French Gratitude Train Collection

Nebraska boxcar

 



Merci Train: A Selection of Objects from the Nebraska Boxcar



World War II brought devastation to France. In 1947 Washington, D.C., columnist Drew Pearson initiated a friendship train, funded entirely through personal donations, which provided $40 million worth of supplies to help France recover. To show their appreciation French citizens gathered forty-nine boxcars, decorated with plaques representing the forty provinces of France, and filled them with gifts for Americans. This “Gratitude Train” or “Merci Train” arrived in New York City in February 1949, with a boxcar designated for each state (the District of Columbia and the territory of Hawaii shared a boxcar).



Nebraska’s boxcar arrived on February 13, 1949. History Nebraska distributed the gifts it contained to public and private organizations throughout the state. Gifts designated for Nebraska’s Catholic communities were divided among St. Mary’s Cathedral High School in Lincoln, St. Cecilia’s Cathedral High School in Omaha, and St. Mary’s Cathedral High School in Grand Island. History Nebraska retained some 250 items.



Thirty-nine of the forty-nine Merci Train boxcars were placed in public locations and survive today. Nebraska’s boxcar was turned over to the 40 et 8, an organization founded by American veterans of World War I. Unfortunately the boxcar fell into disrepair, was moved to the state fairgrounds, and eventually sold for scrap.



To explore more artifacts from Nebraska history, visit our Collections Search

Toys



Toys



 

 



Art



Art

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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