Phil Collins Donates His Expansive Alamo Memorabilia Collection to the General Land Office

It might yet be the craziest thing he’s done for the Texas landmark.

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Leann Mueller

In the five years since Phil Collins first made known his lifelong fascination with the Alamo, news coverage of his interest in Texas history has ranged from the man-bites-dog variety to downright mean. For Texans, the fact that one of the world’s richest musicians—Collins has sold more than 250 million records—might spend a small fraction of his royalty checks collecting treasured artifacts from the Texas Revolution is not so hard to fathom. Or at least that was the intended takeaway from Texas Monthly’s January 2012 story on Collins, “Come and Take a Look at Me Now.” The rock-and-roll press and British tabloids, on the other hand, have taken a different view. In a 2011 story, Rolling Stone depicted him as a rejected relic of the eighties who sits in his basement in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, staring at Jim Bowie’s knife and Davy Crockett’s rifle and thinking about killing himself. London’s Daily Mail called him “one drumstick shy of a pair.”

Well, prepare yourself, naysayers, because now Phil Collins has done something truly weird. This afternoon, the Texas General Land Office announced that the pop star has agreed to donate his collection, which is thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars, to the state. For free. All of it. That includes hundreds of documents, ranging from a letter Stephen F. Austin wrote from a Mexican prison in January 1834 and Sam Houston’s original 1835 land grant for property in East Texas to the signed receipt for thirty beeves that William Travis brought into the Alamo on the day the siege began, plus artifacts like uniforms and Brown Bess muskets that belonged to Mexican soldiers, a sword belt believed to have been worn by Travis when he died atop the northern wall, and a shot pouch that Crockett is thought to have given a Mexican soldier just before he was executed.

The deal was initiated by Kaye Tucker, a GLO project manager who has been the agency’s unofficial Alamo liaison since it assumed custody of the site from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 2011. “We’ve always had a pipe dream to get a collection like this,” she told me over the phone this morning while stuck in I-35 traffic on the drive from Austin to San Antonio. “My understanding was that he had been talking to some area museums about an exhibit, so I had dinner with him and asked if he’d consider giving at least part of it to the Alamo. To my amazement, he just said, ‘Yes.’ ” The logistics of the gift, like how it will be shipped, insured, and stored upon arrival, have yet to be hammered out, she said. “But Phil said he’s even been looking into that.”

The deal is part of a larger effort by the GLO to improve Texas’s most sacred historical site. “We’ve got big plans for the Alamo,” land commissioner Jerry Patterson told me yesterday afternoon. “We’ve created the Alamo Endowment, a nonprofit, to raise attention and money. We want to increase the site’s footprint, maybe not all the way to its original size, but as close as we can to the whole thing. We want to tell the whole story, of the Tejanos and Mexicanos who died there too. And we want a permanent Phil Collins Collection in an Alamo Visitors’ Center that we intend to build.”

For Patterson, who will leave office when his third term ends this January, fixing up the Alamo is a way to ensure his own legacy, and acquiring Collins’s pieces could be the kind of coup that drives future fundraising. But for every tourist who’s ever rolled through downtown San Antonio only to arrive at the Alamo and feel deflated, the gift could provide a means for contextualizing and envisioning the Texas creation story in a way that has never existed before. Artists have tried to present the Alamo in paintings, movies, and books, but they’ve invariably had to turn to legend to complete their looks. Collins’s collection is the actual stuff that gave birth to the legend.

Collins and Patterson will make the gift official at a press conference at the Alamo on Thursday morning. In the meantime, the pop star has yet to respond to emails for comment. “He’s dramatically unassuming, actually even less assuming than your average guy,” said Patterson, who was impressed by Collins in their one meeting, a dinner at San Antonio’s Emily Morgan Hotel. “But he knows more about the Alamo than I do. His collection is substantial, it’s valuable, and it needs to be labeled in honor of the guy who put it together. That’s Phil Collins.”

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  • Steven Giles

    Cheers to Phil! He deserves Honorary Texas citizenship.

  • Debbie Slocombe

    Wow Phil Collins is awesome! Honorary Texan status stat!

  • Lucia Estrada

    That’s is just wonderful, I always loved that man and his music. He has a good heart..I wish I could be at that dinner to hear sins of his stories.

  • Joe

    I wonder what a banner form Billingsleys group at San Jacinto would be worth, My great great grandfather John Hobson got away with it, and its been handed down through the family.

    • ggray

      He gives a collection worth millions and u want to sell one banner? Be a part of the spirit of the event and either bequeath it or loan it

      • Kenneth Browning

        You’re talking about a man worth millions giving it away. For the comment you replied to, if he was able to sell it it could change his and his families lives for the better. If Collins sold his, he wouldn’t even notice.

        • parker

          Yall are talking about sellin a piece of texas and family history, shame on you bastards!

  • Joe

    John Hobson was one of 21 of the wounded at the Battle of San Jacinto later to be killed by Indians near waaco for some reason he was buried on land near the Little river in Cameron Texas

  • Paige

    Will ‘Ol Betsy – Davy Crockett’s gun be brought back into The Alamo ?

  • Rex

    Incredible! I have hoped for this day ever since I first heard that Phil Collins had a massive collection of Alamo artifacts. This is wonderful!

  • Crews Giles

    Generous. Can we get Mr. Collins to come live in Austin as part of the deal?

    We could put his favorite treasures at the main GLO office on Congress Street so they would be near and he would have plenty of music venues to try out his new material.

    • ShawnCochrum

      The collection needs to be at the Alamo, where it belongs.

      • 600yardzero

        Austin is not in Texas; it is ON Texas. Like an ugly leftist wart. These artifacts belong in San Antonio, at the Alamo.

        • Kenneth Browning

          The people in Austin have a brain, unlike the rest of the state.

    • Stevie Janowski

      In Austin? I’m pretty sure he’d rather live in Texas.

      • Crews Giles

        You guys are funny.

        I’m in [The Peoples Republic of] Austin because of friends, family, and music. Because of the latter, that is where Phil Collins belongs.

        As for Texas History, I specialize in troop movements of the Revolution and would not mind seeing any of his collection pertaining to that narrow subject show up at the GLO on Congress (next to the Bullock Texas State History Museum).

        Better yet– just digitize all documents in his collection and make them available on the web– I really don’t like going downtown.

        But my point was, it would be great to add Phil Collins to the Austin collection of great musicians and singer-songwriters.

  • Ellen K

    I don’t think this is weird at at all. I think Phil Collins was interested in a piece of history and collected artifacts which he is now giving to the state of Texas for use in a possible museum. How is that any odder than someone who collects Monets or African masks or Glass paperweights and donates them to a museum? Thank you Mr. Collins. And Rolling Stone can go stuff it.

  • Jeff Maxey

    Thank you, Phil Collins, I bestow upon you the honor of a citizen of Texas.

  • James Tbh Ryle

    Thank-you Phil…..a Texas ‘hat tip’ to ya!

  • Blaine Smith

    Bravo Phil! You have an invitation to visit anytime and I’ll show you the stuff I got from La Grange and my arrowheads!

  • JimmmyTheKnife

    I have always liked Phil and enjoy his singing and musicianship. I’m glad to know my appreciation for the man has not been misplaced.

  • Rene’ Tiroff

    It wouldn’t need it had they not been so bent on serving booze on a Texas shrine and taking it from the DRT. Place looks like crap now. It is a shrine, not a place to throw parties to impress people!!!

    • George Foltz

      I have no idea what you are talking about as I am a Kentuckian. Has the Alamo been left to go the hell due to neglect by the people in charge? If it was in Washington DC the money would be running out the windows. Tell us what is really going on if somebody is looking to “get rich quick” off of the Alamo.Rick Perry this is your turf,do something.NOW.

      • Piraeus

        Rene doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You can safely ignore him.

        • Rene’ Tiroff

          Ummmmm Rene is a DRT and DOES know what she is talking about….you need to know facts and you need to dig for the TRUE facts and not rely on the liberal media that wants to twist all things. The DRT ran the Alamo at NO cost to Texas from the 1880s. People are annoyed now that they show up to the Alamo only to be told that it is closed for a private party. You, Piraeus, have NO CLUE what YOU are talking about. My family has been here in Texas since 1821. I am a proud Texan but am ashamed at some are trying to use the DRT for political purposes. The DRT is about preserving the TRUE history of Texas. Not about throwing parties and allowing Alcohol. The Alamo used to be beautifully decorated by private donations by members of the DRT and we were told to get our stuff out. We still have the Library that is at your service FREE of charge. We also still run the French Legation and the only thing tax payers pay for on that is the utilities. We raise money to maintain, repair and expand its property as well. May I ask what YOU do for the preservation of our Sweet Texas???

      • Rene’ Tiroff

        George, it is a political mess and what you read in the papers is not always the truth. The DRT is about preserving the history of our Great Texas and unfortunately, some people in high positions have decided to use a Texas Shrine to throw private parties. I must say that they still use the DRT to “run” the Alamo. It all stems from the DRT refused to allow alcohol on a Texas Shrine. The state can not completely take it over because then they would not be allowed to serve alcohol at the Alamo so it is stuck in a limbo at the hands of the Land Commission.

        • jimjenky

          I don’t mean this to sound arrogant or in a smart alec way, but you talk as if alcohol and Texas are anathema to each other. I don’t like the idea of the site being closed to people because some big shots want to have a mid day party to show off. That should be done after hours when the site is normally closed to the public, and all funds then generated should go to maintaining the site, but your Temperance League attitude about “alcohol” doesn’t make any sense. I would guarantee you over 50% of the original defenders of the Alamo probably imbibed.

          • Rene’ Tiroff

            The Alamo is a Texas (secular) shrine. It should be treated with the respect it deserves. I have no problem with people drinking in moderation…I lost my brother to a car wreck and DUI. That is not the point. The point is that The Alamo is there for the people to enjoy the history and to show respect for the men that lost their lives fighting for a great cause. It should not be a party place. I took no offence to your statement. Everybody has a right to their opinion. Their opinion should be fueled but the correct facts though.

  • bamanights

    well I do have say in this since Travis was my great great grand daddy

    • bamanights

      but good job and roll tide roll

  • one way

    What a wonderful treasure this man is bestowing on this country. Well done – what a class act!

  • Mark Smith

    Stand up guy, Thank you sir for a wonderful gift!!

  • MaryJane Kushman

    Wow! Fan of Phil before, now really impressed with him

  • Phelony Jones

    How wonderfully generous!

  • iowapam

    ‘Daily Mail’ and ‘Rolling Stone’ obviously do not know who they write about. Such sad commentary of today’s press. Phil Collins is a generous and interesting man, who shows his spirit in song and DEEDS. Nice to see someone that walks the walk. Thanks Phil!

  • momofmany

    Awesome Phil! Very Cool!

  • Teletwang101

    Generous man. Sharing the fruits of his wealth and drive of his passion that otherwise would not have made these items observable to the ordinary admirer. Thanks, Phil.

  • Texas Jack

    Kudos to you Mr. Collins.

    We here by christen you a Texan..

  • Laura

    Wow what an awesome gift !! I sincerely hope the GLO doesn’t ruin the atmosphere with the larger footprint Mr.Patterson speaks of and I do take exception to the “every tourist who’s ever rolled through downtown San Antonio only to arrive at the Alamo and feel deflated” comment. A step inside the Alamo and one feels the history and sanctity of the place.

    • Lawman561

      I’m with you Laura. I went to the Alamo the first time in the early ’80’s a little kid, and then the early ’90’s. Both times I was awed. I’m not a flower child or hippy, but I could feel the presence you referred to and ‘sanctity’ is a good word for it. It has been one of the few places I could feel an almost palpable energy. Awe inspiring. Hope Texas manages it with as little politics as possible. God Bless Texas!

  • docneaves

    Totally okay with the honorary Texan label. Thanks for your donation. I’ve always admired you, but now I have an even higher opinion of you.

  • ABeagleKnots

    I’ll predict that within two generations, “Remember the Alamo” will be considered as “racist” as the Confederate flag. After all, opposing a Mexican invasion is racist, isn’t it?

    • Steven Giles

      Ouch, too close to the truth.

    • JeffH

      The Confederate flag isn’t racist, it’s history. Just like the black buffalo soldiers who on orders of the army and US government slaughtered native American Indians in the late 1800’s are history, not blank murderers. People need to quit trying to re-write history, and forget it.

      • RyanScottG

        Sometimes history is racist. The flag that represented the people who fought a war to preserve the subjugation of an entire race is certainly an example of this.

  • kiamichi

    Welcome to Texas! Thanks, Phil Collins! As a native Texan, I’ve been visiting the Alamo since I was a girl, and the addition of your collection will be very welcome, indeed. I’ve always been a fan of the musician; now I have reason to be a fan of the man. Guess I’ll start planning a trip to San Antone!

  • Alma

    Phil Collins is a very generous man! Not only is he talented but he has a very big Texas size heart! I have always loved your music and now love the man he is! Thank You from a born and raised Texan! Alma Cantu

  • emaleroland

    God bless you, Phil Collins. You’re a good man and a wonderful musician. Thank you for your gift to Texas. It would be nice, since you’re in a position, to request the Daughters of the Republic of Texas be given management back. They are the ones who kept it up. The British tabloids, Rolling Stone Magazine and London’s Daily Mail can suck it.

    My great grandfather, was commissioned to do restoration of much of the chapel face, as well as the inside and the famous Rose window. His name is Eraclito Lenarduzzi, an Italian immigrant and one of the best stone workers of his day. We would be honored to share our heritage with you of this historical part of the Republic of Texas.

  • Debra

    I knew I always liked him for more than his music! Well done, Mr.Collins!

  • Anadara

    Collins has aways has been my favorite vocalist since the early Genesis days. …Good for him, good for Texas.

  • HoundOfDoom

    What makes this generous donation weird? The man loves Texas and the Alamo. What’s wrong with that?

  • markthaag

    Brother Phil Collins is a true Freemason. Your heart and your devotion to the craft far exceed your talents as a musician. You are welcome to visit our Lodge anytime ( Valley-Hi lodge # 1407, San Antonio, Texas, located just outside the Valley-Hi gate of Lackland Air Force Base). It would be an Honor to have you there.

  • Matt

    Ah, Phil Collins,
    You’re just an ordinary man,
    They didn’t tell you anything,
    But you found out what you could
    About that fire that burned outside your door,
    You couldn’t see it, but you felt it,
    It helped keep you warm,
    So you didn’t mind.

    Thanks for bringing these artifacts home.
    Now, let us take you home…

  • ubik

    Kudos to Phil Collins.

  • Allan Folsom

    Bravo Phil!!! You are a good man!!! Honorary Texan INDEED!!!

  • GodsHolyTrousers

    Thanks Phil!

  • PigFox

    Thank you, Phil Collins

  • William Paul Chambers

    Phil Collins is Gold in my book. My hat is off to you for giving so generously to the state of Texas. Thank you Mr. Phil Collins. All Texans applaud you.!

  • SamZydeco

    We need pictures of this stuff!

  • Arch Stanton

    “I am the One Who Knocks. I am the Danger.” Sussudio – Phil Collins

  • Senor Bacon

    When Phil Collins asked about what to wear for the ceremony, Jerry Patterson replied, “No jacket required.”

    I have always love me some Phil Collins, even though I get him and Peter Gabriel mixed up half the time on the radio. That being said, it’s high time that we petition to get Santa Anna’s leg back from Springfield, IL.

  • TexasTwister2

    @John Sprong – Why is this “crazy” or “truly weird”? I guess spending a portion of your personal wealth to build a nice, historical collection and then donating it to the public good is idiotic, right? This is a banner day for Texans and you just want to label it. If you think this is crazy or weird, get the hell out of here and go to work for the New Yorker or similar ilk. I am SO tired of Texas Monthly speaking so poorly about…Texas!

  • designatedhitter

    Honorary citizenship is the least he should get. How about Admiral in the Texas navy?

  • $94915963

    Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, whatever.
    Still if you google “worst songs ever”, “Susudio” is on just about every list….maybe the most consistent song on all the hits that you will get.

  • Houtex77

    Good music, good man.

  • perks

    Hats off to Phil. Now how about a few concerts over here. We miss you. Your such a talented class act.

  • lilmil

    Phil Collins is a true Texian. Don’t know the word “Texian”? Look it up.

  • Wendy Burkett

    Thank You Mr . Collins from this 5th generation Texan . We appreciate what you have given to us & know how valuable this gift is . My family goes to see the Alamo at least once a year & am excited to see the things you have collected & given back to our Great State !!!! Thank You Again.

  • Linda J Anderson

    You are always a part of Texas, because you have heart here.