The PJ Tatler

Thank You, Phil Collins

Singer/drummer/songwriter Phil Collins brought a lot of Texas history back to Texas.

SAN ANTONIO — Phil Collins, a member of Genesis and a staple of 1980s-era MTV, arrived at the Alamo here on Thursday carrying a sword and a dagger. Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, brought two guns, one tucked in his cowboy boot and the other in his waistband.

The meeting went well nevertheless.

The two exchanged gifts: Mr. Patterson gave Mr. Collins a lifetime admission to the Alamo, and kept his weapons concealed. Mr. Collins gave Mr. Patterson something far more valuable — the sword and the dagger he had brought with him on a private plane from New York (“The pilot left me alone,” Mr. Collins said). Both were used in 1836 in the Battle of the Alamo, in which nearly 200 men died defending the mission from the Mexican Army.

Mr. Collins also gave Mr. Patterson a rifle used by Davy Crockett, one of four in existence. And cannonballs that were fired in the battle. And the sword belt of William B. Travis, the hero commander. And a Mexican officer’s belt buckle. And a letter written by Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas, ordering a cannon and reinforcements. And musket balls and powder flasks and pistols and rusty bits of iron that the defenders of the Alamo fired from their cannons after they ran out of traditional ammunition. All told, Mr. Collins donated more than 200 pieces of Alamo memorabilia and artifacts to Mr. Patterson and, to a larger extent, the State of Texas.

This sounds like an incredible collection. Collins amassed his Alamo cache quietly over about 20 years, until he wrote a book about it in 2012. He won’t say exactly how much the collection cost him, other than admitting that it’s “seven figures.” He is shipping all of it to San Antonio, at his own expense, secured at his own expense.

The Alamo, which has become a disappointing exhibit as urban San Antonio grew up around it and looms over it, as koi and flowers and walkways replaced the marks of battle, will have to build an entire new visitors center just to house Collins’ collection and display it. Phil Collins’ collection will give the shrine a whole new appeal.

As a native Texan, I’ve probably been to the Alamo more than a dozen times. I’ll be going back as soon as Phil Collins’ collection goes on display.