Sam Houston Centennial Plate, 1936

Celebrating a Texas hero

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by Kathryn Siefker, Associate Curator of Exhibition Content

During the year-long celebration of Texas’s 100th anniversary in 1936, sets of commemorative plates were produced to “perpetuate the unparalleled romance of Texas history which no sister state can approximate.” Several different sets of plates were produced for the occasion, all incorporating the same Texas icons. Notable among the icons was legendary Texan Sam Houston.

The Sam Houston Centennial plate depicts Houston in the foreground as an elder statesman, set against Houston the soldier leading troops into battle. The description on the back of the plate describes him as, "Foremost pioneer and statesman of Texas, courageous general and conqueror of Mexican leader General Santa Anna in Battle of San Jacinto April 21, 1836. First president of the Republic of Texas."

As General of the Texan Army, Sam Houston led Texan troops to victory over Mexico in 1836. As the first and third president of the Republic of Texas, he steered the young nation toward statehood in 1845. As governor of Texas, he made the controversial decision not to support Texas's secession from the United States in 1861. When he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, he was removed as governor. Houston passed away two years later in July 1863, his reputation as a hero badly tarnished.

Over time, Houston's memory was restored as the citizens of Texas took steps to honor his vital role in the state's history. In the late 1800s, Sam Houston was immortalized in three significant works of art: The Surrender of Santa Anna by William Henry Huddle (1886), a marble sculpture by Elizabet Ney (1893), and The Battle of San Jacinto by Henry Arthur McArdle (1895). In 1905, students at the Sam Houston Normal Institute in Huntsville began a movement to preserve Houston's homestead. They worked to move several buildings back to the original homestead site, and in 1927 the state legislature appropriated funds to have the site made into the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, dedicated in 1929. The museum was expanded as part of the Centennial celebrations, and the Steamboat House where Houston died was moved to the museum's grounds. On March 2, 1936 — Texas Independence Day and Houston's birthday — six thousand spectators were on hand for the dedication of the restored Steamboat House.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Sam Houston Centennial Plate, 1936 Artifact from Austin
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