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Dozens of Sam’s Club Locations Are Now Closing

Dozens of Sam’s Club Locations Are Now Closing


Some employees report showing up for their shift and finding doors closed forever.

Big-box retailer Walmart has decided to shut down over 60 of its Sam’s Club wholesale stores, converting about 10 of them into regional distribution centers instead. The other 50 stores will be closing their doors for good—10 of these locations were abruptly shuttered today after the company said that stores were not performing as expected.

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In an internal note to staff, USA Today reports that CEO John Furner explained there were too many locations given the lack of demand in various regional markets. Sam’s Club is hoping to focus instead on online business and in-store technology for consumers. While Walmart reported a profit for its Sam’s Club stores of more than 4 percent last quarter, competitor Costco’s online sales have rapidly risen more than 43 percent in that same period.

While Sam’s Club has declined to confirm all locations being closed for good, USA Today reports that more than 3,800 workers are affected. Some of these employees learned of the closings this morning when they tried to report to work, Business Insider reports.

Some customers expressed outrage after Walmart told the public it would lift its hourly minimum wage to $11 on the same day that the closures were announced.


Shady Things Sam's Club Doesn't Want You To Know

There's a reason so many consumers are willing to spend their hard-earned money on an annual membership fee to shop at warehouse superstore Sam's Club: they feel they're getting some of the best deals out there, and they love the products they're able to purchase. Sam's Club is also a favorite among many because of the popular items they offer customers — for example, giant inflatable pool floats and super cheap 2-pound slabs of bacon.

But it's not always all good news for this Walmart warehouse store: Sam's Club has had its fair share of ups and downs, and they usually try to do their best to hide those downs from their members and the general public as a whole (can you really blame them?). The truth will always come out, though, and there are some shady things the company doesn't want you to know about their business practices. Whether you're a member or thinking about becoming one, you should know these truths abut Sam's Club:


Walmart confirms that it’s closing dozens of Sam’s Club stores

Walmart confirmed Thursday that it is closing dozens of Sam’s Club warehouse stores across the country — a move that seems sure to cost jobs — on the same day it announced that it was boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers and handing out one-time bonuses to others.

NEW YORK — Walmart confirmed Thursday that it is closing dozens of Sam’s Club warehouse stores across the country — a move that seems sure to cost jobs — on the same day it announced that it was boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers and handing out one-time bonuses to others.

The world’s largest private employer said it was closing 63 Sam’s Clubs over the next week, with some shut already. A company official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the decision publicly said about 10 are being repurposed into e-commerce distribution centers. He said it was too early to say how many people would lose their jobs since some will be placed at other Walmart locations or be rehired to the e-commerce sites.

There are no stores reportedly closing in Nevada.

On Twitter, Sam’s Club responded to people’s queries by saying, “After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy.”

Walmart had earlier cited tax legislation that will save it money in announcing the higher hourly wages, one-time bonuses and expanded parental benefits that will affect more than a million hourly workers in the U.S.

Rising wages reflect a generally tight labor market. The conversion of stores to e-commerce sites also illustrates how companies are trying to leverage their store locations to better compete against Amazon as shopping moves online.

Online retailers typically pay warehouse employees who pack and ship orders more than store jobs pay. Job postings at an Amazon warehouse in Ohio, for example, offer a starting pay of $14.50 an hour.

“This is about the evolution of retail,” said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. “The rise of e-commerce is leading to higher wages.”

Large employers also have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.

But low unemployment has meant that retailers have had trouble attracting and keeping talented workers, experts said. Walmart employees previously started at $9 an hour, with a bump up to $10 after completing a training program. Target had raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 in October, and said it would raise wages to $15 by the end of 2020.

“They raised the minimum wage because they have to,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said. “The labor market is tight and getting tighter.”

Many small and independent retailers struggle to find workers even when they try to pay well and offer benefits.

Laurie Rose, owners of Olde Naples Chocolate usually has six workers during the winter months, the busy season in the resort city of Naples, Florida. But right now, she has just three. The store pays $12 an hour and offers a 401(k) account after a staffer has worked for a year, but Rose realizes that may not be enough for many potential workers. Rose would like to pay more, but she’d have to raise her prices and fears that would turn away customers.

While many department store chains such as Macy’s and Sears are struggling, retailers as a whole are still trying to hire. The retail industry is seeking to fill 711,000 open jobs, the highest on records dating back to 2001, according to government data. The longer those jobs go unfilled, the greater pressure on employers to offer higher wages.

Walmart, which reported annual revenue of nearly $486 billion in the previous fiscal year, said the wage increases will cost it an additional $300 million in the next fiscal year. The bonuses will cost it about $400 million in this fiscal year, which ends on Jan. 31.

“The wage increases will make a big difference to Walmart’s lowest-paid associates, but do not yet match Target’s commitment to raise pay to $15 an hour,” said the Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

It joins dozens of other companies including American Airlines, AT&T and Bank of America that have announced $1,000 worker payouts following the passage of the Republican tax plan that slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The companies say the bonuses they’ve announced are a way to share some of their bounty with their workers, though in some cases it’s a very small percentage of their gains, and are less valuable to employees than permanent pay raises.

“Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Thursday. President Donald Trump cheered the announcement with a tweet, saying, “Great news, as a result of our TAX CUTS & JOBS ACT!”

Walmart has invested $2.7 billion in higher wages and training for workers to lower turnover and make the shopping experience more appealing. It has done well and strengthened its hand in online retail as many other retailers have struggled.

The company said the wage increase benefits all hourly U.S. workers at its stores, including Sam’s Club. Hourly employees at its websites, distribution centers and its Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters, will benefit from the wage increase. The one-time bonus between $200 and $1,000 will be given to Walmart employees who won’t receive a pay raise. The bonus is based on length of service, with workers with at least 20 years qualifying for $1,000. In all, Walmart employs 2.3 million people around the world, 1.5 million of which are in the U.S.

Parental leave has been another area in which retailers including Target and Ikea have been trying to offer better benefits. Walmart on Thursday promised full-time hourly U.S. employees 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Before, full-time hourly workers received 50 percent of their pay for leave. Salaried employees, who already had 10 weeks paid maternity leave, will receive more paid parental leave.

Maternal and paternal benefits can keep younger workers at the company longer, said Craig Rowley, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry Hay Group, a human resources consulting firm.

For the first time, Walmart also promised to help with adoptions, offering full-time hourly and salaried workers $5,000 per child that can be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.


UPDATE: Sam's Club in Rib Mountain now open

Sam’s Club in Rib Mountain was closed for a few hours Sunday, but is now back open.

Viewers told NewsChannel 7 they were informed by employees at the store that corporate had made the decision to close the store due to the protests and violence taking place around the nation.

NewsChannel 7 reached out to Sam’s Club’s parent-company, Walmart, for a statement Sunday:

Corporate Communications Senior Manager Charles Crowson said this:

“As we continue monitoring the situations unfolding in cities across the country, we will keep our focus on prioritizing the safety of our associates and customers. We’ll make the decisions to close or reopen stores in the area based on the needs of the community.”

Crowson says that the company is not specifying which locations are closed at this time.


Amid closings, Daytona Sam's Club to remain open

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart confirmed Thursday that it is closing dozens of Sam's Club warehouse stores across the country — a move that seems sure to cost jobs — on the same day it announced that it was boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers and handing out one-time bonuses to others.

The world's largest private employer said it was closing 63 Sam's Clubs over the next week, with some shut already. A company official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the decision publicly said about 10 are being repurposed into e-commerce distribution centers. He said it was too early to say how many people would lose their jobs since some will be placed at other Walmart locations or be rehired to the e-commerce sites.

On Twitter, Sam's Club responded to people's queries by saying, "After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we've decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy."

In Volusia County, the Sam's Club at 1175 Beville Road in Daytona Beach will remain open, though the fate of a proposed store on LPGA Boulevard near Tanger Outlets mall remains unclear.

Walmart had earlier cited tax legislation that will save it money in announcing the higher hourly wages, one-time bonuses and expanded parental benefits that will affect more than a million hourly workers in the U.S.

Rising wages reflect a generally tight labor market. The conversion of stores to e-commerce sites also illustrates how companies are trying to leverage their store locations to better compete against Amazon as shopping moves online.

Online retailers typically pay warehouse employees who pack and ship orders more than store jobs pay. Job postings at an Amazon warehouse in Ohio, for example, offer a starting pay of $14.50 an hour.

"This is about the evolution of retail," said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. "The rise of e-commerce is leading to higher wages."

Large employers also have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.

But low unemployment has meant that retailers have had trouble attracting and keeping talented workers, experts said. Walmart employees previously started at $9 an hour, with a bump up to $10 after completing a training program. Target had raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 in October, and said it would raise wages to $15 by the end of 2020.

"They raised the minimum wage because they have to," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said. "The labor market is tight and getting tighter."

Many small and independent retailers struggle to find workers even when they try to pay well and offer benefits.

Laurie Rose, owners of Olde Naples Chocolate usually has six workers during the winter months, the busy season in the resort city of Naples, Florida. But right now, she has just three. The store pays $12 an hour and offers a 401(k) account after a staffer has worked for a year, but Rose realizes that may not be enough for many potential workers. Rose would like to pay more, but she'd have to raise her prices and fears that would turn away customers.

While many department store chains such as Macy's and Sears are struggling, retailers as a whole are still trying to hire. The retail industry is seeking to fill 711,000 open jobs, the highest on records dating back to 2001, according to government data. The longer those jobs go unfilled, the greater pressure on employers to offer higher wages.

Walmart, which reported annual revenue of nearly $486 billion in the previous fiscal year, said the wage increases will cost it an additional $300 million in the next fiscal year. The bonuses will cost it about $400 million in this fiscal year, which ends on Jan. 31.

"The wage increases will make a big difference to Walmart's lowest-paid associates, but do not yet match Target's commitment to raise pay to $15 an hour," said the Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

It joins dozens of other companies including American Airlines, AT&T and Bank of America that have announced $1,000 worker payouts following the passage of the Republican tax plan that slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The companies say the bonuses they've announced are a way to share some of their bounty with their workers, though in some cases it's a very small percentage of their gains, and are less valuable to employees than permanent pay raises.

"Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Thursday. President Donald Trump cheered the announcement with a tweet, saying, "Great news, as a result of our TAX CUTS & JOBS ACT!"

Walmart has invested $2.7 billion in higher wages and training for workers to lower turnover and make the shopping experience more appealing. It has done well and strengthened its hand in online retail as many other retailers have struggled.

The company said the wage increase benefits all hourly U.S. workers at its stores, including Sam's Club. Hourly employees at its websites, distribution centers and its Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters, will benefit from the wage increase. The one-time bonus between $200 and $1,000 will be given to Walmart employees who won't receive a pay raise. The bonus is based on length of service, with workers with at least 20 years qualifying for $1,000. In all, Walmart employs 2.3 million people around the world, 1.5 million of which are in the U.S.

Parental leave has been another area in which retailers including Target and Ikea have been trying to offer better benefits. Walmart on Thursday promised full-time hourly U.S. employees 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Before, full-time hourly workers received 50 percent of their pay for leave. Salaried employees, who already had 10 weeks paid maternity leave, will receive more paid parental leave.

Maternal and paternal benefits can keep younger workers at the company longer, said Craig Rowley, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry Hay Group, a human resources consulting firm.

For the first time, Walmart also promised to help with adoptions, offering full-time hourly and salaried workers $5,000 per child that can be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.


Sam's Club closes dozens of stores nationwide

Walmart (WMT) is closing dozens of Sam's Club stores nationwide, according to numerous media reports.

The retail giant announced late Thursday that it will shutter 63 of the stores, where member customers can buy products at discounted prices. Walmart said it will convert up to a dozen of those clubs into fulfillment centers for online orders. The other stores will be closed in the coming weeks.

"We know this is difficult news for our associates, and we are working to place as many of them as possible at nearby locations," Sam's Club CEO John Furner said in a statement.

Walmart said it will provide support and resources for workers who are laid off, including 60 days pay and severance to eligible employees.

The closures affect stores in Alaska, New Jersey, upstate New York, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. In some locations, per social media, people showed up to work only to be told that their location was closing, with nearly no advance notice.

"Change is never easy, but we're making these decisions as part of running a healthy business," Furner said.

Sam&rsquos Club shutdown? Employees at this S Loop store tell me they showed up to work and were told store is closed effective today. Sign on door says same thing. Hearing other stores also affected. Waiting on answers from parent company, Walmart #khou11 pic.twitter.com/RtbY7EhiIK

&mdash Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) January 11, 2018

The chain, which competes with Costco (COST), has more than 650 locations employing more than 100,000 people, with an average of 175 employees per store, according to the company.

Trending News

Walmart will have 597 Sam's Club stores after the restructuring is complete.

The company drew criticism from people on Twitter who objected to the lack of notice about the closings.

My problem isn't with you closing stores. It's closing stores without telling the employees. How would you, as a social media rep, like to come in to work tomorrow and find out you were fired?

&mdash YourMCAdmin (@YourMCAdmin) January 11, 2018

The closures come on the same day that Walmart announced it was raising its minimum wage to $11 per hour.

Same day Walmart raises worker wage to $11 "due to tax bill", Sam's Club announces 419 Hoosier workers are losing their jobs.

&mdash Stephen Terrell (@StephenTerrell) January 11, 2018

On Thursday, the company was offering refunds on memberships as well as free 3-month extensions.


Walmart

Shutterstock

Even though Walmart is still closing dozens of stores to prevent COVID-19 spread, they have announced that starting Tuesday, May 18, fully vaccinated Walmart customers and employees will no longer be required to wear masks in Walmart, as the retailer told FOX 8 on Friday. Walmart said they will ask employees about their vaccination status as part of a health assessment.


Walmart will quit selling e-cigarettes as vape-related deaths rise

Walmart Inc. will stop selling e-cigarettes in its U.S. locations as the country grapples with a string of vaping-related deaths.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” it said in a statement. “We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory.”

The decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that 530 people have fallen ill from a mysterious vaping-related lung disease. Eight people have died, two of them in California. Officials still haven’t determined a cause of the ailment, and there didn’t appear to be one particular product or substance involved. Cases have been identified in 38 states.

The e-cigarette removal marks at least the third time this year that Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon has thrown his company’s considerable heft behind a big issue. In June, he urged Congress to boost the national minimum wage, and he recently promised to stop selling bullets for assault-style weapons and requested that customers not openly carry firearms in the company’s more than 4,700 U.S. stores.

Earlier this year, Walmart stopped selling cigarettes — including electronic ones — to people under 21. A representative said e-cigarettes are a “relatively small category overall” for the retailer.

Cases of the vaping-related lung disease have been reported most often in patients who had vaped products with THC, the key psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. But some had vaped both THC and nicotine, while a small number used nicotine devices alone.

Bootleggers mimicking popular legal vape brands are pairing replica packaging with untested, possibly dangerous cannabis oil.

There are signs the number of cases in the U.S. is climbing. On Friday, the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter from researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital who identified 908 confirmed and suspected vaping-related lung injury cases. The CDC has been relying on a more conservative count.

Vaping has also been at the center of a growing controversy over what U.S. regulators have described as an epidemic of underage use. Last week, the Trump administration said it would take steps to remove almost all flavored e-cigarette products from the market, until and unless those products win approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. — whose chains include Circle K — said this week that if policymakers take draconian measures against e-cigarettes, that could end up feeding the black market.

Walmart stock slipped 0.1% on Friday. Shares of Altria Group Inc., the Marlboro maker that invested in e-cigarette giant Juul Labs Inc. last year, faltered but then bounced back, closing with a gain of 1.7%.

Camouflaged vaping devices have teachers and parents struggling to monitor the usage of a product that has surged in popularity among high school-aged kids.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has campaigned and given money in support of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco.

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The Next Battle of the Alamo!

Adapted from Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House company. Copyright Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford, 2021.

This story has been edited, since we first published it last month, to correct and clarify issues of accuracy and context raised by two of the people about whom we wrote. Details of the changes are at the end of the story.

Kaye Tucker thought she had come up with a clever idea. If everything fell into place just right, she could accomplish two things at once: transform the Alamo into a world-class historical site and help an aging British rock star clean out his basement.

The path to that strange opportunity began about a decade ago, when Tucker was given an important assignment. A mid-level bureaucrat in the General Land Office, she was tasked with helping turn things around at the Alamo, where visitor surveys show that most tourists are disappointed with the outdated exhibits and lowbrow surroundings. In 2011 the Texas Legislature had asked land commissioner Jerry Patterson to shore up the &ldquoShrine to Texas Liberty&rdquo after years of neglect by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, giving him $6.5 million for overdue repairs. But Patterson wanted to do more than patch some crumbling walls. He envisioned a first-rate historical museum and an expansion of the site that would approximate the 1836 footprint of the fort&mdashan area that currently houses, among other things, T-shirt vendors and a wax museum, the kinds of fringe businesses found on the Las Vegas Strip or Bourbon Street.

Such grand plans were going to require a lot more than $6.5 million. The bill would almost certainly run into the hundreds of millions. Tucker knew that raising that kind of money from lawmakers and private donors would require a flashy draw.

Soon after she set out on her task, Tucker struck up a friendship with Jim Guimarin, owner of the History Shop, a touristy storefront around the corner from the Alamo. One day, she and Guimarin were talking about how he had spent much of the past half decade helping Phil Collins amass what was reputed to be the world&rsquos most extensive collection of Alamo artifacts. Collins, the front man of the multiplatinum British band Genesis and one of the biggest pop stars of the eighties, had been obsessed with the Alamo since he was a child. But now, Guimarin explained, the wealthy musician was running out of room at his Swiss villa for his sprawling collection. Collins was hoping to find a museum that would display the hundreds of items he&rsquod assembled, including what he claimed may have been Jim Bowie&rsquos knife and Davy Crockett&rsquos shot pouch and what he was convinced was William B. Travis&rsquos knife&mdashobjects belonging to the three most famous defenders of the Alamo.

When Guimarin casually asked Tucker if she&rsquod ever met Collins, Tucker said that she hadn&rsquot but that she very much wanted to. And not just because she was a fan who&rsquod seen him in concert back in the day. &ldquoWe&rsquod like his stuff,&rdquo she recalls telling Guimarin, who didn&rsquot seem to take her seriously.

And, in truth, she wasn&rsquot sure how serious she was. The site&rsquos current museum, in the Alamo&rsquos Long Barrack, didn&rsquot have enough room to display Collins&rsquos collection. And the museum that Patterson was proposing for the site was nothing more than a dream. Still, when Guimarin called her one afternoon in February 2014 and asked her to join him and Collins for dinner, she immediately said yes. &ldquoWhat he couldn&rsquot see,&rdquo Tucker said much later, &ldquowas me jumping up and down on the other end of the phone.&rdquo

The Alamo on April 27, 2021. Photograph by Josh Huskin

An hour later, Tucker was sitting in the back seat of Guimarin&rsquos minivan as they pulled up to the Hyatt Regency on the River Walk, where Collins stayed whenever he was in town he liked to look out his window at the Alamo and contemplate the heroism of the siege. As Collins opened the sliding door and got inside, Guimarin turned and asked, &ldquoPhil, do you know Kaye?&rdquo Jim, you know good and well I have not met this guy before, thought Tucker, who introduced herself as if it were the most normal thing in the world to meet a pop star in a minivan on the way to dinner.

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They headed to El Mirador, a now-closed Tex-Mex restaurant favored by politicos and business executives, in the King William Historic District. The staff always gave Collins a tiny private room in the back, where he could avoid starstruck autograph seekers. After they ordered enchiladas and tacos&mdashTucker had soup&mdashCollins and another collector who was along for the ride chitchatted about a recent purchase one of them had made. Tucker says she was &ldquojust pleased as punch to be there.&rdquo

As the meal was winding down, Guimarin turned to her and said, &ldquoKaye, was there something you wanted to talk to Phil about?&rdquo Collins, who had already finished eating and was slumping back comfortably in his chair across the table from Tucker, asked what was on her mind.

&ldquoI know the reason that you&rsquore here is you&rsquore kind of lobbying for a new home for, you know, your collection,&rdquo she stammered. And then, taking a deep breath, she made the ask: &ldquoI wondered if you would entertain the idea of giving it to us.&rdquo

Collins regarded Tucker with an expression she couldn&rsquot quite discern. &ldquoNo less than five million things went through my head for what seemed like an hour and a half, but it was probably about fifteen seconds,&rdquo she says. &ldquoAnd he looked at me, and he kind of turned his head, and he goes, &lsquoI didn&rsquot even think y&rsquoall would want it.&rsquo &rdquo

&ldquoWhy would you think that?&rdquo she replied.

&ldquoI mean, where would you put it?&rdquo

Oh, I am writing checks I can&rsquot cash, she thought. Sure, her colleagues at the Land Office had talked about Collins&rsquos collection in a &ldquoWhat if?&rdquo sort of way, but it never got past that because, as Collins noted, they didn&rsquot have any place to put it. But sitting there at that moment, across from a man whose songs she had hummed a thousand times, she made a leap of faith&mdash&ldquolet&rsquos just say, maybe ignorantly,&rdquo she jokes. She told Collins that the Land Office had ambitious plans for the Alamo and that acquiring his collection would be a publicity boon that would help the agency raise enough money to embark on a major building project&mdashone that would include a museum that would showcase his collection.

&ldquoI feel like a dog with two tails,&rdquo said Collins.

A week later, Tucker arranged for Collins to meet Patterson, and over a
government-budget lunch of sandwiches and Diet Cokes in the Alamo offices, they hammered out the details. Patterson, a self-effacing Texas history buff whose tastes ran more to George Strait than to eighties pop, was excited, not so much because he was sitting down with a musical icon as because he realized what this deal could mean for the Alamo. During their conversation, Collins told Patterson that he expected everything to be displayed in one place, which Patterson agreed to. Patterson proposed that they enter into a contract obligating the state to reach a &ldquoschematic phase of build-out&rdquo on a &ldquopermanent museum and visitor center&rdquo by October 2021, or Collins would have the right to take his collection back.

&ldquoThe contract was, like, three pages,&rdquo Patterson recalls. &ldquoI signed it, sent it to him, he signed it.&rdquo That agreement was publicly revealed a few months later, on June 26, 2014, during a press conference at the Alamo. &ldquoThis completes the journey for me,&rdquo a beaming Collins said. &ldquoThese artifacts are coming home.&rdquo

Patterson shook Collins&rsquos hand, knowing his role was finished. He had lost a recent primary bid for lieutenant governor and hadn&rsquot run for reelection as land commissioner. The hard work of turning the proposed deal into a reality would fall to someone else.

Perhaps that&rsquos why no one on Patterson&rsquos staff bothered to take a close look at Collins&rsquos artifacts, to make sure they were authentic. It&rsquos not, of course, unusual for an organization to accept a donation of historical items without checking their authenticity. What is unusual is for a reputable organization to agree to display a collection in its entirety (as Patterson did) without authenticating every item&mdashand to commit itself to raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to house them on the mere assumption that they&rsquore genuine.

Patterson left the details to his successor, a young man in a hurry whose family name is, in Texas, even more famous than Phil Collins&rsquos. The new land commissioner, George P. Bush&mdashgrandson of one U.S. president, nephew of another, and son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush&mdashtook office the following January. He had big political ambitions that a major restoration of the Alamo would bolster.

What he didn&rsquot know, or later, perhaps, pretended he didn&rsquot know, was that while most of Collins&rsquos collection apparently consisted of authentic documents and antiques, certain items may not have been what they seemed. Bush had no idea that he was walking into a battle royal between some very impassioned people that has been going on for years.

Like many boys his age, Phil Collins fell in love with the Alamo in the mid-fifties while watching Walt Disney&rsquos movie Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier. &ldquoThe memories I have . . . were that this group of people were going&mdashand they knew that they were going&mdashto die,&rdquo he said during a panel appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival in 2016. &ldquoThat just moved me as a five- or six-year-old. From that moment, I was obsessed.&rdquo He drew the facade of the chapel on the garden wall of his childhood home, in West London, and recreated the Battle of the Alamo with his toy soldiers.

Even as an adult, Collins nurtured his fascination. In 2004 he traveled from Houston to San Antonio during his First Final Farewell tour to show the Alamo to his wife, his three-year-old son, and his assistant. Afterward, they walked around the corner to the History Shop. Guimarin struck up a conversation with Collins, whom he did not recognize at first. &ldquoHe was interested in documents, and I had a Sam Houston document,&rdquo Guimarin says. &ldquoHe bought that later, but he left me his information and said whenever I got something, he would like first look at it. He was interested in anything to do with the Alamo.&rdquo

Guimarin, now 86, was never a big collector of Alamo artifacts. In fact, collectors didn&rsquot think much of the History Shop&rsquos minor bits and bobs, such as a Mexican uniform button or a tarnished bronze bullet. Most of his income came from restoring and preserving old documents, books, and maps. Guimarin, though, knew a good customer when he saw one. He started seeking out items for Collins, who complimented him on what he regarded as reasonable markups. The business relationship became a friendship.

Collins was soon buying almost everything connected to the Alamo first, documents, and then more substantial artifacts. In 2006, to help his top customer fulfill his dreams, Guimarin turned to a young man who hoped to take over the History Shop one day.

Alex McDuffie understood the world of rifles, swords, knives, cannonballs, and historical paintings. Growing up in Houston in the seventies and eighties, the intense and chatty McDuffie didn&rsquot enjoy school very much, but he fell in love with Texas history. His mother gave him the book Thirteen Days to Glory, Lon Tinkle&rsquos fast-paced but historically suspect retelling of the siege of the Alamo. The adventure, chivalry, and sacrifice appealed to McDuffie, who today, at fifty, is still ensconced in that world.

In the late nineties, McDuffie was working for a web-development business when a Houston-area dealer named Alfred Van Fossen hired him to build a website. Van Fossen, who died in 2006, was notorious for selling questionable items supposedly associated with the Alamo. McDuffie, still nurturing his boyhood fascination with the battle, quit the website business to work alongside him.

Most people feel a tingle of excitement when holding an object that played an outsized role in history. McDuffie finds it intoxicating. He often describes feeling the &ldquoenergy&rdquo of a knife or the power of a portrait. He says he can sense when an object is authentic, and Van Fossen gave him a chance to handle such things every day. &ldquoHe had some really great pieces, but he also, I didn&rsquot know at the time, had a lot of fakes,&rdquo McDuffie says. &ldquoHe was a real scoundrel.&rdquo

Jim Guimarin (right) with customer Craig Stinson at the History Shop in 2007. Courtesy of Craig Stinson

McDuffie fell out with Van Fossen in 2001 over who was the rightful owner of a painting of Mexican general Vicente Filisola, deputy to General Antonio López de Santa Anna. But McDuffie found a new mentor in Guimarin&rsquos friend Sam Nesmith. An Abilene native born during World War II, Nesmith grew up fascinated with all things military. A heart murmur barred him from joining the Air Force, so he dedicated his life to military history and became curator at the Alamo in 1966. Most of his career, though, was spent at San Antonio&rsquos Institute of Texan Cultures, where he conducted research, developed exhibits, and wrote books about Spanish-colonial Texas. He was also a proud Scot he wore a kilt for special occasions and bore a passing resemblance to Sean Connery.

Nesmith gave McDuffie some out-of-the-box advice: documents proving an artifact&rsquos authenticity are important, but in the end, you have to trust your gut. &ldquoWhy do you care what other people think?&rdquo McDuffie recalls Nesmith saying. &ldquoWhat do you think? What does your gut tell you?&rdquo It was advice McDuffie took to heart. &ldquoWhen I started listening to my own gut, that&rsquos when I really started finding pieces that were just really great,&rdquo he says.

After Guimarin started working with Collins, in 2004, McDuffie hired on and began searching for as many Alamo artifacts as he could get his hands on and running them by Nesmith for authentication. The three would produce reports on the objects they found and offer them to Collins for sale.

Guimarin, concerned about the security of the valuable objects he was now stocking, decided in 2007 to install a floor safe beneath the History Shop. There, workers found an adobe wall from the Alamo&rsquos original irrigation canal as well as uniform buttons easily attributable to the Mexican army. Guimarin wanted to dig for more artifacts but didn&rsquot own the building. So one evening, over margaritas at El Mirador, he made his pitch to Collins: Would he be willing to purchase the building and finance a dig? Collins said yes.

Months later, after Guimarin had the deed in hand, workers excavated a six-foot-deep hole down to the limestone bedrock. Then they dug horizontally, and every time someone spotted an object, Guimarin would be called over. He took photos of whatever rusty chunk of metal the diggers found and then carefully extracted and cataloged it. Over the course of nearly a year, the excavation turned up bullets, cannonballs, belt buckles, hat insignia, horseshoes, and three firepits evenly spaced in a straight line, as soldiers might build them. Guimarin says he&rsquos convinced most of the artifacts are from the March 6, 1836, Battle of the Alamo.

What Collins didn&rsquot keep, Guimarin sold. &ldquoA lot of people came through, and they&rsquore paying seven or eight hundred dollars for a horseshoe,&rdquo Guimarin says. &ldquoI sell these things at atrocious prices, but where else are you going to get it?&rdquo

Collins assisting with the dig under the History Shop in early 2008. Courtesy of State House Press

Collecting artifacts, financing a dig, and hanging out with a bunch of other men captivated by the Alamo made Collins happy. &ldquoI have to say it was one of the most exciting projects I&rsquove been involved with,&rdquo he wrote in his 2012 book The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector&rsquos Journey. &ldquoI managed to get my hands dirty on the few occasions I was able to be there, and it was very exciting knowing I was digging in earth not seen since those fateful days back in 1836.&rdquo He told the San Antonio Express-News, &ldquoBasically, now I&rsquove stopped being Phil Collins the singer. This has become what I do.&rdquo

The four-man team hoovered up just about every Alamo artifact that came on the market over the next decade. Guimarin sold the most impressive ones to Collins, who jetted in several times a year to review their progress. They would enjoy margaritas at El Mirador and walk the Alamo grounds at night. None of this is unusual in the world of wealthy collectors, who have dealers waiting on them hand and foot. Dealers do everything possible to keep such collectors happy, which usually means feeding them a constant supply of objects to satisfy their obsession. And many of these objects come complete with colorful&mdashand frequently contested&mdashbackstories.

McDuffie often worked with a man named Joseph Musso, a Los Angeles&ndasharea collector he had met during his days with Van Fossen. McDuffie and Collins were interested in one precious item Musso owned: the famed Alamo fighter Jim Bowie&rsquos personal knife.

But whether you believe the knife belonged to Bowie depends on what you believe about how the first Bowie knives were made. One legend goes that Bowie and his brother John started commissioning fighting knives after the 1827 Sandbar Fight, a brawl that took place on an island in the Mississippi River near Natchez. Jim became famous after that melee for using a big, distinctive blade to kill a Louisiana sheriff. The designs for the Bowie knife evolved from a minor variation on a Spanish-style butcher knife into the curved version most people think of today.

As Bowie&rsquos fame spread, hundreds of artisans across the country started approximating the design. So many of these so-called Bowie knives were manufactured that thousands of collectors spend much of their time squabbling about which ones are from what era, who made which knives, and which are fake. Many of them can&rsquot even agree on when and where the first Bowie knife was made. One highly debatable version of its origin states that Bowie created the iconic design in 1830 and paid an Arkansas blacksmith named James Black to make it.

Fast-forward to California in the early seventies, where Musso spotted a handsome Bowie knife at a gun show that looked as if it could date to the nineteenth century. Musso noted that the blade had an unusual feature: a strip of brass that extended from the hand guard to the dip in the knife called the clip. Musso bought the knife for a small amount and says he didn&rsquot think much about it until eleven years later, when he was cleaning his firearms and decided to rub a little solvent on the knife to get the crud off. &ldquoIn doing so, I found it had the initials &lsquoJ.&thinspB.&rsquo on it,&rdquo Musso says. &ldquoI had to sit down and have a long talk with myself because I knew that I didn&rsquot put [them] on it.&rdquo

Of course, there was no proof that Jim Bowie had owned the knife anyone could have scratched those letters into the metal, including the blacksmith James Black, who also had the initials &ldquoJ. B.&rdquo Musso has hired several companies over the years to determine the age of the knife metallurgically. He says the first report he received revealed that the steel dated to the 1830s and was made in a relatively primitive charcoal furnace. Another lab determined that the brass was consistent with alloys made in small workshops during that era and had trace elements matching those found in a fairly uncommon type of green sand, derived from marine sandstone, that could be found 250 yards from James Black&rsquos Arkansas workshop.

Musso decided to take the knife to a psychic. But because, he says, he doesn&rsquot really believe in the paranormal, he wanted the best: Peter Hurkos, a Dutch clairvoyant who claimed a head injury had given him special powers. &ldquoI figured he was the only one I could believe in because he was decorated by a Catholic pope and he was supposed to have an eighty-seventh-percentile degree of accuracy,&rdquo Musso explains.

Hurkos, who had worked on the Charles Manson and Boston Strangler cases, agreed to a meeting, Musso says. After Musso handed him a brown paper bag with the knife inside, Hurkos reportedly named the man who had sold the knife to Musso. Musso says he then laid out several photos facedown and Hurkos pointed at one, which Musso then flipped over. It was Bowie&rsquos portrait Hurkos declared the knife had belonged to him. To Musso, this was just another piece of evidence that would help him build a case for authentication.

Alex McDuffie at his home, in Austin, on April 26, 2021. Photograph by Josh Huskin

McDuffie believes there&rsquos more than enough evidence to attribute the knife to Bowie. Guimarin is more circumspect. &ldquoIs it the same kind of knife that he used? Yes, it is. But is it the knife? I don&rsquot know.&rdquo

Nevertheless, according to rumors circulating among knife collectors, Guimarin and McDuffie arranged for Collins to buy the knife for $1.5 million in 2011. (McDuffie and Musso both state that that figure is incorrect but have declined to provide an accurate figure.) &ldquoI really never planned to sell it,&rdquo Musso says. &ldquoBut I&rsquom kind of grateful that Phil did approach me. And if [the Alamo museum is built], it can be shared with the world.&rdquo

The sort of good luck that Musso enjoyed in discovering the supposed legacy of his knife can be found repeatedly when one dives into the provenance of the Collins collection. McDuffie was attending an antiques show a decade ago where a seller offered what he called &ldquoan Alamo sword.&rdquo The dealer relayed how the nineteenth-century saber had belonged to a Louisiana-based U.S. Army soldier named John R. Johnson who reportedly fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, where, six weeks after capturing the Alamo, Santa Anna and his army were defeated by forces commanded by Sam Houston. According to family lore, Johnson brought the saber home to Virginia as a war prize.

McDuffie&rsquos gut convinced him to buy it. When he got home, he decided to apply a little solvent, just as Musso said he had done with his Bowie knife. &ldquoI noticed something on the spine,&rdquo McDuffie says. After letting it soak for two days, McDuffie says that he made out an inscription: &ldquoJ. Bowie.&rdquo

McDuffie took it to a metallurgist named Edward V. Bravenec, who put the item under a high-powered microscope. In a report dated Feb. 24, 2014, Bravenec said the saber was of early 19th century vintage and that the inscription &ldquoJ. Bowie&rdquo was covered with score marks. He said those marks were left when the saber was pulled from its scabbard, &ldquowhich indicated that the name was inscribed before usage.&rdquo

Bravenec wrote: &ldquoI believe that &hellip the owner was J. Bowie.&rdquo He did not make clear whether he believed it was the James Bowie of Alamo fame. And Bravenec offered no opinion as to whether the saber was ever at San Jacinto or the Alamo.

The next question was, Who had found Bowie&rsquos saber? McDuffie did some research and found that John R. Johnson was listed as a deserter from Fort Jesup, Louisiana, in 1836. He says Johnson&rsquos name also showed up on the Battle of San Jacinto muster rolls that same year. McDuffie, claiming &ldquothere is no other explanation,&rdquo says he is convinced that a Mexican soldier must have taken the sword off Bowie at the Alamo, then, a month later, lost it at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Johnson acquired it. &ldquoIt&rsquos like the story wanted to tell itself,&rdquo McDuffie says.

A little dab of solvent has helped McDuffie make several other significant discoveries. &ldquoSo many pieces that I&rsquove bought over the years that they advertise as unmarked, you can&rsquot really make out anything,&rdquo McDuffie explains. &ldquoBut if you put a little oil on it and you take it out in the sunlight and you look at it at angles, a lot of times you&rsquoll find that the engraving&mdashmaybe identifying somebody&rsquos name or a maker&mdashis just filled in with grime.&rdquo

At one auction in 2010, Guimarin bought a &ldquosword belt&rdquo purported to have belonged to Colonel William Barret Travis, commander of the Texians who defended the Alamo. Though the listing, from an Arkansas dealer named Gary Hendershott, stated that there was proper documentation for the item, Guimarin says he never received it. (Hendershott insists he &ldquowould&rsquove sent it.&rdquo ) Collins kept the belt anyway, and in The Alamo and Beyond he notes that &ldquoit is possibly thought to be&rdquo Travis&rsquos belt.

While perusing another auction catalog in 2009, McDuffie spotted a consignment lot from Hendershott that included a pistol, a small knife, and a pouch. Hendershott listed them as a &ldquoNew Mexican Hunting Pouch, Pistol & Knife, ca. 19th century.&rdquo Though he was reluctant to deal with Hendershott, with whom he had a contentious history, McDuffie&rsquos gut told him this could be something special. The pouch was embossed with the initials &ldquoE.&thinspS.,&rdquo and McDuffie says he was convinced it belonged to Erastus &ldquoDeaf&rdquo Smith, the scout who rode out of the Alamo for help.

McDuffie bought the lot and then applied his solvent technique to the knife. He says the initials &ldquoW&thinspB&thinspT&rdquo revealed themselves, and he believes they stand for William Barret Travis, who he theorizes gave the knife to Deaf Smith when he left the Alamo, seeking reinforcements. (McDuffie also suggests an enslaved person may have given the knife to Smith after the battle.) Collins bought the whole lot for an undisclosed price.

A Bowie knife that Phil Collins donated to the Alamo. Bob Owen/San Antonio Express-News

Many Alamo collectors are like UFO enthusiasts: they desperately want to believe in their stories, and they&rsquore not shy about tearing down anyone who casts doubt.

Bruce Winders, the Alamo&rsquos official historian and curator from 1996 to 2019, says that he has heard disquieting rumors about the items Guimarin and McDuffie sold to Collins. But, he notes, he and his colleagues among the Daughters of the Republic of Texas did business with Guimarin, and liked him. &ldquoHe was a business partner for the Alamo at one point, and it just became one of those things where you didn&rsquot ask questions.&rdquo

Still, when asked whether McDuffie&rsquos name set off any warning bells, Winders acknowledged that his encounters with McDuffie&rsquos work had troubled him. &ldquoBells? All the bells. Yeah, kind of like Notre Dame. People are amazed at some of the artifacts he comes up with. How does he find so many choice artifacts?&rdquo

Though the majority of items in Collins&rsquos collection&mdashincluding all of the documents&mdashappear to be authentic Texana, many serious Alamo collectors regarded certain items, including the flashiest ones supposedly connected to Bowie, Crockett, and Travis, with bemusement. According to the inventory included in the Deed of Gift to the Land Office, there are at least 35 large items&mdashmostly cannonballs, weapons, soldiers&rsquo possessions, and uniform items&mdashthat are directly tied to the battle. Then there are the dozens of small items from the History Shop dig, which are said to be Alamo artifacts. Many of these have come under scrutiny.

&ldquoNo collection is totally devoid of at least a couple of items that are questionable, at the very least,&rdquo says Compton LaBauve, a prominent Louisiana collector who routinely buys and sells items from the time of the Texas Revolution. &ldquoBut the Collins collection contains more questionable pieces, with more than questionable provenance, by far, than any collection I&rsquom aware of.&rdquo McDuffie, in turn, claims that there&rsquos bad blood between him and LaBauve, who he says has himself been mistaken about some artifacts&rsquo authenticity. And at least one other prominent expert has acknowledged that it&rsquos difficult to compare the Collins collection to other collections because of its scope and nature.

Many collectors&rsquo puzzlement grew when Collins&rsquos The Alamo and Beyond was published, in 2012. The gorgeously illustrated book is a source of profound skepticism in the Alamo collecting and archaeological worlds. &ldquoJust about everything they said was used at the Alamo&mdashthese are not Alamo-related items,&rdquo says Thomas Nuckols, who volunteers as an archaeological consultant to the Texas Historical Commission and is an expert on Alamo-era artifacts. &ldquoA lot of us enjoyed the book just because of the silliness of it.&rdquo

Two history professors from McMurry University, in Abilene, oversaw the book project. Even before meeting with Collins, though, they had concerns. &ldquoI was kind of in charge of quality control, and I knew that the provenance on some of these artifacts was, uh, well, not too solid,&rdquo recalls Stephen L. Hardin, who is probably best known for his 1994 book Texian Iliad. &ldquoI said, &lsquoYou know, Phil, we can&rsquot just say this is Davy Crockett&rsquos shot pouch.&rsquo It very well could be, but we asked a lot of tough questions. He was always very cooperative and very receptive. He doesn&rsquot want to be embarrassed either. I can&rsquot speak for Phil, but my sense is that he knew that some of the artifacts might not be the genuine article. But if he bought literally all of them, some would be. For a while he was buying literally everything that came on the market. To people who manufacture bogus artifacts, that&rsquos a bird&rsquos nest on the ground.&rdquo

Hardin believes the Collins collection has enormous cultural and historical value, but he urged Collins to couch his claims wherever possible. &ldquoIf you go through the book carefully, you will see a lot of qualifiers,&rdquo he says. &ldquoThat&rsquos because we didn&rsquot want this to come back and bite us in the ass. All we&rsquore saying is, &lsquoThis is the Phil Collins collection.&rsquo Beyond that . . .&rdquo Here, Hardin&rsquos voice trails off. &ldquoBeyond that, and with further research, let&rsquos just say we have heard the same reservations that you have.&rdquo

These reservations were touched on in a 2012 Collins profile in Texas Monthly. Hardin told the writer, John Spong, that even if certain items couldn&rsquot be definitively linked to Bowie, Travis, or Crockett, they still had value as period pieces. &ldquoTake the belt that supposedly held Travis&rsquos sword,&rdquo Hardin said. &ldquoThat&rsquos really hard to prove. But it&rsquos an 1830s sword belt from the Texas Revolution, and that&rsquos significant.&rdquo

When Spong asked Collins about the belt, the easygoing manner the singer had consistently displayed vanished. &ldquoThis is all bullshit,&rdquo Collins vented in an email. &ldquoWhoever described that to you has no idea of what went on and should mind their own business! I have as much provenance as you could hope for. In my book, I have a question mark in the title of the essay relating to the belt because its origin, like most Alamo artifacts, is hard to prove. Then if you do try to prove it, there are people lining up to shoot you down in flames.&rdquo

McDuffie and Guimarin echo these sentiments, arguing that they did enough research to make their claims by what might be referred to as &ldquoAlamo standards.&rdquo They say the Alamo is a special case and that it&rsquos almost impossible to prove any item was present at the battle without some shadow of doubt. The site, after all, was looted after the fight ended and the various objects scattered to places unknown. Anyone who wants to claim that an antique was at the Alamo almost always has to take a leap of faith&mdasha much lower standard than most museum pieces are held to.

The former site of the History Shop on April 27, 2021. Photograph by Josh Huskin

Still, across the clubby world of antiquities dealers and collectors, Collins&rsquos book was met with incredulity. &ldquoI&rsquove dug the sites, I know what weapons were used, and the artifacts Phil has just don&rsquot fit,&rdquo says Nuckols. &ldquoHe says he has cannonballs shot by the Twin Sisters at San Jacinto. Nobody knows what caliber those cannons were! He shows pictures of rusted metal and says these were shot out of Texas cannons. It&rsquos just rusty metal! It could be literally anything.&rdquo (McDuffie says that the cannons&rsquo caliber is known because it was cited in Sam Houston&rsquos memoir. But Houston&rsquos memoir is regarded by many as unreliable on this issue the cannons&rsquo caliber is widely debated among scholars of the period.)

What really incensed Nuckols, though, was the description of items from the History Shop dig. In one passage, Collins writes that given the array of equine artifacts they uncovered, &ldquoit seemed indisputable&rdquo they had found a campsite used by the Mexican cavalry commander Juan José Andrade.

&ldquoThey found horseshoes,&rdquo Nuckols says. &ldquoCollins says they were from Santa Anna&rsquos cavalry. In fact, we know that in the late eighteen-hundreds, there was a blacksmith shop on that site. Those artifacts could be from any time period.&rdquo

Mark D. Zalesky, the longtime editor of Knife Magazine, says he was floored by Collins&rsquos claims for his knives, including the Bowie knife. &ldquoThere are eight knives in the book, and one, the Sam Houston knife, is great,&rdquo Zalesky claims. Every other knife, he says, is either fake or lacking the proper documentation.

Zalesky, who has followed the Musso knife controversy for more than twenty years, is convinced that the knife is a fake. When Musso first began showing it in the late eighties, Zalesky says, &ldquovery quickly [some] experts reacted negatively and were sort of beaten back with threats of lawsuits from Joe. Many battles were fought over this during the nineties, in Maine Antique Digest, that sort of thing.&rdquo Over time, he says, knife experts and even the smaller subset of Bowie knife enthusiasts grew divided over the knife&rsquos authenticity. &ldquoMusso finally found a community that accepted it&mdashthe Alamo community. And then he found a fellow who had a lot of money and wanted Jim Bowie&rsquos knife.&rdquo

Zalesky believes the knife was probably made in England in the early 1970s, and he claims, &ldquoI have a photo of this [exact] knife in London in &rsquo72, from the London Daily Telegraph, [held] by the girlfriend of a dealer who is a known associate of the most notorious Bowie knife counterfeiter of all, a man named Dickie Washer.&rdquo Zalesky also claims that one of Musso&rsquos lab reports proves that the knife was not made from the steel that would have been used in the nineteenth century. (Other experts interpret the lab results differently, and Musso believes that the lab report proves that the knife was made from steel that would have been used in the nineteenth century.) Zalesky says that it would be painful for him to ever see the knife associated with Jim Bowie&rsquos name at the Alamo. &ldquoIt&rsquos fake,&rdquo he insists.

He&rsquos not the only one who thinks there&rsquos some monkey business going on here. Hendershott says that he was stunned to see the New Mexico knife he sold to McDuffie attributed to Travis. He never saw the knife in person (he sold it on behalf of its owner), but he had published close-up, detailed photos of the knife that show no evidence of any engraving, nor of griminess. He claimed the initials &ldquoW&thinspB&thinspT&rdquo had been recently engraved in the knife guard. &ldquoIt&rsquos a fake!&rdquo he writes by email. &ldquoI&rsquove seen this a hundred times.&rdquo

In the opinion of the dozen or so experts and collectors we spoke with, the jewels of the Collins collection&mdashat least eight items, none of them documents, that are said to have belonged to, or to possibly have belonged to, Bowie, Crockett, and Travis&mdashare of questionable authenticity. When we asked Hardin, the history professor who oversaw the Collins book project, whether even one of these items has anything like solid provenance, he lowered his voice. &ldquoNo,&rdquo he said. &ldquoNo.&rdquo

Guimarin and McDuffie dismiss these criticisms as professional jealousy. &ldquoEvery single enemy that I&rsquove made has been because they&rsquove valued their ego over the truth,&rdquo McDuffie says. He singles out Hendershott as someone who is trying to ruin him.

Since McDuffie and Guimarin claim the controversy is nothing more than bad blood within the community of Alamo historians and artifact-collectors&mdashand that community is clearly one that is riven with intense competition and jealousies&mdashwe reached out to someone far outside that community: Henry Yallop, the keeper of armor and edged weapons at the United Kingdom&rsquos Royal Armouries. He agreed to speak generally about the field but said that he could offer an opinion on a specific object only after viewing it, and then only to the legal owner, neither of which was possible in this situation.

Yallop, who said that he couldn&rsquot comment on the customs of irregular forces, such as those that fought at the Alamo, explained that armies sometimes engraved a weapon number on an object for inventory purposes. Additional decorations sometimes denote that an object was used at a specific battle, to turn it into a presentation piece. Yallop also noted that in his experience, engravings can be somewhat obscured by dirt and grime, but that experts at the UK armories were &ldquonot aware of an instance where the application of gun oil and solvents made inscriptions magically appear.&rdquo

Yallop said he knew of no instance where an obscured engraving led to the attribution of a weapon to a famous warrior. &ldquoOn its own, an object being of the right date and having relevant initials would not be considered as definitive &lsquoproof&rsquo by most people,&rdquo Yallop wrote in an email. &ldquoIn certain circumstances, this would enable further research to be done which could help build evidence.&rdquo

For centuries, people have altered historical objects to make them more valuable, Yallop added. &ldquoIt should be noted that such engraving could have been added many years ago, but that does not necessarily mean they are from an object&rsquos &lsquoworking life,&rsquo &rdquo he wrote. &ldquoIn the past people may have added engravings or other decoration to an object that was already thought / known to be associated with something. Or they could have been added with no such association, to deliberately deceive.&rdquo

Phil Collins (center) donates his collection in San Antonio on October 28, 2014. Bob Daemmrich/Corbis/Getty

No one appears to have communicated any of this skepticism to Jerry Patterson when he was negotiating with Collins. Nor did Patterson or anyone on his staff seek independent assessments of Collins&rsquos artifacts before or after promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a museum that would display every single one of them. Winders, until recently the Alamo&rsquos official historian, remembers that the collection arrived at the mission in October 2014, three months after Patterson and Collins made their public announcement. As he read through the four books of receipts of the items&rsquo provenance that Collins furnished, he found himself feeling deeply concerned. &ldquoIt was kind of painful because I was finding things that were somewhat disturbing,&rdquo he remembers. &ldquoWhat I saw were items that said they were of this type and that they could&rsquove been at the Alamo.&rdquo But again and again, Winders found no documentation placing them at the battle. &ldquoThere&rsquos enough to make you think that there is some deception going on here.&rdquo

Winders conveyed his concerns to the Alamo&rsquos board and to Mark Lambert, the Land Office&rsquos deputy director of archives and records. &ldquoI told our people that this is going to have to be addressed at some point,&rdquo he says. &ldquoMark Lambert was concerned. He was kind of in the same position as I was when I talk to my management. [They were] always, &lsquoWe&rsquoll deal with that when the time comes.&rsquo &rdquo

Guimarin and McDuffie dismiss any such concerns. Guimarin says that Winders is &ldquosuper conservative,&rdquo and McDuffie scoffs at the Land Office&rsquos expertise. &ldquoThe General Land Office doesn&rsquot know their head from their ass with their stuff,&rdquo he says. &ldquoThey don&rsquot know what they&rsquore looking at.&rdquo He says he provided Guimarin and Nesmith with detailed reports on each item, including photos showing how he revealed the inscriptions.

The &ldquoCradle of Texas Liberty&rdquo hasn&rsquot made a great impression on visitors. The average time spent inside Texas&rsquos most visited historical site? About ten minutes.

The Land Office (which declined to answer any of our questions over a period of months) declared Collins&rsquos receipt books confidential when we asked for them last summer, but after we appealed that decision, the Texas attorney general&rsquos office made them available, redacting only the prices that Collins had paid. Nesmith signed most of the certificates of authenticity, and many of them are a master class in how to weave compelling tales with carefully hedged language.

Nesmith&rsquos certificates begin with detailed professional descriptions of the objects, then launch into prosaic storytelling. He is particularly vague about certifying a shot pouch said to have belonged to Crockett, which Collins bought from Guimarin in 2009. In his write-up, Nesmith uses many passive sentences and avoids an explanation for his attribution. &ldquoThe pouch appears to have a most interesting history and was recovered from the personal effects of Colonel José Enrique de la Peña. It is listed in an inventory of his property at the time of his death in 1840. It is also stated [in the probate document] that these items were given to Don José Enrique de la Peña, while serving at the Alamo during the war in Texas, by &lsquoD&rsquo David Croquet in appreciation of de la Peña&rsquos attempts to save his life,&rdquo Nesmith wrote.

Every Alamo-head is aware of the probate document, but how does Nesmith know this particular pouch is the one mentioned in the document, the pouch that belonged to Crockett? He never explains.

Nesmith and McDuffie offered a similarly fanciful certification of the knife said to belong to Travis. &ldquoCollectively, an unbiased conclusion can be drawn that the [lot] is true Texana material,&rdquo the certificate says. &ldquoMore importantly, when considered as a whole, research into the clues left behind on each artifact suggests a common point of origin, a definite association with a specific individual within a very narrow historic window the attribution is solid and beyond probability.&rdquo Nothing in the five-page certificate offers proof for any such claim.

Nesmith&rsquos oddest testament, though, is reserved for the Musso Bowie knife. An essay accompanying the authentication document is titled &ldquoSam&rsquos Psychic Impressions on J&thinspB&rsquos Knife.&rdquo In this performance Nesmith channels the story of a young Mexican soldier discovering a brass-back knife after the Battle of the Alamo and his sergeant confiscating it. The sergeant&rsquos commander then takes it for himself. And so this tall tale goes on, until the knife ends up in California (which is where Musso bought it at a gun show). Another supposed authenticator, described as &ldquoa descendant of one of the martyrs of the Alamo and a forensics analyst,&rdquo offered what he called his &ldquoindependent psychic impression.&rdquo He declared, &ldquoThere is an incredibly overpowering sadness associated with the knife.&rdquo

Nesmith concludes in the authenticating documents, &ldquoIt is most probably the knife carried by Bowie during his encounter with Comanche Indians at the Battle of Calf Creek, while searching for the Lost San Saba Mine. It is also the knife carried by Bowie during the Siege of the Alamo and probably the last object he held prior to his death.&rdquo No evidence is cited for any of this.

Looking through the documents, it becomes clear that what started in 2004 as a staid collection of early Texas documents took on a more speculative and fanciful cast as the years went by. Which makes for an uneasy fit with the real world of politicians, government agencies, and taxpayer dollars.

While the Alamo has long commanded a leading role in the story of Texas, much of the mission&rsquos original footprint, which is bisected by city streets and encompasses tourist traps, has long been an afterthought. The historical exhibits inside the Alamo aren&rsquot much better. The &ldquoCradle of Texas Liberty&rdquo hasn&rsquot made a great impression on visitors. The average time spent inside Texas&rsquos most visited historical site? About ten minutes. The site is boring and gives tourists no sense of the Alamo&rsquos original scale.

And what is shown inside the Alamo is, to put it gently, one-sided. Anecdotes abound of Mexican American students discovering on field trips that their forebears were the bad guys&mdashand, eventually, the losers&mdashin Texas&rsquos creation myth. The Alamo has, over the years, become a story that white Texans retell and many Hispanic Texans, especially in San Antonio, ignore or resent. Historical findings of the last few decades that challenged the traditional narrative&mdashmost notably evidence that Davy Crockett did not go down swinging, as was portrayed by Fess Parker, but instead begged that he be spared&mdashare considered taboo by many. And evidence that some of the Alamo defenders were motivated by their desire to retain ownership of their slaves rather than be subject to Mexico&rsquos prohibition of the practice is regarded by many Alamo traditionalists, including many elected officials, as incendiary. Yet the need to tell a more accurate, inclusive story of the Alamo, especially given that the site is located in the middle of the country&rsquos largest majority-Hispanic city, seems undeniable.

Attempts to revitalize the Alamo began in the seventies, yet they always failed, for predictable reasons. The state owned the Alamo but in 1905 gave control of the site to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a group then made up of women who could trace their lineage back to those who &ldquorendered loyal service to Texas&rdquo before it became a U.S. state. Neither the state nor the city had ever shown a lot of interest in funding adequate repairs of the Alamo, much less a full-scale restoration. In 1994 San Antonio mayor Nelson Wolff formed the Alamo Plaza Study Committee, which recommended telling a more historically candid story and closing the streets that ran through the site. Without state funding for the project, though, the committee&rsquos report went onto a shelf, where it would sit for two decades.

But slowly, there was movement. In 2011 the Texas Legislature, tired of the DRT&rsquos mismanagement and inertia, gave the Land Office oversight of the Alamo. Then, three years later, Mayor Julián Castro took the study committee&rsquos report off the shelf and handed it to a new group called the Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee. That body, unlike its predecessor, included representatives from state government, which was key for any progress. Because the city owns Alamo Plaza and the state owns the Alamo, the chapel, and the Long Barrack, a restoration of the entire site requires that the city and state cooperate.

The 2014 report recommended that the site tell the story of the centuries-long sweep of the Alamo&rsquos existence. And it proposed doing so in a history museum that would take longer than ten minutes to breeze through. It also recommended closing the streets in front of the Alamo and moving the Cenotaph, which badly needed repairs, outside the walls of the Alamo. The sixty-foot-tall monument to the Texans who fell at the battle is a twentieth-century creation its relatively recent vintage, it was felt, violated the historical integrity of the fort.

Collins with Texas land commissioner George P. Bush and then-Speaker Joe Straus in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol on March 11, 2015. Eric Gay/AP

That&rsquos where George P. Bush entered the picture. He moved into Texas politics at flank speed, winning a 2014 statewide election in his first bid for public office. His timing was opportune. Following Mitt Romney&rsquos loss to Barack Obama in 2012, the GOP convinced itself that it needed to reach out to Hispanic voters, and a photogenic, Spanish-speaking, half-Mexican heir to the party&rsquos greatest political dynasty must have looked like the man for the job.

When he assumed the land commissioner job in 2015, Bush was on board with the master plan produced by Castro&rsquos citizens&rsquo committee. Bush, a former high school history teacher, was even on board with the city&rsquos requirement, in its lease with the state, that the site not focus solely on the thirteen famous days in 1836 and instead teach the warts-and-all, three-hundred-year-long history of the site. &ldquoThe Alamo can be a centerpiece for taking on the controversial issues of the past,&rdquo he said at the same Texas Tribune Festival panel that Collins appeared on, specifically mentioning slavery, Mexican control of Texas, and Spanish colonization.

This was in late September 2016, when nearly everyone believed that Donald Trump&rsquos coarse pluto-populism, including his invective against Hispanic migrants, was going to doom him to defeat in the presidential race. The GOP&rsquos elite was still committed to a multicultural future for the party, and Bush was all in with that vision. In 2015 he toured Gettysburg National Military Park, in Pennsylvania, to get a sense of how to create a historical site that balanced fact and legend. San Antonio City Council member Roberto Treviño, who cochaired the Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee, joined him for the trip, and came away convinced of Bush&rsquos sincerity. &ldquoI had the impression all of us on the trip had the same vision for the Alamo,&rdquo Treviño says.

In 2017 the Alamo Trust, a nonprofit that the Land Office created in 2011 to run the Alamo, released an early design concept for discussion. The renderings included a four-story museum across from the chapel and Long Barrack. The Cenotaph was shown in a new location off Alamo Plaza. But what drew most of the criticism were the glass walls that would encircle the plaza. Long a gathering place for protesters, tourists, and locals waiting to catch a bus, the plaza would be closed to members of the public unless they had paid to enter. Many San Antonians felt the wall&rsquos construction was a seizure of a community space. Alamo traditionalists thought an entry fee commercialized a holy site.

Nonetheless, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who keeps a scale model of the Alamo and memorabilia from the John Wayne movie in his office, pushed the Legislature to provide another $75 million for the Alamo project in 2017 on top of $31.5 million that had been appropriated in 2015 for repairs to the chapel and Long Barrack and the purchase of the buildings across the plaza that now house tourist sideshows such as Louis Tussaud&rsquos Waxworks and Ripley&rsquos Believe It or Not! The city had already kicked in $38 million for street repairs.

The remainder of the estimated $450 million price tag&mdashroughly $300 million&mdashwould go toward building a four-story, 130,000-square-foot museum to house a number of items, most prominently the &ldquoPhil Collins Texana Collection.&rdquo A lease agreement Bush signed with the city in 2018 put the state on the hook for the museum and the restoration of the plaza. To raise the funds, Bush called on the &ldquoTexas Titans&rdquo he had recruited to help with the Alamo in 2015: heiress and philanthropist Ramona Bass, businessman B.&thinspJ. &ldquoRed&rdquo McCombs, former Rackspace president Lew Moorman, and developer Gene Powell. Specifically mentioned in the lease was a requirement that the development adhere to the plans from the Castro-appointed Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee, which meant moving the Cenotaph off the original footprint of the Alamo to create a more historically accurate visitor experience. At the time, that didn&rsquot seem like a big deal. Everyone seemed to be on the same page, and the Alamo&rsquos&mdashand George P. Bush&rsquos&mdashfuture looked bright.

Soon, though, cracks began to form in the consensus. In 2018 someone leaked an internal audit critical of the lack of transparency created by the public-private structure of the Alamo&rsquos management. Bush blamed Patterson loyalists for the leak and cleaned house, creating a supply of angry insiders eager to gossip about what they regarded as Bush&rsquos excessive penchant for secrecy and his team&rsquos focus on promoting his political interests. (&ldquoHe was completely paranoid,&rdquo said one such insider. &ldquoHe was probably one of the more cowardly politicians I&rsquove ever worked for. He was like a new car that nobody wants to get a ding on.&rdquo)

Bush had also fired the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as caretakers of the Alamo for committing a number of contractual violations. This was arguably the right move, but it was poorly handled the DRT members learned of their firing from news reports, which gave them good reason to complain that they had been treated shabbily. And when the Land Office changed the locks on the DRT&rsquos library, the pugilistic doyennes sued for control of the library&rsquos holdings&mdashand won.

But the issue that really brought the situation to a boil was the plan to remove the Cenotaph for repairs and then relocate it just outside the footprint of the Alamo fort.

This move had drawn little complaint earlier. But in 2017 the world had changed. The violent &ldquoUnite the Right&rdquo rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in May spurred many across the country to engage in a reckoning with America&rsquos racist past. Statues of Confederate soldiers were removed from cities all over the U.S. In September, San Antonio removed a Confederate statue in Travis Park&mdashwithout public notice, in the middle of the night&mdashand sent it to an undisclosed location, ostensibly for repairs. That clandestine removal set off alarms among the state&rsquos more militant Alamo traditionalists, who were now convinced that the plan to repair the Cenotaph was a lie, and that Bush planned to stick it in storage somewhere.

In October 2017, protesters gathered at the Cenotaph to push back against the plans, and the demonstration morphed into an anti-Bush event. &ldquoGo back to Florida and save the manatees,&rdquo Lee Spencer White, one of the founders of a group called the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, said of Bush. &ldquoWe&rsquoll take care of the Alamo.&rdquo &ldquoVote George P. Santa Anna Bush out of office,&rdquo said another protester, to applause. The protest drew statewide news coverage, and Jerry Patterson, who attended, decided to try to get his old job back. He ran a campaign so focused on Bush&rsquos management of the Alamo that the chapel&rsquos roofline served as his campaign logo.

Bush had no choice but to fight the Alamo fight, even if only by proxy. He assigned an aide named Bryan Preston to be his Mr. Alamo, and that winter Preston was everywhere, on radio shows and at luncheons, gently explaining that &ldquoreimagining&rdquo the Alamo simply meant updating the site, getting rid of the vehicle traffic and the lurid tourist attractions, and turning it into a world-class venue Texans could be proud of. The Land Office ran explanatory Alamo ads on the radio across Texas and started a Facebook page called &ldquoSave the Alamo.&rdquo

&ldquoWe are Texans doing a Texan thing,&rdquo Preston explained. The Alamo is &ldquoour superhero origin story, and it happens to be true.&rdquo

With the heat rising on his right, Bush began distancing himself from the master plan&rsquos call for the telling of a more complete and accurate story of the Alamo&rsquos history. Gone, by and large, were references to slavery and Native Americans. Back in the saddle was the heroic Anglo narrative that Bush had promised would be put in context. Every Bush appearance was peppered with references to 1836. &ldquoWe must restore the battlefield to honor the Alamo&rsquos gallant defenders,&rdquo he said at a press conference on the plaza just a week after the Cenotaph protest. &ldquoWe must respect this sacred space. We must and will ensure that 1836 lives here every single day.&rdquo

But Bush&rsquos betrayal of the revisionists failed to calm traditionalists. And his defeat of Patterson (and a descendant of Davy Crockett who also ran) in the GOP primary didn&rsquot settle things, either. Ray Myers, a tea party leader and member of the State Republican Executive Committee, won passage of a GOP resolution decrying the &ldquoforces at work to remake or &lsquoReimagine&rsquo the history of the Alamo and diminish its inspiring message while the property around it undergoes renovation to increase profit from tourism.&rdquo In his address to the Texas Republican Party convention during the summer of 2018, Bush blamed criticism of his Alamo stewardship on &ldquofake news&rdquo in the &ldquoliberal media&rdquo and was met with loud boos. Dozens began shouting, &ldquoRemember the Alamo!&rdquo Bush spread his arms wide, grinned, and then shrugged: &ldquoI did win, right?&rdquo

What Bush didn&rsquot emphasize in any of his public comments was that legally he was bound to adhere to the Alamo Master Plan required by the lease he had signed with the city. And that plan called for a historical retelling that focused less on the siege and included more about the Spanish colonizers, the Indigenous peoples, and the Tejano culture that long predated the arrival of the Texians. Bush may have won an election, but that didn&rsquot mean he could do whatever he wanted. He had to be careful about what he promised.

Bush had reason for caution when it came to moving the Cenotaph. Though the state&rsquos lease required its relocation, Republican lawmakers in Austin were adopting an official &ldquocome and take it&rdquo policy. In May 2019 the Texas Senate amended a bill preventing the alteration, removal, or relocation of Confederate monuments to include the Cenotaph. The Senate adopted the amendment on a party-line vote, though the bill didn&rsquot pass the House.

Bush&rsquos instinctive caution was finally cast aside a year after he won reelection. Rick Range, a retired firefighter who had run against Bush in the GOP primary in 2018, had long been a pest. For months, Range had been making baseless accusations, such as claiming that Bush had proposed renaming the Alamo the Misión San Antonio de Valero. And for months, Bush had studiously ignored Range&rsquos provocations. But when Range posted on Facebook on December 10, 2019, that Bush planned to erect a statue of Santa Anna at the Alamo, Bush finally got out of his defensive crouch and onto Twitter.

&ldquoOne must ask themselves, why am I being accused of honoring the murderous dictator Santa Anna? Is it because my mother (now a naturalized citizen) is from Mexico?&rdquo he tweeted. &ldquoI was born in Houston, my wife is from San Angelo, and my boys were born&mdashyou guessed it&mdashhere in Texas . . . The idea that I would EVER place a statue of Santa Anna at the Alamo is patently false. Enough is enough. This is an outright lie, and is quite frankly, flat out racist.&rdquo

The tweet caught Dan Patrick&rsquos attention. The lieutenant governor had been a supporter of Bush&rsquos Alamo plans and had given no indication that he opposed them. But right around this time, as he began hearing rumors that Bush was interested in his job, he turned on a dime.

Patrick seized on Bush&rsquos tweet and twisted his words beyond recognition. In a public statement on December 18, he claimed that because of the Senate vote to put the brakes on the Cenotaph&rsquos relocation, Bush&rsquos tweet essentially accused every state senator of being a liar and a bigot. &ldquoThe 31 members of the Texas Senate represent over 28 million Texans. They are not a vocal minority&mdashnor are they liars or racists,&rdquo Patrick wrote. This was false on two levels. First, only 19 senators voted for the bill. Second, Bush&rsquos tweet was not, as Patrick insinuated, an attack on anyone who took issue with the redevelopment of the Alamo it was an attack on one man, Rick Range, who had been making false statements.

But Patrick, as is his habit, wasn&rsquot about to let the facts get in the way of score-settling. On March 5, 2020&mdashthe eve of the battle&rsquos anniversary&mdashPatrick complained that the &ldquodesign, planning, and execution of the project is badly off track.&rdquo Behind the scenes, Patrick was playing hardball. He reportedly told John Nau III, the longtime chairman of the Texas Historical Commission, that if he didn&rsquot reject the plans to relocate the Cenotaph, his commission&rsquos budget would take a haircut in the next legislative session. &ldquoIt was all about &lsquoI&rsquove got to do this for the lieutenant governor,&rsquo &rdquo the Alamo advisory committee&rsquos Roberto Treviño recalls Nau telling him at the time. (Nau did not respond to requests for comment.) In September the THC rejected the application to move the Cenotaph.

Patrick&rsquos feud with Bush had escalated throughout the year. In June, after someone spray-painted anti&ndashwhite supremacy graffiti on the Cenotaph and Black Lives Matter protesters marched on the Alamo, Bush went on Fox & Friends to &ldquosend a very clear message that you don&rsquot mess with Texas and you don&rsquot mess with the Alamo.&rdquo Hours later, Patrick tweeted, &ldquoNobody has put the @OfficialAlamo at more risk than @georgepbush with the outrageous &lsquoreimagining&rsquo plan, lousy management, lack of transparency and moving the Cenotaph.&rdquo In October, Patrick publicly called for an audit of the project.

The city-state-philanthropic coalition that had united around a vision of teaching the whole history of the Alamo fell apart. That fall, Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald, who supported moving the Cenotaph, stepped down after announcing that he didn&rsquot want his contract renewed. &ldquoPeople would rather fight about the Alamo than fight for the Alamo,&rdquo he said privately. Gene Powell and Ramona Bass walked away as well. &ldquoAll of a sudden,&rdquo Powell says, &ldquoafter years of agreement on telling the story of all the layers of history of the site, everyone now seems to want this to be John Wayne&rsquos Alamo.&rdquo

As Bush struggled with political opposition to his Alamo plans, he started feeling pressure from another party. &ldquoI have to admit I&rsquom getting more than a little discouraged with the speed and urgency that is being displayed regarding my collection and related museum. Please update me with a likely museum date,&rdquo Phil Collins wrote Bush aide Hector Valle on May 25, 2020. &ldquoI don&rsquot want my collection sitting in boxes in a basement. This is the situation now it seems. I realize there are more pressing things on P&rsquos list, but on my list, my hard-earned collection is important to me. Please let me know the situation . . . the REAL situation.&rdquo Valle did not respond to Collins, at least not in writing.

By coincidence, a few weeks later, on June 14, McDuffie asked Collins via text message if he would answer our questions about the sketchy authentication of his collection. This seems to have further angered him. &ldquoI would like you to consider the real probability of me withdrawing my collection and giving it back to me,&rdquo Collins wrote to Valle on June 15. &ldquoI&rsquoll be happy to donate it when the museum is ready, but right now, I&rsquod like to bring it back. I don&rsquot want to bring lawyers in, but I will if need be. Plus I&rsquom getting flack on what&rsquos &lsquoreal&rsquo and what&rsquos not. Please let me know.&rdquo

The Bush team scrambled. &ldquoPlease know that your collection is extremely important to the entire State of Texas and we would not be where we are in this process if not for you and your generosity,&rdquo Valle replied. &ldquoYou sparked this entire Alamo Plan and we owe you so much.&rdquo

A week later, apparently after a phone call, Valle offered to put part of the Collins collection on display as soon as possible if he didn&rsquot want to wait for the museum. He also promised a phone call with Bush, but Collins would prove too busy, canceling four calls, each at the last minute. When we asked Collins again for comment, he declined, via email. &ldquoLife is busy at the moment, with music rehearsals and personal stuff, so I&rsquoll have to pass on your request,&rdquo Collins wrote. &ldquoOf course I&rsquom totally interested but I cannot deal with this right now.&rdquo

By the end of 2020, Collins&rsquos museum seemed further away from being built than it was at the beginning of 2020. But providence came in the form of a succession of scandals befalling Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been under indictment for alleged securities fraud since 2015 and had recently become the subject of a separate FBI investigation involving bribery allegations. Bush, sensing an opportunity, became interested in launching a 2022 primary challenge against Paxton&mdashwhich reassured Patrick that Bush was no longer his rival. Suddenly the two men were on the same page once again. On March 1, the day before Texas Independence Day, Bush testified before the Texas Senate that he and Patrick had achieved what the combatants of the Battle of the Alamo could not: a truce. &ldquoHe&rsquos fully on board,&rdquo Bush said of the lieutenant governor.

&ldquoImportantly, we agree that the issue of the Cenotaph is resolved, and the monument will not be moved,&rdquo Patrick said later that day. &ldquoWe further agree that the story of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo must be the central focus on any master plan design.&rdquo

The very same day that an accord was reached in Austin, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg got his hatchet out, removing councilman Treviño from the Alamo Management Committee and the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, both of which he chaired. Treviño&rsquos sin, said Nirenberg, was refusing to accommodate the Land Office&rsquos insistence on keeping the Cenotaph where it was. By this time, nearly everyone who first joined hands around the revisionist Alamo Master Plan had long since been alienated, and the years-long effort to create a more historically accurate experience at the Alamo had become &ldquopoliticized and compromised,&rdquo Treviño says. &ldquoExactly what we have been trying to avoid the whole time.&rdquo

Also on that day, Collins got part of what he wanted when the Alamo Trust opened an exhibit with five items from his collection that offers visitors a chance &ldquoto glimpse a selection of priceless artifacts graciously gifted to the state of Texas by musician and historian Phil Collins,&rdquo according to the press release. The exhibit does not include any of the controversial, big-name items.

Like Michael Corleone taking care of family business, Bush had neutralized many of the people who stood in the way of his political future. To his right, he had made peace with his archnemesis, Patrick. To his left, Treviño had been unseated from his positions of influence over the Alamo plans. (In April the San Antonio City Council approved a new lease with the Land Office that would leave the Cenotaph right where it&rsquos been all along.) And, somewhere in between those two poles, Bush had mollified an irritable Phil Collins. Not bad for a guy who&rsquos not known as a political brawler.

Many are now optimistic that a major Alamo revamp could go forward. Kaye Tucker, who initiated the deal with Collins all those years ago over dinner at El Mirador before leaving the Land Office in 2015, had long despaired that the museum would never come to fruition. &ldquoBut now it looks like they&rsquore moving in the right direction,&rdquo she recently said.

But Bush, unless he is extraordinarily lucky, may have merely pushed his reckoning to a later date. &ldquoHe wants [the Alamo renovation] to be a feather in his cap,&rdquo says Hardin, the Alamo scholar. &ldquoEveryone knows this is a stepping-stone job for him. He wants to be president someday he wants to prolong the family dynasty.&rdquo To get himself back on that path, though, Bush has had to capitulate to a nativist right wing that he had once set himself in opposition to (and, even so, the Alamo traditionalists still don&rsquot trust him). The George P. Bush who could sell himself as the architect of a kinder, gentler, and more racially inclusive GOP has become less tenable.

And then there&rsquos the museum that will house Phil Collins&rsquos collection. In one sense, the museum could tie everything together. It could keep Collins happy, keep his artifacts at the Alamo, and satisfy the traditionalists who would love the emphasis on martial history. It would make Bush look like a mover and shaker who gets things done. And if the curation is handled with an eye to contemporary historical findings, perhaps even the activists demanding a more inclusive version of the Alamo story will feel heard.

But now, the plans to build the museum will have to be financed without philanthropic support because fund-raisers such as Powell were disgusted by political interference. In September, Patrick announced that the state would pay for the whole thing, meaning Texas taxpayers will be on the hook for the $300 million. (Neither Patrick nor anyone else in the Legislature submitted a bill calling for such funding during the 2021 session. To meet its obligation to Collins to break ground on a museum by this October, Bush recently announced that the Land Office would begin construction this summer of a 24,000-square-foot building on the eastern corner of the Alamo grounds that would, among other things, exhibit a significant portion of the collection until the state raises money for the larger structure.)

The success of this big-ticket project may depend on no one making a stink about the fact that the Collins collection might not be what it&rsquos cracked up to be. And so far, the major players are staying mum. &ldquoBush will never publicly admit it,&rdquo Hardin says. &ldquoHe will never allow anyone in the Land Office to admit that they accepted the donation of a pig in the poke.&rdquo (Hardin, who maintains a relationship with Collins, later clarified that he was not referring to the entire collection as a pig in the poke but rather expressing his concern that the Land Office has not done due diligence.)

Perhaps Bush will get away with it perhaps he&rsquoll manage to challenge Ken Paxton for the top legal job in the state, prevail in the primary and the general, and then slide into office in January of 2023 and let his successor at the Land Office deal with whatever controversies erupt.

And they almost certainly will. If the museum opens, Texans may not be happy to learn that the state has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a collection that includes items that the Land Office knew some experts regarded as suspect. Bruce Winders, the Alamo&rsquos official historian, who was forced out in 2019, says that he and Mark Lambert, the Land Office&rsquos deputy director of archives and records, gave their colleagues plenty of warning that they may be walking into the middle of a long-simmering melee fought by partisans who have no intention of backing down. &ldquoI don&rsquot think the Land Office is prepared for the ruckus the collecting world is going to raise once the collection is made public,&rdquo he says.

This Battle of the Alamo, it seems, is far from over.

Chris Tomlinson is the business columnist at the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News and the author of Tomlinson Hill. Austin writer Jason Stanford works in communications for a local school district and is the host of The Experiment, a Substack newsletter. Temple-raised Vanity Fair correspondent Bryan Burrough lives in Austin and is the author of six books of nonfiction.

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline &ldquoThe Next Battle of the Alamo!&rdquo Subscribe today.

This story has been edited, since we first published it last month, to correct and clarify issues of accuracy and context raised by two of the people about whom we wrote.

&bull Alex McDuffie says that he did not own a web development business, as was reported, but instead worked as an employee of such a business.

&bull Alfred Van Fossen did not live in San Antonio, as was reported, but in the Houston area.

&bull The correspondence between McDuffie and Phil Collins took place not via text, as was reported, but rather via email.

&bull The excerpt stated that Van Fossen was notorious for selling questionable items supposedly associated with the Alamo. While Van Fossen had a reputation for selling questionable items, McDuffie says Van Fossen was better known for selling items from the Confederacy.

&bull The excerpt stated that &ldquoaccording to rumors circulating among knife collectors, [Jim] Guimarin and McDuffie arranged for Collins to buy the knife [purportedly owned by Jim Bowie] for $1.5 million.&rdquo McDuffie and Joseph Musso, the knife&rsquos seller, both state that that figure is incorrect but have declined to provide an accurate figure.

&bull The excerpt stated that McDuffie took his purported Bowie sword to a metallurgist who determined that the blade was from the appropriate era. McDuffie has asked us to note that the metallurgist also stated that the inscription &ldquoJ. Bowie&rdquo was covered with score marks and that those marks were left when the saber was pulled from its scabbard, &ldquowhich indicated that the name was inscribed before usage.&rdquo (The excerpt did not include that information because the authors believe that the metallurgist&rsquos examination was improperly conducted.)

&bull The excerpt quoted Thomas Nuckols, a volunteer archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission, as saying that Collins claims &ldquohe has cannonballs shot by the Twin Sisters at San Jacinto. Nobody knows what caliber those cannons were!&rdquo McDuffie says that the cannons&rsquo caliber is known because it was cited in Sam Houston&rsquos memoir. (The excerpt did not include that information because Houston&rsquos memoir is regarded by many as unreliable on this issue and because the cannons&rsquo caliber is widely debated among scholars of the period.)

&bull The excerpt stated that Mark Zalesky, the longtime editor of Knife Magazine, claimed &ldquothat one of [Joseph] Musso&rsquos lab reports proves that the [purported Bowie] knife was not made from the steel that would have been used in the nineteenth century. (Other experts interpret the lab results differently.)&rdquo Musso has asked us to make clear that he believes that the lab report proves that the knife was made from steel that would have been used in the nineteenth century.

The intent of our excerpt was to report on the controversy among those who have studied Alamo antiquities, regarding the authenticity of key items in Phil Collins&rsquos collection. The purpose was to present multiple sides of the argument, not to take a side in the controversy. The authors of the piece stand by their reporting and suggest that those who are interested in exploring this subject further read their book Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.


30 retailers that struggled, shrunk or closed for good in 2020

FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2020, file photo, a customer leaves a Pier 1 retail store, which is going out of business, during the coronavirus pandemic in Coral Gables, Fla. The number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic intensified five months ago, yet still remains at a high level. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

(NEXSTAR) — U.S. retailers have announced 8,400 store closures this year, according to data from Coresight Research, and the company expects 2020 to set a new record, surpassing the 9,302 closures it tracked in 2019.

In addition, about 17% of American restaurants — roughly 110,000 — have permanently closed this year, with thousands more possible, according to a recent National Restaurant Association report.

Retail and restaurants — many already in deep debt — were devastated by lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, prompting dozens to declare bankruptcy this year. Here are 30 chains that were hard hit.

January

Papyrus: The seller of stationery and upscale greeting cards went out of business, resulting in the closure of more than 250 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Bar Louie: The restaurant chain closed about half of its 90 U.S. locations and filed for Chapter 11.

Krystal: The 88-year-old Atlanta-based fast-food chain filed for bankruptcy in January then emerged in May after its sale to one of its senior lenders was approved.

February

Pier 1 Imports: The home goods retailer filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its locations, which once numbered more than 1,000. In July, an investment firm purchased the brand name, which will be relaunched as an online-only store.

March

Modell’s Sporting Goods: Founded in 1889, the chain that’s known for selling team jerseys and equipment for youth leagues permanently closed all 153 of its stores. The company that bought Pier 1 also bought Modell’s brand name in August for an online store, according to CNN.

April

True Religion: The denim retailer filed for bankruptcy in April and emerged in October. Though it cut its debt, it ended up closing dozens of locations.

J.Crew Group: The retailer that operates the J.Crew and Madewell brands filed for bankruptcy protection in May and exited in September.

Neiman Marcus: The 113-year-old department store filed for bankruptcy in May and closed five stores, including its Hudson Yards stores that opened in New York City in 2019. It emerged from bankruptcy in September.

JCPenney: The 119-year-old company closed about a third of its stores. In December, the company was bought out of bankruptcy by mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management.

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes: The all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant chain announced the closure of all of its 97 U.S. restaurants and liquidated its assets.

Tuesday Morning: The Dallas-based discount home goods retailer filed for bankruptcy in the spring and permanently closed approximately 230 of its nearly 700 U.S. stores.

GNC: The 85-year-old vitamin and dietary supplement company filed for bankruptcy in June and closed about 1,200 stores. GNC is now being sold to a Chinese pharmaceutical company.

CEC Entertainment: The parent company of Chuck E. Cheese’s and Peter Piper Pizza filed for bankruptcy in June.

NPC International: The country’s second-largest franchisee — operating 1,200 Pizza Hut and 400 Wendy’s restaurants throughout the U.S. — filed for bankruptcy in July and announced that up to 300 of its Pizza Hut locations would close.

Brooks Brothers: The 200-year-old menswear retailer filed for bankruptcy in July and was bought by Simon Property Group in September.

Sur La Table: The 50-year-old privately held retailer of upscale kitchenware filed for bankruptcy and closed about half of its 120 U.S. stores. In August, it was sold for $90 million to an investment firm.

Muji USA: The U.S. arm of the Japanese retailer of goods from stationery to household items entered bankruptcy and closed a “small number” of its locations.

Lucky Brand: The denim company filed for bankruptcy and announced it was immediately closing 13 of its roughly 200 North American stores. In August, it sold itself to SPARC Group, the owner of Nautica and Aéropostale.

RTW Retailwinds: The owner of women’s retailer New York & Co. filed for bankruptcy in mid-July and closed hundreds of its locations.

Ascena Retail Group: The owner of such women’s clothing stores as Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lane Bryant filed for bankruptcy and closed hundreds of its stores, including all of its Catherines locations, which numbered about 300. The group is selling itself to a private equity firm.

The operator of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

California Pizza Kitchen: The 35-year-old pizza chain filed for bankruptcy and closed several unprofitable locations. It emerged from bankruptcy in mid-November.

August

Lord & Taylor: The upscale retailer, which was acquired in 2019 for $75 million, filed for bankruptcy and announced it was ending a nearly 200-year run with the closure of all of its stores.

Tailored Brands: The brand owner of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank filed for bankruptcy after previously announcing it was closing a third of its stores and cutting 20% of corporate positions. It emerged from bankruptcy in December.

Stein Mart: The 112-year-old retailer filed for bankruptcy and closed its 300 U.S. stores. An investment firm bought the brand in December with plans to relaunch online.

September

Century 21: The 60-year-old discount retailer, popular in New York, closed its remaining 13 locations.

Sizzler USA: One of the first casual restaurant chains in the U.S., the 62-year-old Sizzler filed for bankruptcy and is attempting to reduce debt and renegotiate its leases.

October

Ruby Tuesday: The privately held restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy and over the past few years, has closed about 200 locations.

Visitors to New York’s Times square walk past a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in 2016. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

November

Friendly’s: The East Coast restaurant chain, which was founded in 1935, filed for bankruptcy for the second time in less than 10 years, during which it has closed about 270 of its original 400 locations.

Guitar Center: The 61-year-old musical instrument retailer, the largest in the country, filed for bankruptcy.

December

Francesca’s: The woman’s boutique chain filed for bankruptcy and announced the closure of about a quarter of its 700 stores.

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