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A Fake In Its Place?

A priceless theft at the Alamo? Mystery swirls around Texas Declaration of Independence

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The Alamo, mission, San Antonio, November 2012
San Antonio police are investigating a possible theft at the Alamo. Photo by Paco Montoya
Texas Declaration of Independence, the Alamo, stolen document, November 2012
Some Alamo officials claim a rare copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence was stolen in a carefully-planned switcheroo. AmericanExchange.com
The Alamo, mission, San Antonio, November 2012
Texas Declaration of Independence, the Alamo, stolen document, November 2012

Not since Pee-wee Herman asked to see the basement at the Alamo have workers at the Texas landmark witnessed this much confusion.

The San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) is investigating a possible theft from an Alamo office, where some believe an original copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence was swapped with a fake. Here's the catch — leaders at the historic site never knew this original copy of the document ever existed.

 Alamo workers found the document in a once-lock ed filing cabinet that had been forced open.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) — which currently runs daily operations at the Alamo complex — owns two of 13 known original copies of the declaration and keeps then its own climate-controlled archive next to the Lone Star landmark.

This week, however, DRT officials are learning that one of its smaller chapters may have had a 14th copy — that is, a 14th copy some now believe has been carefully stolen by way of a crafty criminal switcheroo.

During a press conference, SAPD chief William McManus said the document in question was uncovered during a recent archival inventory at the offices of the local chapter, which are located at Alamo Plaza. Workers noted that they found it in a once-locked filing cabinet that had been forced open.

Discovered nearby was an empty frame, which once contained what local members always told was a copy of the declaration. Something was amiss. Ultimately, the police were called in to investigate.

McManus explained that archival experts were in the process of analyzing the possibly fake document found during the inventory, adding, "Quite frankly, we're not sure that anything was stolen at all. It may or may not be a theft."

The drama and confusion comes at a tense time for the DRT, which hopes to renew its operations contract with the state as it prepares to display the priceless “victory or death” letter written by William Barret Travis during the 1836 Battle of the Alamo.

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