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The Alamo in Popular Culture

Popular Culture 

  • William Travis' apocryphal "Line in the sand" has become an often-used quote, including use by Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
  • The Alamo has appeared in movies and TV shows ranging from the “Lonesome Dove” miniseries to the TV show “King of the Hill” to the film “PeeWee's Big Adventure.” Not to mention the two big Alamo movies with all-star casts. And who could forget “Miss Congeniality” with actress Sandra Bullock's talent contest in front of the Alamo?
  • A wealth of songs have been recorded about the Alamo from artists like Marty Robbins (“Ballad of the Alamo”), George Strait (“Remember the Alamo”) and Pete Rowan (“Midnight Moonlight”).
  • In 2011, the Alamo Gift Shop reported that the Davy Crockett-style coonskin cap was their bestselling item.
  • Alamo tributes have been made around the globe, from a garden in England to a hand-carved Bowie knife in Australia.
  • John F. Kennedy was visiting San Antonio during the 1960 presidential campaign and touring the Alamo with San Antonio attorney Maury Maverick, Jr. Running late to his next appointment, Kennedy asked if there was an exit out the back. "There is no back door,” said Maverick. “That’s why they were all heroes.”
  • A chunk of the Alamo is included in the rock collection that forms part of Chicago's Tribune Tower, along with a piece of the Great Wall of China, the Coliseum, and the World Trade Center.
  • Alamo Village, which entertained tourists from all over with the movie set from the John Wayne movie; recently closed as a new owner is sought to take over the management of the Bracketville attraction.
  • UK's music icon Phil Collins' passion for the Alamo and collection of artifacts are so great that he published a book, “The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey” that was released on March 6, 2012.


In 1960, the Alamo made its way onto the big screen and into the international consciousness as never before. What John Wayne's historic rendering of Davy Crockett may have lacked in some historical accuracy was more than made up for in the impact the movie had in bringing the “Shrine of Texas Liberty” and its defenders to legendary status. The movie was filmed on a set built in Bracketville, Texas, a town with a population of less then 2,000, located 125 miles west of San Antonio. The Alamo’s depiction in this setting created a lasting impression for many that the Alamo is still in the middle of nowhere, rather than in the heart of downtown San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S.

Producer Ron Howard and director John Lee Hancock created a more accurate version of the story of the battle in their 2004 remake of “The Alamo,” starring Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. An incredibly detailed replica of the Alamo was built for the movie near Dripping Springs, 75 miles north of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country.


Republished with the kind permission of Dr. Paul McQuien & Dr. Kim G. Hochmeister.

Long before the epic 1960 John Wayne film “The Alamo,” the iconic shrine and the legendary battle that helped win Texas independence had already captured America’s imagination. Just look at some of the images, metaphors and descriptions offered by famous writers over the passage of more than a century.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Poet, essayist, journalist - works include “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric”

Although Walt Whitman never visited Texas, he knew about the Alamo and alluded to it in Section 34 of his famous poem “Song of Myself.” From the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass:

Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,
(I tell not the fall of the Alamo,
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo)

Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

Poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer - works include “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Importance of Being Earnest”

During his American lecture tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde visited San Antonio in June and pronounced the Alamo a noble structure. Lamenting that it was not better preserved, he used the word "monstrous."

O. Henry (1862–1910)

Short story writer - Works include “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief”

In his 1895 short story "The Enchanted Kiss," set exclusively in San Antonio, O. Henry imaginatively reconstructed the downtown plaza where the Alamo is located:

“A few years before, their nightly encampments upon the historic Alamo Plaza, in the heart of the city, had been a carnival, a saturnalia that was renowned throughout the land. Then the caterers numbered hundreds; the patrons thousands. Drawn by the coquettish señoritas, the music of the weird Spanish minstrels, and the strange piquant dishes served at a hundred competing tables, crowds thronged the Alamo Plaza all night. Travellers, rancheros, family parties, gay gasconading rounders, sight-seers and prowlers of polyglot, owlish San Antone mingled there at the centre of the city's fun and frolic. The popping corks, pistols, and questions; the glitter of eyes, jewels, and daggers; the ring of laughter and coin--these were the order of the night.”

Stephen Crane (1871–1900)

Novelist, short story writer, poet, journalist - works include “The Red Badge of Courage,” “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" and “The Open Boat”

Stephen Crane was enchanted with the Alamo, which for him, had become "the patriot shrine of Texas." In an 1895 essay, he insisted: “It remains the greatest memorial to courage which civilization has allowed to stand.”

Robert Frost (1874–1963) 

Poet, playwright - works include “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”

Robert Frost made his first lecture tour to Texas in 1922 and returned in 1936-1937. Coming to San Antonio with the idea of enjoying greater solitude than wintering grounds such as Florida and Southern California, he wrote in a letter: “I am deep in Texas history and don’t want to be bothered by any but the ghosts of Goliad and the Alamo.”

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

Novelist, short story writer - works include "The Grapes of Wrath,” “East of Eden” and “Of Mice and Men”

When John Steinbeck wrote the 1962 “Travels with Charley in Search of America,” he devoted a couple of chapters to his sojourn across Texas and mentioned San Antonio’s famous shrine: “Again—the glorious defense to the death of the Alamo against the hordes of Santa Anna is a fact. The brave bands of Texians did indeed wrest their liberty from Mexico, and freedom, liberty, are holy words.”

© 2000-2009 Paul McQuien and Kim G. Hochmeister