History and Southwest

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Chasing the Santa Fe Ring: Power and Privilege in Territorial New Mexico

David L. Caffey

Winner of the 2015 Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico

Winner of the 2014 Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association

Anyone who has even a casual acquaintance with the history of New Mexico in the nineteenth century has heard of the Santa Fe Ring—seekers of power and wealth in the post–Civil War period famous for public corruption and for dispossessing landholders. Surprisingly, however, scholars have alluded to the Ring but never really described this shadowy entity, which to this day remains a kind of black hole in New Mexico’s territorial history. David Caffey looks beyond myth and symbol to explore its history. Who were its supposed members, and what did they do to deserve their unsavory reputation? Were their actions illegal or unethical? What were the roles of leading figures like Stephen B. Elkins and Thomas B. Catron? What was their influence on New Mexico’s struggle for statehood? Caffey’s book tells the story of the rise and fall of this remarkably durable alliance.


David L. Caffey has served as director of the University of New Mexico’s Harwood Library and Museum in Taos, director of Instructional Support Services at San Juan College in Farmington, and vice president for instruction at Clovis Community College.


“Caffey offers a thorough study of one of the most notorious political machines of the nineteenth-century American West.”



“Caffey tells a complex and interesting tale and in the process advances our understanding of territorial New Mexico by exploring the role and cause of violence and other topics.”


Journal of American History

“Caffey does an excellent job tracing major aspects of the sordid late nineteenth-century activities that led to the alienation of millions of acres of probably legitimate land grants, questionable government contracts involving the army and several Indian reservations, and a variety of other ways in which one could make a shady thousand or so. . . The volume deserves a place on any list of recommended New Mexico books.”


Western Historical Quarterly

“Southwestern scholars will find much of value here, as will historians interested in nineteenth-century politics, mythmaking, and the writing of history.”


Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“This book, a significant contribution to the study of the history of the West, is the starting place for anyone seeking the Santa Fe Ring.”


Montana The Magazine of Western History

Chasing the Santa Fe Ring is an excellent study of a slippery topic. It is thoughtful, balanced, and exceptionally well written. Caffey is clearly an expert on New Mexico history and politics.”


The Journal of Arizona History

“A solid examination of an elusive group of ringleaders.”


H-Net Reviews

6 x 9 in. 336 pages 29 halftones, 1 map, 1 table