The Arizona Capitol Museum presents: The Merci Train

Arizona Capitol Museum

Such gratitude filled the French people toward the U.S. after World War II that in 1949 the French people sent the Merci Train to the U.S. filled with gifts for the American people. Artifacts from the train can be seen at the Arizona Capitol Museum inside the historic state capitol. The Merci Train carried many various expressions of gratitude; from many painted and sculpted works of art, china, fashion, posters and written letters. Several letters contained references to the assistance provided by the U.S. during both World Wars I and II. The box car is still intact and can be seen at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale. A selection of items from the train appears in the "From Friendship to Gratitude - The Merci Train Collection" exhibit in the Arizona Capitol Museum.

Merci Train model, 1994, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum

In 1947, a well-known journalist, Drew Pearson, proposed the "Friendship Train" to help provide food and supplies to the people of France and Italy. On November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its 11-day journey from Los Angeles, California to New York. Arizona and other states outside the route sent their boxcars directly to New York. This boxcar is a model representing those on the train.

Toy Car, 1945/1948, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum

The Friendship Train reached its final U.S. destination, New York City, on November 19, 1947. The 700-boxcar train filled with $40 million worth of food and supplies, including fuel, clothing, and medicine was shipped off to France to arrive on December 18, 1947. Two years later, the gratitude of the French was shown by giving thousands of gifts to the American people. Toys like this car were also included.

Merci Train label, Cognac Chamber of Commerce, 1938/1948, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum

In 1949, over 250 tons of gifts were sent on the French "Gratitude" Train to America aboard the ship Magellan to Weehawken, New Jersey, docking on February 2, 1949. The words "Merci America" were painted on both sides of the ship. Labels like these accompanied all paper products like books and programs.

Mortar & Pestle, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum
Framed postcard, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum
Gondola sculpture, 1938/1948, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum
Trench Art Collection, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum

Trench Art are intricately engraved shell casings left behind in the aftermath of World War I. It's easy to imagine soldiers battering away at their spent shells, but the battering did not happen in the trenches as the sound would be heard by the enemy. Active duty soldiers were not the only artisans to create Trench Art, civilians, prisoners of war, or convalescing soldiers also created works.

Ingot, From the collection of: Arizona Capitol Museum

The inscription on this ingot reads "Pour les yeux qui s'eteignent" "Tous pour un ! Un pour tous !" which literally translates to "For the eyes that go out - All for one ! One for all !"

Credits: Story

Arizona Capitol Museum
Stephanie Mahan
Justin Painter
Jack August

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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