The Artist's Alamo:
A Reappraisal of Pictorial Evidence, 183 6- 185o
SUSAN PRENDERGAST SCHOELWER*
PICTORIAL MATERIALS CONSTITUTE A RICH BUT GENERALLY UNTAPPED
vein in Alamo research. Ranging from period military plans to
modern movie scenes, from picturesque Victorian sketches to Bicen-
tennial cigarette advertisements, from real-estate surveys to souvenir
postcards, pictorial materials can provide extensive insights into the
historic place, the battle, and the legend subsequently evolving around
them.' For Texans, the Alamo has become a preeminent symbolic land-
scape, a cultural icon, and, as geographer Donald W. Meinig has sug-
gested, "a part of the shared set of ideas and memories and feelings
which bind a people together." The symbolic landscape and the real
landscape are not the same, however, and the Alamo we find is fre-
quently not the one we expect. As journalist Bob Greene discovered in
1984, the Alamo is not a "lonely sentry" on the "high desert"; instead, it
lies just across the street from Woolworth's.
There are, in fact, at least three landscapes of the Alamo: the actual
contemporary landscape, the historic landscape of 1836, and the sym-
bolic landscape, selectively idealized and imprinted in the public con-
* Susan Prendergast Schoelwer is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American studies at Yale
University. She served formerly as exhibition curator and coordinator of special projects at
The DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, and is the principal author of a book-
length exhibition catalogue, Alamo Images (1985).
'An opportunity to reassess Alamo visuals was provided by the Sesquicentennial exhibition
Alamo Images: Changing Perceptions of a Texas Experience, organized by the author min 1985
for The DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist Umniversity. Much of the material presented
in this article was originally gathered in preparation for that exhibit, and the author is most
grateful to The DeGolyer Library for the use of its rich research collections, and to the Library
and the Southern Methodist University Press for permission to repubhlish material that ap-
peared in part min the exhibition catalogue, Alamo Images: Changing Perceptions of a Texas Experi-
ence The author is particularly grateful to William F. Schoelwer, Paul Andrew Hutton, Tom W.
Glaser, and Chlifton H. Jones for their contributions to the research effort.
'Donald W. Meinig (ed.), The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographzcal Essays (New
York. Oxford University Press, 1979), 164; Bob Greene, "Remember the Alamo?" Esquire, CI
(Apr., 1984), 12
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed March 12, 2014.