Document Spotlight: The Travis Letter

A Home for Texas History Logo Showing a Stylized Photo of the three brass colored doors of the Lorenzo de Zavala Building and the text of 60 Years with a red ribbon.Among the most well-known and revered documents in Texas history is William Barret Travis’s (1809-1836) letter of February 24, 1836, addressed “To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World,” sent by courier from within the walls of the San Antonio de Valero Mission, or the Alamo, while besieged by the Mexican Army under the command of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The confrontation between the Mexican Army and the Texans defending the Alamo from February 23 – March 6, 1836, ended in terrible defeat for Travis and his men. Some details of the conditions on the ground during Santa Anna’s 13-day siege emerged through documents such as the Travis Letter and have become part of the historical record. 

In 1891, Travis’s great-grandson, John G. Davidson, to whom the letter had passed, loaned the document to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History where it was displayed in a “locked glass showcase.” On May 24, 1893, the agency purchased the letter from Davidson for $85. In 1909, custody of the letter was transferred to the newly created Texas State Library, which continued its display. 

The Travis Letter was featured prominently in the original exhibit display in the new State Archives and Library Building starting in 1961 and remained in its appointed location until careful examination in the 1980s showed that prolonged exposure to light was damaging the document and causing the ink to fade.

Today, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission takes great care to ensure the continued preservation of Travis’s “Victory or Death” letter, displaying it only for special occasions and exhibits.
Transcript of the Travis Letter (PDF).

View larger image of The Travis Letter on our Texas Digital Archive site""  

The Travis Letter, folded out written manuscript, brown ink on yellow paper. Image 01.


The Travis Letter, folded out written manuscript, brown ink on yellow paper. Image 02.


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Page last modified: February 21, 2024