Dickert Rifle Replica Will Fund Space Utilization Project
The majority of patrons who visit the DRT Library see only the reading room. In looking up from their research, they may observe the public access computers, books neatly arranged behind glass-paneled cabinet doors, and artwork carefully hung on the walls. Visitors who are led on a behind-the scenes tour of the library may be impressed with the secure and environmentally-controlled vault and the tidy rows of archival materials in acid-free boxes or books on shelves. However, what may not be readily apparent is a significant problem facing the DRT Library: a shortage of space for storing, handling, and working with library and archival materials.
Items in the Library’s collections document various aspects of Texas and San Antonio history from the 1500s to the present. Some of the special rare and one-0f-a-kind treasures document Austin’s Colony, the Battle of the Alamo, and the Texas Revolution, including:
- two original copies, of only thirteen known to still exist, of the Texas Declaration of Independence;
- items, including petticoats, that belonged to Alamo survivors Susanna and Angelina Dickinson;
- a letter written by Alamo defender Daniel William Cloud while on his way to Texas in December 1835;
- a letter written by Abishai Dickson, who was killed at Goliad, while traveling to Texas;
- a map hand-drawn by Stephen F. Austin in the 1820s; and
- a rare original copy of the Diario del Gobierno de la Republica Mexicana, the official newspaper of the Mexican government, announcing the fall of the Alamo on March 21, 1836.
The library reading room was built in 1950 as an addition to Alamo Hall, where the collection was originally housed. Two wings were added during the 1970s, and the climate-controlled vault was added in 1989. Movable shelving was also added in 1989 in order to accommodate the library’s growing collection. Together, the size and layout of these spaces enable proper storage of a sizable collection containing materials in a variety of formats. Additionally, the design of library spaces must also enable careful handling of items as they are removed from storage furniture, transported to other areas of the library, used by researchers, and processed or cataloged by library staff members. These issues are particularly acute with oversize materials such as maps, newspapers, artwork, and architectural drawings and plans.
In its current building with its current interior arrangement of spaces, the DRT Library lacks sufficient workspace for each staff member and a separate exhibit area for visitors to browse and explore. Additionally, while the collection continues to grow through generous financial and material gifts from our donors, the amount of storage space available for future acquisitions is increasingly limited.
An initial step towards solving these problems is to more efficiently use the space available in the current DRT Library building. The library plans to contract with an architectural firm specializing in library facilities and historic buildings. This company will conduct a study of how spaces within the Library are currently being used and recommend how they can be more efficiently utilized. A variety of factors, including cost, will determine the extent to which the firm’s suggestions are implemented.
You can help make this project possible.
In order to fund the space utilization study, the DRT Library is holding a drawing for a reproduction of the Dickert rifle on display in the Alamo church. German immigrant Jacob Dickert (1740-1822) was a renowned master gunsmith working in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, during the colonial period, the Revolutionary War, and the Federal period. One of his rifles was used by an Alamo defender whose identity remains a mystery. The rifle was recovered after the 1836 battle and acquired by Francis W. Johnson, a leader during the Texas Revolution. According to an article in the Houston Post Sunday magazine printed on November 2, 1947, in 1839:
Johnson presented the rifle to William Carr Lane, first mayor of St. Louis and later governor of New Mexico. Lane later gave the gun to William L. Ewing, also a St. Louis mayor, who in turn presented it to Henry Koch, a Union soldier in the Civil War. Upon Koch’s death in 1920, the rifle passed to his nephew, Colonel [Walter F.] Siegmund, who was a collector of historical firearms. The colonel restored it to its original condition and for twenty years it was on exhibition at the Jefferson Memorial [the Missouri History Museum] in St. Louis. It was displayed at the Texas Centennial exposition in Dallas in 1936.
Siegmund returned the rifle to the Alamo as a gift in 1947. At that time, it was believed to be David Crockett’s famous rifle “Betsey,” a claim later refuted due to a lack of evidence.
Hobby gunsmith Larry Hollingsworth is building an exact replica of the Dickert rifle at the Alamo, which will be presented to the winner of the drawing. Although he no longer maintains his Federal Firearms License, Hollingsworth has been constructing muzzle-loading guns since the 1970s. In addition to his muzzle-loading work, Hollingsworth works for DCP Midstream as a field operator.
Tickets for the reproduction Dickert rifle can be purchased between now and early December for $10.00 per ticket or six tickets for $50.00. The drawing will take place on December 9 in Alamo Hall. All proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to subsidize the space utilization study; funds remaining after the study is financed will be used to implement recommended improvements.
For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact Elaine Milam Vetter, 2009-2011 DRT Library Committee Chairman, at email@example.com.