The oldest known picture of Texas just so happens to be a picture of the state’s most famous landmark: The Alamo. Taken in San Antonio in 1849, this picture featuring three men standing in front of the precious piece of American history is widely believed to be the oldest picture in the state.
It’s also the only known picture of the Alamo prior to its 1850 reconstruction, when the U.S. Army built out the walls and added the famous stone arch that has become such an iconic symbol of Texan resilience and pride.
Most people know that in 1836 Santa Anna’s army completely sacked the Alamo Mission in the Battle of the Alamo. Faced with overwhelming odds and imminent defeat, Commander William B. Travis gave every soldier a chance to leave if they weren’t willing to die. None did, and the legend of The Battle of The Alamo ultimately inspired the Republic of Texas’ victory a month later at the Battle of San Jacinto.
This picture depicts just how badly the Alamo was bombarded by Mexican forces 13 years prior. The picture is more likely actually called a daguerreotype, which was the first widely available photographic process in the 1840s.
The picture now resides at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin. It’s amazing to see the difference between what the area around The Alamo looked like in 1849 compared to what it is now.