyon, Casa Grande, Arizona, and Mesa Verde.
New exhibits opened at these sites. After the 1922
season, Fall reported fewer complaints and "more com-
pliments than ever before."(13)
With new indoor facilities available at many of
the parks, the Park Service began to promote winter

vacations. The Interior Department supported a May
1922 national conference in Palisades, New York, to
encourage a development of state parks in addition to
the national parks. The Park Service cooperated with
the Save-the-Redwood League of California to purchase
additional land and thereby rescue the trees from
lumbering concerns. Hot Springs National Park in
Arkansas, already a resort for the wealthy, opened a
public bath house and promoted its mineral waters as a
cure for venereal diseases.(14)
Fall's "apparent appreciation of national park
standards" earned him laurels from newspapers like the
New York Times and the Boston Evening Transcript.(15)
Organizations like Sierra Club expressed some hesita-
tion that inclusion of land with no possible scenic or
other qualifications for parkhood would result, but
were generally pleased at Secretary Fall's enthusiasm.
Conservationists like Gifford Pinchot feared that the
Interior Department would gain public and congressional
support for transfer of the national forest reserves by
promising to make them national parks. By November
1921, the National Parks Association, and its executive
secretary, Robert S. Yard, began questioning Fall's
program and its impact on the entire national park

By the end of 1922 Robert Yard lashed out at Fall
by claiming:
in reclamation projects, Indian reservations,
or elsewhere in the public lands. .there
the Secretary of the Interior proposes to
have a national park, and he angrily calls
those who object 'meddlers~' with the sworn
duty of the Secretary of the Interior.(16)
Yard's National Park Association opposed inclusion of
the Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota as too
small and others as unimpressive. Angered by this
turnaround, Fall tried to discredit the association.
Not one hundred members of his entire organi-
zation have ever been in a National Park.
They are simply taking advantage of the orga-
nization started by Mather in good faith...
thus soliciting subscriptions and paying
Yard's expenses and salary in the City of
Yard, however, persisted. Fearing that Fall's
efforts would become public land giveaways, he used his
association bulletins to voice opposition. The most
dramatic confrontation came over the All-Year South-
western National Park in New Mexico, which threatened
to undermine this extremely successful and important
Fall Undermines Successful Park Program
Although Fall shouldered most of the blame for the
All-Year Southwestern Park, his involvement is disput-
ed, particularly in the beginning. In 1913 Fall had
introduced a bill to make the entire Mescalero Apache

reservation a national park, and in 1916 he introduced
a second, similar bill. His ranch bordered the reser-
vation and a park would have permitted him grazing
rights without Forest Service fees. He was not, howev-
er, a member of the Southwestern All-Year Park Associa-
tion, begun in early 1921 to promote the creation of a
national park in southern New Mexico.(18)
The All-Year Southwestern Park
Secretary of the association, William Douglas,
wrote that "We have about 1200 members scattered over
the state. .we are not tied together very closely
except in purpose."(19) That purpose was the creation
of a new national park in order to qualify for some of
funds allocated by Congress for hard-surface highways.
"New Mexico should not be left out of this, as she will
be if she has no national park," Douglas wrote.(20)
Association members first met with Fall's assistant,
Charles V. Safford in May 1921. Following the meeting,
Douglas expressed confidence that Fall would give the
park "favorable consideration" but not that he'd al-
ready done so, or that he was even aware of the
The All-Year Park would encompass two thousand
acres of Mescalero Apache reservation, plus portions of
White Sands and the nearby lava beds, and Elephant
Butte dam and lake. Segments would connect via a

highway of about eighty miles.(22) Proposed legisla-
tion would enable the Secretary of the Interior to
include future locations at will. The Visalia Morning
Delta, a California newspaper, poked fun at the new
candidate for parkhood in its August 16, 1922, issue.
The All-Year Park, it said, "is to consist of widely
scattered and diminutive tracts in a commonplace and
uninteresting region." The park will be remarkable, it
reported, "only for the fact that it would take All
Year to travel from one to all others."(23)
A letter to the National Park Association from a
New Mexico opponent of the park agreed that national
parkhood would initiate the building of badly needed
roads, but "tourists will simply use them to get
through and out of New Mexico just as quickly as possi-
ble. "(24) All-Year Park Association members proclaimed
numerous supporters for their park including Enos
Mills, father of the Rocky Mountain National Park, and
the superintendent of all Indian missions under the
Reformed Church of America. These supporters reported-
ly believed that the national park was in the best
interests of the Indians.(25)
Fall's Role
Senate Bill 3519 "Defining the Rights of the
Mescalero Apache" was introduced by Senator Holm 0.
Bursum on April 28, 1922. It permanently established

the borders of the Mescalero Apache reservation in
addition to setting two thousand acres aside for use as
a national park. It gave the tribe one-sixth of all
coal and lumber royalties and all concessions within
the park. It confirmed water and grazing rights with
excess land to be leased and the proceeds deposited in
the Treasury to the credit of said Indians.(26) Al-
though Yard claimed "The text [of the bill] was written
by Secretary Fall, who in letters to the Senate Commit-
tee, strongly urged its immediate adoption," Fall's
support appears passive, at least at that time.(27)
Fall received copies of the bill on April 30. He
referred one copy to the National Park Service and
asked for a report, and sent a second copy to the
Mescalero Apache reservation. The agent and tribal
council opposed some provisions, but on the whole were
generally in favor of the bill.(28) Fall redrafted
those portions of the bill opposed by the Mescaleros,
then sent changes and a personal note to Senator Seldon
Spencer, chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. "In
my judgement," he wrote, "the proposed legislation...
will be more for the interests of the Mescaleros than
any other legislation of recent years." Once his
changes were approved by the agent and tribal council,
Fall sent a second note to Spencer on July 5 stating

that the "redrafted bill received the unanimous support
of all the Indians," and urging immediate adoption.(29)
Opponents Fiaht the Park
A few voices were raised in concern for the Mesca-
leros. Outlook cautioned that "the Indians consented
to this loss because they feared that their refusal
would result in the loss of their whole reserva-
tion. "(30) The National Parks Association expressed
concern that the Mescaleros would become mere tenants
of the park "just as a dozen Digger Indians are now
permitted to live in Yosemite National Park."(31) Most
criticism, however, focused on the nature of the park
rather than on the Indians.
Yard cited numerous problems in letters to Fall
and the Santa Fe New Mexican. The fragmentation of the
park and the wide separation of the "spots," would make
administration "impossible without building perhaps a
couple of hundred miles of connecting highways."(32)
Yard's comments earned the proposed park the derisive
nickname "Spotted Park" or "Lame Duck National Park."
He claimed that the proposed areas possessed no spec-
tacular scenery, and all totalled, the area was too
small. Authority for the park was divided between the
Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Indian Office.
The secretary could add to the park whenever he chose,
and besides irrigation and water power, the legislation

introduced hunting, mining, grazing, and lumbering into
the national park system.(33) The National Parks
Association recruited groups like American Museum of
Natural History; General Federation of Women's Clubs;
New York Zoological Society, and local organizations in
Albuquerque to oppose the bill because of its unsuit-
ability and invitation to commercial exploitation.(34)
Fall Lashes Back
Fall was already under fire from conservationists
over the development of Alaska and control of the
forest reserves, and from Indian welfare organizations
incensed over the Pueblo Indians Land Bill and oil
leases on reservation land.(35) Fall took great of-
fense when Yard went over his head and wrote directly
to the president who sent the letter back for a reply.
Fall's response to Yard was angry and sarcastic. He
belittled Yard for his "ignorance" and claimed "that
life was too short to enter into any discussion."(36)
Fall agreed to meet with Yard, but stubbornly refused
to budge on the matter of the All-Year Park. The
result was that Fall, Harding, and members of Congress
were flooded with letters, which only served to inflame
Fall more.
On January 11, 1923, he delivered a three-hour,
non-stop defense to the House Committee on Indian
Affairs of a bill that six months earlier he had barely

heard of. The New Mexican chuckled at the comic relief
supplied by Fall's tirade and Senator Bursum's near
total ignorance of the bill's content during the com-
mittee hearing. Fall's entrance into the hearing room
just as Yard finished his statement elicited a "Now for
the fireworks!" from one member of the audience.(37)
During the hearing, his 1913 and 1916 bills came back
to haunt him, and Fall had to vehemently deny accusa-
tions that his ranch stood to benefit from the park and
possible grazing lands. Fall shouted down suggestions
that the area be designated a state instead of a na-
tional park with "It belongs to the nation, don't it?
If it's national, call it national."(38) Outlook
recalled a boast Fall once made that no one could tell
him anything about western sentiment and wondered if
perhaps he could not now learn something "from the
resolutions, the protests, and the editorials by men
and women in his own state."(39) The All-Year Park was
voted down following the January hearings.
Significance of the Park
The controversy over the Southwestern All-Year
National Park is significant because it illustrates how
caught between commercial enterprise and the purpose of
a national park, he selected economics. He rational-
ized the introduction of lumbering, grazing, irriga-
tion, and mining by claiming them beneficial to the

Mescaleros, and probably believed sincerely that such
commerce would greatly enhance the Indians' quality of
life. The conflict also demonstrates how Fall could
undermined his own success, and reveals his inability
to compromise. When opposed, Fall's response was
aggression and hot tempered arrogance, devastating
behavior for a public servant.
The national park program remained popular, mush-
rooming beyond Fall or Mather's wildest dreams. Visi-
tors increased steadily until in the 1980s "an uncont-
rolled stream of automobile tourists wore away at the
very basis of the parks."(40) As Roderick Nash put it,
"Americans tended to love their parks to death."(41)
Despite his antics over the New Mexico park, Fall
played a major role in this success, but has generally
received little credit. Papers on the U.S. Park Ser-
vice during these years are contained in the Huntington
Library in San Marino, California, and the Stephen
Mather Collection at the University of California at
Los Angeles. Fall's role in this important program
merits further research.

1. Annual Report. 1921, 109.
2. Robert G. Athearn, The Mvthic West (Lawrence:
University of Kansas Press, 1986), 131-59.
3. Annual Report. 1921, 37.
4. Ibid.
5. Paul R. Portney, ed., Current Issues in Natural
Resource Policy (Washington: Resources for the Future,
Inc., 1982), 24.
6. Memorandum. 4 March 1922, Fall Papers.
7. Limerick, Patricia N., The Legacy of Conquest
(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987), 308.
8. "Joins Cowboys in Stemming Buffalo Stampede," New
York Times. 14 September 1921, p. 21.
9. Colorado Springs Gazette. 29 September 1921.
10. Annual Report. 1921, 16.
11. "Fall Opposes Yellowstone Dam," New York Times.
14 June 1921, p. 8.
12. Annual Report. 1921, 109.
13. Annual Report. 1922, 35.
14. Ibid., 86.
15. National Parks Association, Bulletin. Number 30
(8 November 1922), 2, Mechem Papers, Correspondence,
State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe. Hereafter
will be referred to as Mechem Papers.
16. "Destructive Policy Assailed," New York Times. 30
December 1922, sec. 8, p. 5.

17. Albert B. Fall, Washington, to Richard F. Bur-
gess, Las Cruces, TD [copy], 11 August 1922, Fall Papers.
18. Letters from the Southwestern All-Year Park
Association seldom mention Fall until May 1921 when
members begin to discuss approaching the secretary for
his support, Mechem Papers.
19. William Douglas, Las Cruces, to Merrit Mechem,
Santa Fe, 4 May 1921, Mechem Papers.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. The Southwestern All-Year Park Association let-
terhead is four-sided, the back showing a map of the
proposed park, and page 3 containing an essay on "What
Others Say of the Park Site," Mechem Papers.
23. National Parks Association, Bulletin. No. 30, p.
2, Mechem Papers.
24. Ibid.
25. "What Others Say of the Park Site," Southwestern
All-Year Park Association, letterhead, Mechem Papers.
26. U.S. Congress, Senate, Defining the Rights of the
Mescalero Apache (28 April 1922), 67th Cong., 2nd
Sess., S3519, Mechem Papers.
27. National Park Association, Bulletin. No. 29, p.
1, Mechem Papers.
28. Albert B. Fall, Washington, to Seldon Spencer,
Washington, quoted in National Parks Association,
Bulletin. No. 20, p. 2, Mechem Papers.
29. Ibid.
30. Witter Bynner, "New Mexico Aflame Against Two
Bills," Outlook. 17 January 1923, 125.
31. Ibid.
32. "Indian Committee Has Much Amusement Out of
Bursum in Spotted Park Hearing." Santa Fe New Mexican.
19 January 1923, p. 2.
33. Ibid.

34. "Colorado Mountain Club Condemns Spotted Park,
Santa Fe New Mexican. 2 December 1922, p.2.
35. See chapter 5, 68-91.
36. Fall to Burgess, 11 August 1922, Mechem Papers.
37. "Indian Committee," Santa Fe New Mexican. 19
January 1923, p. 6.
38. Ibid.
39. Bynner, "New Mexico Aflame," 125.
40. Limerick, Legacy, 309.
41. Roderick Nash, ed., "Conservation as Anxiety,"
in Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1982), 283.

Secretary Fall experienced tremendous failure in
the development and implementation of his Indian poli-
cy. He took an active role in the Indian Office, often
excluding Commissioner Charles Burke from major deci-
sions. His attitude differed little from previous
Interior secretaries in that it was designed to speed
the allotment process mandated by the 1887 Dawes Act
and undermine tribal authority, considered a prerequi-
site to breaking up the reservation system. Fall
considered Indian reservations to be public domain
temporarily withheld from use: the sooner they were
broken up into individual allotments the better.
Tribal government negated the concept of rugged indi-
vidualism so vital to Indian economic and social
health. In their current communal state, Indians were
as a rule "not qualified to make the most of their
natural resources."(1)
In his 1921 annual report, Fall noted that agri-
cultural projects on reservations were seldom success-
I have never seen the fact commented on, but
it is worthy of note, that in visiting the

Indian tepee or the Indian residence it is
only the exceptional cases that one will see
a chicken or pig about the premises. They
[Indians] . will not burden themselves
with the care of fowls or pigs.(2)
Such apathy could only be eliminated by teaching Eng-
lish and Christianity, which would promote the cause of
individual effort and pride, and by employing experi-
enced agents and inspectors to eradicate destructive
tribal customs. Fall found support from groups like
the Indian Rights Association, run by well-meaning
Christian missionaries who believed greedy tribal
chiefs were out to undo their civilizing influences.
Missionaries favored individual ownership of land and
the break-up of reservations.
Indian Commissioner Burke agreed that tribal
authority interfered with the allotment process, and
like Fall, generally favored disbursement of all tribal
assetstimber, coal, mineralsto individual tribal
members in order to open the door to private develop-
ment. (3) Burke, former chairman of the House Indian
Affairs Committee, was a Harding appointee.(4) Conse-
Fall insisted upon the implementation of his
own Indian policies. .From 1921 to 1923 he
acted as his own Indian commissioner, leaving
Burke virtually powerless except in the areas
of education, health and other support ser-
vices. (5)
Fall initiated a number of programs during his
term including a ban on Indian religious rituals and

ceremonies; legislation to settle a Pueblo Indians land
controversy; the leasing of reservation lands to pri-
vate oil companies, and the disbanding of Navajo tribal
council. He supported an Indian Omnibus Bill in 1923
that would have ended federal responsibility for Indi-
ans, divided tribal assets, and paid them in cash. He
initiated policies designed to strip away years of
administrative ineptitude, but which brought chaos to
The Banning of Tribal Ceremonies
Since passage of the Dawes Act in 1887, federal
Indian policy advocated the allotment of Indian lands
to individual tribal members and assimilation of Indi-
ans into Christian society. It was generally believed
that to accomplish this, the authority of tribal coun-
cils, chiefs and shamans had to be dismantled. A
leading historian on Indian policy, Francis Prucha,
explains that the Indian Rights Association, an outspo-
ken advocate for Indian welfare, represented a powerful
segment of the Protestant Church and one not likely to
tolerate pagan rituals or teachings.(6) This associa-
tion and the Christian reformers who administered
reservations during the 1880s, supported the Dawes Act
to free Indians from the so-called bondage of tribal
living and culture.(7) Thereafter, the Department of
the Interior was under almost constant pressure to

prepare Indians "for citizenship and a higher concep-
tion of home and family life."(8)
In 1920 Herbert Welsh, executive secretary of the
Indian Rights Association, complained to the Interior
Department that western Indians, especially Hopis and
Pueblos, were participating in pagan, sexually explicit
dances. Such ceremonies and dances "held the progres-
sive and educated Indians chained to an old system
worse than feudalism."(9) On October 21, 1920, the
Board of Indian Commissioners drafted a resolution
asking that the Indian Bureau halt all ceremonial
Circular 1665 Bans Dances
When Fall became Secretary of the Interior, he
inherited the problem. He directed Burke to issue
Circular 1665 to ban all dances and ceremonies deemed
morally and socially unacceptable to the standards of
European-American society.(11) Primary targets were
the Hopi Snake Dance, the Sioux Ghost Dance, and the
Pueblo Sun Dance. Other offensive ceremonies included
any "that involved self-torture, prolonged periods of
celebration, the use of injurious drugs and intoxi-
cants. .or dangers to health."(12)
In 1922 the issue came up again, this time over
the Penitente cult, popular among Pueblos of New Mexico
and characterized by self-flagellation and lavish

Easter rituals that often included the crucifixion of
one of their members, and the use of peyote among
southwestern Indians. Fall wrote to Judge John Vails
of Laredo, Texas, in July 1922, asking for one- to
five-hundred peyote buttons, a bottle of the liquid,
and information on its use. "The matter is being
agitated again in the attempt to have the congress
legislate its use among the Indians."(13) Exactly what
Fall did with that much peyote is not known, but in
1922 the Indian Office "issued a comprehensive brochure
on peyote and its injurious use among the Indians,
showing the need for prohibitory legislation."(14)
In 1923 a Supplement to Circular 1665 reinforced
the original circular. It address the use of drugs,
demanded that Indian agents "abolish an Indian form of
gambling called ituranpi," and prohibited Indians
under fifty years of age from participating in ceremo-
nies "that revealed immoral or degrading influ-
ences" (15) A "Message to All Indians" released on
February 24, 1923, ordered them to give up the offen-
sive practices of their own free will, but clearly
warned them that after one year the Indian Commissioner
would take action.(16) Hubert Work, Fall's successor,
supported the circulars, and they remained in effect
after Fall's resignation.

Circular 1665 was heralded by a conference of
missionaries meeting in Fort Pierre, South Dakota; the
YMCA Indian Department; the Indian Rights Association;
the Bureau of Catholic Missions, and every known Prot-
estant missionary organization as a step forward. John
Collier, a social worker since 1905 and leading spokes-
man for the Pueblo Indians, vehemently opposed the
interference with Indian culture. He argued bitterly
that the Indian "represents not an inferior civiliza-
tion to ours. .but a different civilization."(17)
Only when Collier became Indian Commissioner in 1933
under President Franklin D. Roosevelt were attacks on
Indian ceremonial rights discontinued and full reli-
gious freedom permitted. Although citizenship was
granted to Native Americans in 1924, their constitu-
tional religious freedoms were not automatically pro-
tected just as voting rights were not universally
The Pueblo Indians Lands Bill
Some of the loudest protests to Fall's Indian
policy were generated by the Pueblo Indians Lands Bill,
commonly known as the Bursum Bill. Soon after his
appointment to the Interior Department, Fall told
Commissioner Burke he was extremely anxious to have
legislation passed to solve disputed lands within the
Pueblo grants of New Mexico.(18) On the surface, the

problem was verification of non-Indian claims, some
valid and some fraudulent, on Pueblo Indian lands. The
matter was far more complicated than that, and at the
heart of the issue was the complex Spanish land grant
system and a vacillating U.S. Indian policy. Indian
reservations in the West had been established by treaty
until 1871 and by Congress or presidential executive
order after that time.(19) The twenty Pueblo Indian
groups, however, were the exception. Established by
land grant under Spanish colonial rule, they fell into
a unique category.
Spanish land grants gave full title and "guaran-
teed full possession to the Indians of all lands they
occupied or used."(20) Prior to 1821 the Spaniards had
"confirmed the right of tribal bands by making every
Pueblo village the center of a grant of land." These
extended one league in each direction from the pueblo
church. Grants were unalienable and held in common
with mineral rights retained by the Spanish Crown.(21)
In 1821, following independence from Spain, Mexico
granted full citizenship to all Pueblo Indians, and the
new Mexican government confirmed the ownership of
thirty-five Spanish land grants totaling 700,000
acres.(22) When the United States took control of New
Mexico, the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo of 1848 stipu-
lated that all Mexican citizens, including the Pueblos,

would become automatic U.S. citizens. The U.S. govern-
ment formally confirmed the rights held under the
Spanish Crown and gave them simple title in a document
signed in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln.(23)
The Pueblos could lease or sell to Indian or non-
Indian settlers, most of whom were Hispanic farmers.
As long as New Mexico remained a territory, Pueblo
citizenship and land ownership went unchallenged. Once
admitted to the Union, however, New Mexico lawyers
wasted no time testing Pueblo ownership of the land.
In 1913, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an earlier
decision "by reaffirming the responsibility of the
United States to the welfare of the Pueblo Indians as
wards of the government."(24)
The reversal meant that the Pueblos had not been
competent to sell their land, and it threw every sale
into question, negating 3,000 claims within the Pueblo
grants.(25) To further complicate the situation, the
encroachment of Hispanic and Anglo squatters had by
1921 reduced the San Juan Pueblo to only 588 of its
original 4,000 irrigated acres and the Pecuris Pueblos
to only 40 irrigated acres.(26) Squatters often
claimed that they had legally purchased the land,
making it absolutely necessary that valid and invalid
claims be sorted out. Probate records in territorial
New Mexico were generally unreliable and useless.

Because Pueblo lands fell under federal control, set-
tlers could not even plead statute of limitations and
retain their claims that way. Indians and non-Indian
settlers alike demanded help from the federal govern-
ment, and by 1921 land disputes sometimes resulted in
violence. Fall cited the threat of armed conflict
between Pueblos and Anglo and Spanish settlers as
justification for his speedy action.(27)
Because of the complexities involved, Fall asked
Attorney General Harry Daugherty to appoint Col. Ralph
E. Twitchell, a lawyer and Spanish scholar from Santa
Fe, as government attorney for the New Mexico Indians.
He requested that Twitchell prepare a history of Indian
tenure on the land.(28) He also asked Daugherty to
postpone four cases pending against non-Indian claim-
ants, asserting that if such cases were prosecuted,
they might cause "the wholesale eviction of white
settlers and possible bloodshed between Anglos, Mexi-
cans and Indians."(29)
Fall Requests Legislation
Fall requested that Senator Bursum introduce a
bill to settle the controversy, and Bursum complied on
May 31, 1921. The bill was so poorly received, howev-
er, that Fall let it languish in committee. He bided
his time and awaited the Twitchell report, which was
finished in March 1922. Largely historical in nature,

it nevertheless urged protecting Pueblo Indian water
rights and halting the parade of trespassers.(30) Fall
had apparently anticipated a more obdurate directive
for action for he virtually dismissed the report. In
May he sent Burke to Santa Fe to meet with Twitchell
and A.B. Renehan, attorney for the non-Indian settlers,
and through Burke invited both to visit Washington to
discuss the matter with him in person. Twitchell and
Renehan arrived at the Indian Bureau in July, and after
several days of discussion each presented a propos-
al. (31) From these proposals a compromise bill was
drawn up by Renehan and Twitchell. Senator Bursum
introduced the compromise bill July 20, 1922, with a
personal note from Fall urging speedy passage.
Briefly, the Bursum Bill as it came to be known,
gave non-Indian settlers title to Pueblo land if they
could prove continuous possession with "color of title"
before or after 1848. Any settler who could prove
possession after June 29, 1900, without "color of
title" could also claim title.(32) The bill authorized
the 1913 Joy Surveyan informal federal government
survey conducted to portray the tangled land situation,
not to solve or confirm titleto stand as secondary
evidence. The Joy Survey was simply a listing of all
possible claims that settlers might wish to make. It
"showed every small cabin, ranch or field within the

Indian boundaries, giving to each claim such dimensions
as the claimant chose verbally to define."(33) To
incorporate it as evidence was essentially to validate
any proposed claim simply because it was made.
The Bursum Bill confirmed virtually any squatter's
claim and removed future claims from tribal jurisdic-
tion. Any trespasser who could not obtain land under
its very liberal provisions could appeal to the courts
and then to the Secretary of the Interior for a special
It proposed to confirm the ownership of all
those who have squatted since 1900. .the
compensation to be decreed by the United
States district court and administered by the
Secretary of the Interior who happens now to
be the familiar Mr. Fall.(35)
The bill placed water rights directly into the hands of
New Mexico district courts, historically unfriendly to
Indian rights. It proposed "granting Indian lieu lands
as compensation," except that irrigated or irrigable
lands were not available.(36) The very men whose duty
it was to protect the Pueblos appeared to be selling
them out. The New Mexican declared "Pass this
bill...and congress will have tied the hands of every
government employee from the president to the humblest
employee who would like to prevent injustice."(37)
About two-thirds of the non-Indian claimants were
Hispanic, and the conservative Spanish-American voters
in northern New Mexico formed the single largest voting

bloc of the Republican party. New Mexico historian,
Jack E. Holmes, claims that it was the overpowering of
the conservative Spanish-American vote by southern
Anglos that eventually undermined the strength of the
Santa Fe Ring.(38) The Ring had controlled the terri-
tory since the 1870s, but by 1921 was losing about as
many contests as it was winning, and was becoming
desperate to shore up its position. Fall also suffered
a tremendous decline of reputation within the New
Mexico political hierarchy during this period. He had
unsuccessfully opposed Bursum's appointment to the
Senate so strongly that he insisted he might refuse the
cabinet position if Bursum was appointed. Fall warned
the party that Bursum would prove too independent and
feared Bursum would undermine him personally, a fear
borne out when Bursum persuaded President Harding to
hand him the bulk of the patronage in New Mexico.(39)
His own influence dwindling and the conservative
Hispanic vote so vital to the continuing strength of
the Republican party, Fall saw the Pueblo lands settle-
ment in favor of predominantly Hispanic farmers as a
move to bolster the party and himself. Journalists
observed that the Bursum Bill had "taken on the color
of a political and racial struggle simply because the
claimants to Indian land happen to be largely Spanish
American, Republican voters."(40) Rather than bolster-

ing his reputation, however, Fall's association with
the Bursum Bill reduced it, and in dealing with the
protests, Fall demonstrated again his inability to
Protest from New Mexico
The Bursum Bill, opponents claimed, would deprive
the Pueblos of sixty-thousand acres of tillable land
and destroy their self-government. They blamed Fall
for using the influence of his office and his friend-
ship with Congress to refer the bill not to the Indian
Affairs Committee, which would normally have considered
such legislation, but to the Committee on Public Lands
and Surveys, generally unfamiliar with Indian policy.
The Public Lands Committee rubber-stamped the bill, and
it was questioned only briefly by William Borah of
Idaho before sailing through the Senate.
Stella Atwood, member of the Federation of Women's
Clubs and staunch advocate of Indian reform, was famil-
iar with the 1921 version of the bill, and as a result,
when the legislation again reared its head established
the Indian Welfare Committee of which she was named
chairwoman. Determined to halt the damaging legisla-
tion, Atwood sent copies of the 1922 Bursum Bill to
lawyer Francis Wilson and hired John Collier as re-
search agent for her committee. Collier's salary was
paid by Mrs. Kate Vosburg, a wealthy California philan-

thropist and member of Atwood's committee. Collier
began his new position by writing articles to leading
newspapers and magazines.
The Indian Welfare Committee lobbied hard with
Senator Borah a principal target. The editors of
Sunset Magazine distributed marked issues concerning
the Bursum Bill to government officials and to every
member of the House and Senate.(41) At Atwood's re-
quest, women from across the nation flooded Washington
with letters and telegrams. Faced with such noisy
opposition, Senator Borah took the unprecedented step
of recalling the bill from the House and sending it
back to the Committee on Public Lands. An All-Pueblo
Council was held on November 5, 1922, at the Santo
Domingo Pueblo, and 121 delegates agreed to formally
oppose the bill. Delegates decided to raise $3,500 to
sent representatives to Washington to testify at the
Senate committee hearings. Collier, who also attended
the council, noted that "It was the first formal meet-
ing of all the New Mexico Pueblos that has ever taken
Protests also came from Taos and Santa Fe, New
Mexico. Taos, in particular, had been "discovered" by
artists Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Geer Phillips in
1898, then by avant garde intellectuals like Mabel
Dodge Sterne, D. H. Lawrence, and Mary Austin in 1919.

William H. and William N. Goetzmann, in The West of the
Imagination, claims that Dodge brought the art world to
Taos, and it became vogue to attend Indian ceremonials
and participate in the life of the Pueblos.(43) The
extent of involvement was widely disputed even among
the artistic residents. The earlier artists who ar-
rived in 1898 were content to merely observe the scenic
beauty of Taos and the strange, but intriguing Indian
customs. Mabel Dodge went to the opposite extreme by
marrying Indian Antonio Luhan and attempting to immerse
herself in Indian religious mysticism. D.H. Lawrence
severely criticized Dodge's interference in Indian cul-
ture. His satirical articles illustrate how Anglos
patronized the Indians and contributed to a misunder-
standing that already existed.(44) Elizabeth Sargeant,
for instance, described the chief priest at a council
meeting as "clear-eyed and eager and simple as a
child."(45) Even Collier wrote that the Pueblos were
direct descendants of the ancient Mayans and
Regardless, the artists and writers relished their
rustic way of life and feared that passage of the
Bursum Bill would destroy it. Their protests were a
plea for the preservation of the Pueblo life. They
claimed that "Nothing less than death from poverty,
starvation, and disintegration will be the fate of the

Pueblo Indians of New Mexico if the Bursum Bill..
should become law."(47) On November 18, 1922, forty-
four members of the communityamong them such notables
as Zane Gray, Carl Sandburg, and William Allen White
signed an appeal to the American people to "Come to the
Aid of the Pueblo Indians."(48) Their protests cap-
tured the attention of local journalists like Dana
Johnson, outspoken editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican,
and national journalists like Walter Lippman of the New
York World. It spawned editorials in such publications
as the Christian Science Monitor. New Republic. Nation.
Outlook, and the New York Times. Articles titled
"Persecuting the Pueblos," "Pueblos' Last Stand," and
"Red Atlantis" hit the newsstands, and Secretary Fall
was forced to combat a literary intelligentsia with the
ability to pull the public heartstrings.
The protest spread eastward where it embraced the
council of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, a
group of scientists doing research on such western
historical sites as|Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. On
November 23, 1922, members of the museum sent a propos-
al to the Times resolving that "the legislation be
defeated for reasons of common justice and public
advantage."(49) The Indian Rights Association, the
Explorers' Clubs of New York, and the Cooper Union,

were just a few organizations that expressed opposition
to the legislation.
Furious, Fall wrote a lengthy letter to Senator
Borah defending the Interior Department and the bill.
He stressed his pro-business position with:
settlers needed this special consideration
because they were the merchants and business-
men who inhabited the villages within the
Pueblo grants and paid taxes, while the Indi-
ans were exempt from such obligations.(50)
Irate that the intellectuals should interfere with his
well-laid plans, Fall's response was angry and vindic-
tive. He wrote to the attorney general demanding
immediate resolution of all lawsuits pending in the New
Mexico district courts in favor of the Indians. Such a
move would mean wholesale eviction of all non-Indian
settlers and undoubtedly violence and bloodshed.
Apparently Fall was gambling that the "threat of evic-
tion would make the opponents of the bill appear as
ruthless extremists driving thousands of innocent non-
Indians off their lands."(51)
Protests flooded President Harding's office.
Others went directly to the Indian Bureau where Fall
ordered them to remain unanswered "except as official
duty required," since they came from only "artists and
ministers."(52) He blamed the New Mexican, which was
owned by Democratic rival Bronson Cutting, for fanning
the flames of discontent. He lashed out at the Women's

Federation, claiming that "Mrs. Atwood has caused the
present crisis by refusing to compromise on the Bursum
In an attempt to interject a voice of reason,
Collier asked the attorney general to halt evictions
until a compromise could be hammered out. Daugherty
forwarded the request to Fall who adamantly refused to
reconsider, and finally, the attorney general himself
suspended action, a move that increased antagonism
between Fall and the cabinet. In January 1923 the
Pueblo Indian delegation arrived in Washington and
testified before the Lands and Surveys Committee in
favor of a compromise bill to set up a commission that
would hear land disputes. The delegation also per-
formed dances and made speeches in Washington and New
York City, and their antics contributed to a vast
public groundswell. Fall also testified before the
committee, but in favor of the Bursum Bill. He refused
to undergo cross-examination by Wilson, and later told
the New York Economic Club that if its members really
thought he'd attempted to defraud the Pueblo Indians,
as Wilson and Atwood claimed, they should ask Congress
for his impeachment. The Economic Club did not go that
far, but gave full support to the Pueblo delega-
tion. (54)

Fall resigned on March 4, 1923, and what eventual-
ly concluded the issue was yet a fourth compromise bill
written by Senator Bursum in January 1924 and passed
into law May 13. It established a land board in Santa
Fe with representatives chosen by the Interior Depart-
ment, the attorney general, and the president to "in-
vestigate, determine, and report the status and bound-
aries of all Pueblo Lands." Fall published an article
in the March 4, 1923, issue of the New York Times
defending his position. But the article primarily
belittled his critics' ability to comprehend the legis-
lation and the severity of the situation in New Mexico.
In March 1923, criticism over the Bursum Bill was more
inflammatory than the gathering clouds of the Teapot
Dome investigation, leading several newspapers to
speculate that it was the reason for his retire-
ment. (55)
The Leasing of Indian Oil Lands
Fall's Indian policy tried to offer solutions to
the tremendous social and health problems and the
grinding poverty that plagued reservations. The need
for increased health care on reservations because of an
influx of deaths from typhus was tackled through a
cooperative venture with the Red Cross to provide badly
needed medical attention to the Indians.(56) Dams were
constructed on the Gila River in Arizona and the Big

Horn River in Montana, "bringing the irrigable area up
to approximately 605,000 acres."(57) The Interior
Department also made Indian education a priority and
increased schools upon western reservations so drasti-
cally that severe teacher shortages resulted.(58) At
the same time, Fall's concept of economic prosperity
for Indians was to turn reservation lands over to
private corporations. Historian Kenneth Philp, a
scholar on the career of John Collier, claims that
Fall's penchant for leasing oil lands has been neglect-
ed, but is every bit as important as the Teapot Dome
The General Leasing Act of February 25, 1920,
opened up coal, oil and phosphate mining on the public
domain. Fall's interpretation of Indian reservations
as public lands temporarily withdrawn meant that under
the General Leasing Act, the federal government, not
Indians, owned mineral rights. As a result, Fall
accepted over four hundred applications to drill oil on
western reservations by his retirement in 1923 and had
already granted about twenty of them when he left
office. Fall's ruling allowed the Interior Department
to lease twenty-two million acres of Indian lands with
no royalties to the Indians. Fifty-two percent of the
royalties would go to the general reclamation fund; 37
percent to the state in which the reservation was

located, and 10 percent would be designated for the
federal Treasury.
Rattlesnake Dome
In an blatant abuse of Indian policy, Fall ap-
pointed capitalist and friend, Herbert J. Hagerxnan,
Special Commissioner to the Navajos in February 1923.
Prior to the appointment, Hagerman had been retired.
Hagerman's responsibility was to negotiate leases on
newly discovered Navajo oil lands in Arizona and New
Mexico, particularly where Fall anticipated that oil
development would lead to additional developments like
pipeline and railroad construction. At about the same
time, Fall issued regulations abolishing existing
Navajo tribal organization and appointing delegates to
act for them.(60)
In October 1923 Hagerman sold four thousand acres
of prime oil land on the Arizona reservation to friends
for the trifling sum of $87,000. By mid-1924, Conti-
nental Oil Corporation had purchased half of these
leases from Hagerman's associates for $3.6 million.
Fall had left office by this time, but appointment of
Hagerman and abolishment of the Navajo council to clear
the way for such blatant favoritism were severely
criticized for years as having set the stage for what
came to be called Rattlesnake Dome.(61) It is diffi-
cult to see how such a move would have benefitted the

Indians as Fall was so fond of claiming, or how it
would have enhanced the wealth of the Anglo capitalists
and Indians equally.
Denial of Foreign Leases
Fall came into conflict with the U.S. Department
of State when he refused oil leases on Indian reserva-
tions to foreign corporations. In March 1922 he re-
fused permits to a consortium of Japanese firms called
the Yakima Japanese Association seeking to renew leases
on the Yakima Indian reservation in Washington. In
March 1923 he denied permits to the Roxanna Corpora-
tion, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell.(62) He blamed
the Dutch and British for glutting the U.S. market with
oil and driving down prices and for exclusionary poli-
cies that kept American enterprise out of their terri-
tories especially in Sumatra, Indonesia, and Mesopota-
mia. Fall accused Great Britain of excluding Americans
from or "placing heavy burdens upon such Americans or
other foreigners in any British oil field."(63)
In his book, U.S. Oil Policy, historian Gerald
Nash states that:
Even while Allied peace negotiations were
getting underway at Versailles early in 1919,
the Standard Oil Company sent a complaint to
the State Department concerning a British
officer in Palestine who had forcibly in-
spected the company's oil-prospecting maps

As a result, Standard oil was forced to ask the State
Department to protect its oil interests in Palestine
and other old Ottoman dominions.
In a memo to Secretary of State Hughes, Fall
outlined his department's refusal to "grant prospecting
permits under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 to na-
tionals or nations that were discriminating against the
U.S."(65) The move prompted denial by the British
ambassador that his country was excluding Americans or
any other foreigners from British oil fields.(66)
Fall's denial of leases to the Roxanna Corporation set
off a series of diplomatic crises with The Hague. His
interference in foreign policy caused increased tension
within the cabinet, and revealed how his Indian pro-
gram, like every other one, was almost solely economic.
In no instance did the tribes have a voice, and it
again does not appear that, regardless of Fall's asser-
tion, Indians and Anglos benefitted equally.
Fall's Legacy
Fall's Indian program as a whole gave impetus to a
growing Indian reform movement. The 1924 citizenship
made all Indians citizens of the United States although
it neither conferred voting privileges on them nor
adequately protected their religious freedoms. A
series of oil leasing acts in 1924, 1926, and 1927,
limited the exploitation permitted under Fall's inter-

pretation of the Mineral Leasing Act and awarding
royalties to tribes. Attempts to destroy tribal gov-
ernment actually strengthened them, particularly the
Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo councils. Indian affairs was
thrust into the national limelight as a result of the
Pueblo Indians Lands Bill, Rattlesnake Dome, and the
circulars, and consequently had to be addressed by
subsequent administrations.