Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2015 Issue

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Win a Momentary Victory in the Battle of the Alamo Library

8e31d0f4-afc9-4a0b-80d8-9830bedc895e

The Alamo Research Center (photo from the DRT website).

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas won at least a temporary victory over the Texas General Land Office in the Battle of the Alamo Library. The Daughters (DRT) operated the Alamo itself for over a century before being ousted by the state government. There was little they could do about it. The DAR raised the funds and purchased the then crumbling structure in 1905 to save it from destruction. However, they also turned over ownership of it to the state. The DRT then operated it on behalf of the State of Texas. When the state demanded it back, there was nothing they could do but acquiesce.

 

However, there is a separate structure on the property, once known as the DRT Library but now the Alamo Research Center. That, too, is owned by the state, but the collection within it is in dispute (see Second Battle). It consists of around 38,000 items, many pertaining to the Alamo but others related to Texas history in general. Both sides concede that the other owns some unspecified number of items within the collection, but the great majority are in dispute. Records may not exist for long ago gifts, or it may be unclear who the giver intended the recipient to be (presuming they even distinguished between the DRT and the State). Both sides claim ownership of these. The state has said, in effect, it owns everything the DRT cannot prove was specifically given to them, or purchased with funds not contributed by the state. The DRT says these items were handed over to them, not the state, and were received on behalf of the DRT.

 

With their lease on the building set to expire next July, the DRT began seeking a new home for the collection. In August, they said they found one, later revealed to be Texas A & M University-San Antonio. Perhaps the Land Office feared the Daughters would seek to sneak the disputed collection out in the night as one morning in August, workers arrived to find the library padlocked. According to the DRT, employees were informed they could retain their jobs but would be working for the state. The DRT also claimed their computer system had been hacked. The Daughters quickly headed off for the courtroom, where they obtained a temporary restraining order against the state.

 

Now, that preliminary matter has been adjudicated in court, with the DRT pleased with the results. They will continue to have complete access to the collection and be allowed to operate the library. That will continue until July 11, 2016, when their contract with the state expires. Meanwhile, a trial to resolve the bigger issue – who owns the collection – is set for February 22. This one could be reminiscent of the earlier Battle of the Alamo, when Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and others fought to the death over possession of the Alamo. Maybe this won't be quite to the death, but the Daughters of the Republic of Texas probably hold Land Office officials in about as much esteem as the Texians did Santa Anna.

 

While technically unrelated to the earlier taking of the Alamo by the state, this action is undoubtedly an outgrowth. The DRT had dutifully maintained the historic building they had saved for over a century. However, Land Office officials believed it was not being kept up as well as it should be. Additionally, they wanted to improve Alamo Plaza, the historic district around the Alamo. Their belief was that significant upgrading of the entire experience of visiting the site was needed to satisfy modern tourists. The state, with access to tax dollars, has virtually unlimited funds. The DRT could only rely on donations and sales at the museum store. The kind of update desired by the state, which hired outside designers to come up with a new plan for the area, would be beyond the means of the DRT. Still, the change was hardly welcomed by the DRT and its supporters, even if they realized there was nothing they could do. The state certainly has the capacity to make Alamo Plaza a more desirable destination for tourists, and hopefully a greater teaching site, though we certainly hope they don't turn it into Alamoland in anticipation of turning it into a profitable venture.

 

The Daughters did recently receive a significant letter of endorsement from a group of archivists and academics, including former Texas state archivist David B. Gracy II. They said there was nothing in the DRT's operation of the library that suggests it needs to be taken over, while maintaining the Land Office does not have the expertise to manage the archives. They contended the Land Office's claim "would set an untenable precedent that would potentially impact the ownership of every Texas museum and library collection acquired through donations." It should be noted that not everyone shares this group's endorsement of the DRT's expertise and management of the library.

 

The DRT will find itself up against a powerful name in Texas and national politics when they go to trial next year – George Bush. No, this isn't the former President George Bush, nor the other former President George Bush. This is General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush, grandson and nephew of the former Presidents. His dad, Jeb Bush, aspires to be the third President Bush, and if he makes it, many in Texas suspect George P. will seek to be the fourth President Bush. The man is influential. This is a worthy opponent, with the Daughters of the Republic hoping they don't end up like their Alamo forefathers.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions