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Texas Historic Diary in Heritage Auction

Texas Revolution comes alive at Heritage Auction Galleries with legendary Alamo commander’s 1836 letter and Joseph Pulsifer’s early Texas Republic diary.

Two of the most important items in early Texas history – a broadside (poster) of an urgent plea from Col. William Travis on March 3, 1836 for volunteers to defend the Alamo and a diary with nearly 150 letters from a settler describing the early days of the Texas Republic – are among the many “Texana” items to be offered in a public auction in Dallas and online by Heritage Auction Galleries. The sale of the broadside, one of only three known, will raise funds to maintain a collection of artifacts now housed in a Fort Worth museum.

When reading the impassioned words of Commander Travis, writing in the last days as 184 brave fighters held off thousands of Mexican troops at the Alamo in 1836, it’s not difficult to understand where Texans got their fierce “national” pride and bred-in-the-bone state patriotism.

“The power of Santa Ana is to be met here, or in the colonies; we had better meet them here, than to suffer a war of desolation to rage in our settlements,” wrote Travis. “A blood red banner waves from the church of Bejar, and in the camp above us, in token that the war is one of vengeance against rebels; they have declared us as such, and demanded that we should surrender at discretion, or that this garrison should be put to the sword. Their threats have had no influence on me, or my men, but to make all fight with desperation, and that high souled courage which characterizes the patriot, who is willing to die in defence(sic) of his country’s liberty and his own honor… God and Texas – Victory or Death!!”

It is as stirring a missive as ever came out of the Texas War for Independence, and the broadside that carries the message – which arrived at the Texas Constitutional Convention, and which was printed and distributed too late to be of practical use to Travis and his men – will be the centerpiece of a wide-ranging, important auction of Historical Texana, set to hit the auction block at Heritage Auction Galleries’ Dallas headquarters on Jan. 25, 2009.

“The broadside, one of only three known, is of unimpeachable provenance,” said Barbara Gilbert, Chair of the Board of the Texas Confederate Museum Collection of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. “It was received in 1935 as a gift from one of our members, Eva Hill Karling, granddaughter of the original recipient, Abram W. Hill. For Texans and lovers of Texas history alike, there can be no more significant, or vivid, a document.”

The broadside is being auctioned by the TCMC of the UDC as part of its fundraising efforts.

While Travis’s final written words from the storied Alamo makes for the most dramatic entry in the auction, the Joseph Pulsifer diary may well be the most important volume of historical Texana to ever come out of the early Republic, replete as it is with 146 hand-transcribed letters, that give as broad an overview into the thinking of the citizenry of young Texas, and the machinations of its early politics, as any grouping of documents possibly could. In his correspondence with early players on the revolutionary scene in Texas, Pulsifer gifted the future with an incomparable tome, and one that has survived, in the possession of the family from whence it came, through flood and decay, for more than 170 years. As complete and direct an account of the day has not been found.

It was no easy journey for the Puslifier Diary, kept by Massachusetts born and Texas-relocated apothecary Joseph Pulsifer. The volume was only one of 13 that the early documentarian kept, but it is the only – and most important – survivor of the group, as the rest were wiped out in the devastating 1900 floods in Galveston, TX, where the descendants of Pulsifer’s sister, who inherited the dairies upon Pulsifer’s death in 1860, lived.
“This is the first time either of these two items is appearing at auction,” said Sandra Palomino, Director of Texana Auction at Heritage, “and being able to offer both at the same auction is a tremendous event. The TCMC of the UDC is selling the Travis Broadside to provide funding for the preservation of current and future acquisitions related to Texas during the war during the years 1861-1865. The collection is housed at the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth.”

Both documents are museum quality pieces of Texas history, more detailed than most textbooks and certainly more important for their direct relevancy to the attitudes of the time in Texas, and the fiery character that defines the state and its inhabitants to this day. They are also relics of their time having been in proximity to the now-legendary events of the day.

For more information on this auction, to view the entire catalog or to see fully enlargeable images of each lot, and to bid, go online to