Texas State Library and Archives Commission Loans Iconic “Travis Letter” to Alamo Through March 24

Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Austin, TX

Austin, TX – The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has loaned the famous letter written by William Barret Travis on Feb. 24, 1836, signed “Victory or Death,” to the Alamo Trust. The public is invited to view this iconic Texas Treasure from Feb. 23 through March 24, 2024, at the Alamo Exhibit at the Ralston Family Collection Center, 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX. Details regarding the exhibit can be found at www.thealamo.org/visit/return-of-the-travis-letter.

On display at the Alamo for the first time since 2013, the letter was written as a call for reinforcements addressed “To the people of Texas and all Americans in the world.” After a 13-day siege, Santa Anna's troops broke through at daybreak on the morning of March 6. Active fighting lasted only about 90 minutes, and all the defenders of the Alamo perished. 

“The Commission’s loan of the Travis letter for this exhibit presents a special opportunity for Texans to view what is perhaps the most famous document in Texas history,” said TSLAC Librarian and Director Gloria Meraz. “We are proud to work with the Alamo as it celebrates the 300th anniversary of the Misión San Antonio de Valero and commemoration of the Battle of the Alamo.”

Travis’s letter was carried from the Alamo by 30-year-old Captain Albert Martin of Gonzales. Despite icy winds, he traveled more than 150 miles, delivering the appeal to the citizens' committee in the provisional capital of San Felipe within 40 hours. Several copies were made, and transcripts of the letter began to appear in newspapers as early as March 2.

In 1891, Travis’ great-grandson, John G. Davidson, loaned the document to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics and History, where it was displayed in a locked glass showcase. Two years later, the agency purchased the letter from Davidson for $85. In 1909, custody was transferred to the newly created Texas State Library. The 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 perpetual preservation of the Travis letter, displaying it only for special occasions and exhibits. Learn more about the letter on the TSLAC website at www.tsl.texas.gov/travisletter.

TSLAC preserves and documents the shared heritage and culture of Texas by identifying, collecting and making available the official archival records of state government. From historical treasures such as the first Texas Constitution to government digital records, the State Archives maintains and provides access to more than 200 million pages of archival documents and more than two million volumes of printed library materials, including government records dating back to the 18th century, as well as newspapers, journals, books, manuscripts, photographs, historical maps and other historical resources. The Texas Digital Archive preserves and makes available online more than 10 million records, available 24/7 for browsing, searching, viewing and downloading at www.tsl.texas.gov/texasdigitalarchive.

Learn more about the State Archives at www.tsl.texas.gov/arc.

###

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission provides Texans access to the information needed to be informed, productive citizens by preserving the archival record of Texas; enhancing the service capacity of public, academic and school libraries; assisting public agencies in the maintenance of their records; and meeting the reading needs of Texans with disabilities. For more information, visit www.tsl.texas.gov.

Icon of a stack of newspapers
Peggy Price
Education Outreach Coordinator
512-463-9807
pprice@tsl.texas.gov
Page last modified: February 23, 2024