Phil Collins is not the first name you associate with the Alamo. But yes, Phil Collins the musician is considered an expert on the Battle of the Alamo and owns the biggest collection of Alamo artifacts in the world. He displays them in a pristine museum-like room in his home in Geneva, Switzerland. The rhythms of the Texas revolution resonated with a very young Phil Collins, especially the Battle of the Alamo and Davy Crockett.
“It was something that grabbed me as did drumming because they both happened at the same time when I was five years old,” Collins said.
Collins said it all started with Fess Parker in the Disney Series “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”
“It’s on, it’s on,” Collins said as he fondly remembered rushing to his television set. “Ok I’m coming I’m coming. You know put the hat on.”
He said his grandmother actually made him a coonskin Davy Crockett hat out of one of her fur coats.
“By the time you got to the last episode of King of the Wild Frontier you know at the Alamo I was well and truly hooked,” Collins said.
Collins would go on to be a mega-rock star with Genesis and sold 150-million albums as a solo artist, touring the world, winning Grammy’s, Brits and an Academy Award for his music. But he would always remember the Alamo.
“I’ve just always loved even the shape of the façade, there’s just something about it that’s always drawn me to it,” Collins said.
Now, Collins has amassed one of the biggest collections of Alamo memorabilia in the world.
“There’s the Crockett musket-ball pouch and his powder flasks.
He also owns Davy Crockett’s Almanack, a Mexican cavalry officer’s helmet, weapons, documents and battlefield letters.
“Phil Collin’s collection is, it’s what’s been needed for a long time,” said Alamo Curator Dr. Bruce Winders.
“He’s made it a mission to collect as much as he can,” Winders said. “With his resources he’s amassing a collection no museum has ever been able to do.”
Collins even bought a building next to the Alamo and ripped out the floors
“And it was like, ok,” Collins said. “We start digging.”
They went 40 to 45-inches down to what is called the “Battle Level.”
“There’s a handmade dice that we found that was obviously made by some soldier,” Collins said. “Buckles off shoes and buttons off jackets, canon handles and flattened canon ball that hit the wall and bounced back. It was a great experience I have to say.”
It’s a great collection of Texas history that some hope will find its way back to the Alamo.
“You know that’s the question, what happens to his collection,” Winders said. “I think most people would like to see it come to the United States at some time to be in a temporary exhibit or permanently here and you know that may happen.”
But for now, Collins relishes every find, reliving the battle of the Alamo as he wonders who held that musket, fired that canon or wrote that letter before the doomed defenders took a final breath and fought against all odds for freedom. He even wrote a book on the subject called "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey."
“The thing that fascinates me…is the fact that we don’t know,” Collins said. “So it’s a complicated little thing and maybe that’s one of the fascinations. And of course there’s why the Alamo, you’re English. Why? But I’m not the only one. I’m not the only strange one. There are quite a lot of Europeans that are interested.”