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USA : The Merci Train boxcar in Connecticut (CT)



"The Merci Train" - "The Gratitude Train" - "Train de la Reconnaissance Francaise"

Table of Contents :

Small stories :

David C. White - Farmer in Kansas Ruth Nathanson - High school senior from New York City


Individual states :
Bold = new content. (G) = can be seen on Google Streetview.

Arizona - Alabama - Arkansas (G) - California (G) - Colorado - Connecticut - Delaware (G) - Florida (G) - Georgia - Hawaii - Illinois - Indiana - Iowa (G) - Kansas - Kentucky - Louisiana (G) - Maine - Maryland - Massachusetts - Michigan - Minnesota - Mississippi - Missouri - Montana - Nebraska - Nevada - New Jersey - New Hampshire (G) - New Mexico - New York - North Carolina - North Dakota - Ohio - Oklahoma - Oregon (G) - Pennsylvania (G) - Rhode Island - South Carolina (G) - South Dakota (G) - Tennessee (G) - Texas - Utah (G) - Vermont - Virginia - Washington (G) - Washington DC - West Virginia (G) - Wisconsin - Wyoming (G).



On this page :
The boxcar - Details about the boxcar - The gifts - Connie Eaccarino

Main sources :

www.newspapers.comwww.mercitrain.org

Most of the information below has been collected from old newspaper articles.

You can download my Connecticut kmz-file merci gratitude train connecticutwith poi's that I have collected regarding the "Merci Train" in Connecticut and the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar.


When researching the "Merci Train" it is important to distinguish between :
  • The individual boxcar given to a state.
  • The "Merci Train" as a name for the 49 boxcars sent by France.
  • The "Merci Train" as the name for the transport of the boxcars to each individual state :
    The 3 sections : New England - Southern - Western.
  • The contents - gifts - that were in each boxcar.
  • The fact that the 40 & 8 Society's made / and still make replicas, of varying likeness, of the French boxcar to use as floats in parades.
Using various search words and combinations of words is necessary :
"Merci Train" - "Gratitude Train" - "French / merci / gratitude car / boxcar" - "thank you train" - "french gift"

The official French name for the "Merci Train" was :
"Train de la reconnaissance française" - as written on one side of the boxcars.
However the term "train de la reconnaissance" can also be used for the first train travelling on a newly laid track and even as a military term for a "scouting" trip.

Known missing facts are shown with "_____" or a what

Connecticut :

merci gratitude train Connecticut
From www.freeprintoutmaps.com

The Connecticut boxcar

The boxcar was delivered to the capitol of each state; - in Connecticut it was Hartford.

The Connecticut boxcar was destroyed by a fire in the 1950ties.

If you have ANY information about the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar - please contact me.


1948 - January 1949

Same history as the other 48 boxcars.

Repaired, repainted ( "slate grey" ) and decorated with shields and signs in France.
Shipped to the USA on the Magellan.

February 1949

  • Wednesday, February 02, 1949.
    • Loaded off the "Magellan" at the Weehawken docks, Erie Railroad Pier North H, New Jersey.
    • Placed on a US-railroad flatcar and shunted onto "New England Section" of the "Merci Train".
    • Guarded by railroad-police till departure.
  • Monday, February 07, 1949.
    • Left as part of the New England section of the "Merci Train" left Erie Railroad's Weehawken (NJ) yards "on Monday night" with the other 5 boxcars. ( Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont ).
    • 6 New Haven flatcars loaded each with a French boxcar. Newly-painted in steel-grey with emblems.
    • 11:00 PM - Arrived at Maybrook, NY - switching from "Erie Railroad" to "New Haven Railroad".
    • Due to overhead electric wires and tunnels the "Merci Train" could not take the New Haven Railroad "main line", but had to take an alternate route across the center of the New England States.
  • Tuesday, February 08, 1949.
    • 06:30 AM - Left Maybrook Yard, NY.
    • 08:45 AM - Arrived in Danbury, CT.
      • Connecticut Governor Chester A. Bowles rode on the "Merci Train" the full lenght of the Connecticut section.
    • 09:30 AM - Left Danbury, CT.
    • 10:45 AM - Stop ( 15-30 minutes ) in Naugatuck, CT. Remained on "main tracks".
      • "Merci Train" arrived with diesel engine.
      • Approx. 2,000 spectators in Naugatuck.
      • Ceremonies.
        • New Haven flatcar with Connecticut Merci boxcar used as platform for ceremonies.
        • Warden Harry L. Carter opened the ceremonies with a speech.
          Warden = Mayor untill August 05, 1955
          merci gratitude train connecticut merci gratitude train connecticut Photos ©
          The Morning Herald - Naugatuck - 1940-11-06
          Naugatuck Daily News - Naugatuck - 1949-10-06
        • Harry L. Carter introduced :
          • David Karr - representative for Drew Pearson :
            merci gratitude train connecticut
            Detail from photo © "Along The Line" - New Haven Railroad - February 1949.
          • Frank Lee, Danbury.
            Owner of "The Lee Hat Company" in Danbury.
          • Mrs. John Davis Lodge - wife of congressman - born Francesca Braggiotti.
            merci gratitude train connecticut
            Detail from photo © "LIFE Magazine" - April 1948.
            Her father was an Italian tenor - mother an American mezzo-soprano.
            • John Davis Lodge served in the US Navy and was liaison officer between the French and American fleets. He had 2 French decorations : "Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor" and the "Croix de Guerre with palm".
          • J. Frank Doolan - vice-president of New Haven Railroad Co. :
            ( Stayed in the business car )
            merci gratitude train connecticut
            Detail from photo © "Along The Line" - New Haven Railroad - February 1949.
          • Major Frank Larson - executive offiver of the 963rd Field Artillery Battalion.
        • 2 French railroad workers. Louis Cast ?
        • 2 representatives of the French Government. One made speech in French - the other translated.
        • French femine representative and interpreter ( Anne-Marie Max ? )
      • Reception committee :
        • Warden ( 1947 - 1952 ) Harry L. Carter.
        • Borough Clerk Charles F. Daly
        • Delegates from the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce
          • President, attorney Joseph E. Talbot - Borough attorney.
        • Burgesses Harold Stinson and Creslo Klimaszewski
        • Tax collector John U. Ferris
        • Public Welfare Superintendent J. Rudolph Anderson
        • "40-and-8 Society"
          • Headed by George B. Lewis
          • Lawrence Sarni - Commander of Crusader Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars
        • Ladies Auxiliary of Veterans of Foreign Wars
          • Mrs. Althea Lewis - President.
          • Mrs. James Schaff
          • Mrs. Nellie Lawton
          • Mrs. Jeanette Kleindan
          • Mrs. Rose Zigler
        • Ladies Auxiliary - Naugatuck American Legion post No. 17
          • Mrs. Michael Norris
          • Mrs. Evald Johnson
          • Mrs. Thomas Broder
          • Miss Anna Nolde
        • Various veterans organizations.
      • Naugatuck High School students "released" from classes with longer recess period. Elementary school classes from 4th to 8th grades will also be "released" according to Superintendent of Schools Harold E. Chittenden.
        merci gratitude train connecticut
        Photo © Naugatuck Highschool Yearbook 1948.
      • Members of the French Club from Naugatuck High School, accompanied by their teacher Miss Colette Daly, carried a French flag.
        merci gratitude train connecticut
        Photo © Naugatuck Highschool Yearbook 1948.
      • Mrs. August Baranauskas, Spring Street - born in France.
      • 12 police-men were on duty at the station. ( Police-chief John J. Gormley )
      • New Haven Railroad police superintendent G.R. Crowley.
        • G.R. Crowley later, around February 25, 1949, sent a thank-you letter to John J. Gormley.
      • "La Marseillaise" was song as the "Merci Train" left the train station.
      • The stop in Naugatuck was initiated by the "Naugatuck Daily News".
    • 11:00 AM - Arrived in Waterbury, CT.
    • 11:30 AM - Left Waterbury, CT.
    • 12:45 / 01:00 PM - Arrived in Hartford at the Spruce Street siding.
      • Connecticut and Vermont boxcars taken of the "Merci Train".
      • "Merci Train" - with 4 boxcars ( RI - NH - MA - ME ) - continued to Willimantic and Putnam at 01:45 PM.
      • Reception committee :
        • CT Governor Chester A. Bowles :
          merci gratitude train connecticut
          Photo © Connecticut State Register and Manual 1950
        • Mayor Cyril Coleman, Hartford.
        • Glenn O. Rowell - Chaiman of "special committee to accept the boxcar and distribute its gifts" ( The Connecticut Merci Train Committee ) and had been chairmain of "The Greater Hartford Friendship Train Committee" in 1947 :
          merci gratitude train connecticut
          Photo © www.wdrcobg.com
      • Reception in Hartford, coordinated by the governors adjutant general, Major General Frederick G. Reincke :
        merci gratitude train connecticut merci gratitude train connecticut
        Photos © www.jumpingfrog.com
        • W. Watson Woodford - local choral director - sang "La Marseillaise".
        • The St. Anne's Fife and Drum Corps - directed by Norman Bolduc - played several numbers.
        • Mayor Cyril Coleman, Hartford, welcomed the "MerciTrain".
        • A French representative, Louis Cast :
          merci gratitude train connecticut merci gratitude train connecticut
          Detail from photo © "Along The Line" - New Haven Railroad - February 1949.
          presented the CT boxcar to Governor Bowles, who accepted the boxcar on behalf of the state of Connecticut.
          merci gratitude train connecticut
          Detail from photo © "Along The Line" - New Haven Railroad - February 1949.
        • 4 year old Dora Coleman, Mayor Coleman's daughter, broke the seal on the CT boxcar.
        • Boy Scouts & American Legion organizations massed colors at the train.
        • Veterans of Foreign War delegations.
        • Parade in Hartford :
          • Spruce Street siding
          • south on Spruce Street
          • east on Asylum Street
          • north on Union Place to Church Street
          • east on Church Street
          • south on Main to Capitol Avenue
          • west to the State Capitol
        • United States Coast Guard Academy Band
        • a 169th Infantry Regiment tank
        • Police and Fire Department delegations
        • American Legions 40&8 Society - Voiture No. 370 - was guard of honor.
        • The Hartford reception was recorded by Station WTIC - at the request of WWBC ( World Wide Broadcasting Corporation ) - and transmitted to France on short-wave at 03:15 PM on Monday, February 14, 1949.
      • Boxcar taken to the Connecticut State Armory in Hartford, 360 Broad Street, just a few hundred meters from the Spruce Street, to be unloaded.
      • "Merci Train" made 30 minute stop at Willimantic, CT - 03:00 - 03:30 PM.
      • "Merci Train" continued to Putnam, CT, and arrived at 04:30 PM.
      • "Merci Train" stayed the evening February 09-10 in Putnam, CT, before leaving around midnight for Worchester, MA.
  • Thursday, February 10, 1949. merci gratitude train connecticut
    Picture found on CardCow.com ➚ as postcard for sale.

    • The unpacking of the boxcar and the gifts started "Thursday night" at the Connecticut State Armory in Hartford.
    • Participating was :
      • Glenn O. Rowell - Chairman of the Gratitude Train Committee in Connecticut.
      • Mrs. Edward Sutter
      • Miss Jeanne Low
  • Saturday, February 12, 1949.
    • From 10 AM - 05 PM and from 07 PM to 09 PM. Exhibition - Admission free. Gifts on display at "Drill Shed" of the Connecticut State Armory in Hartford.
    • "Some 10,000" persons saw the gifts after waiting in line.
    • Gifts displayed on long tables.
    • J. Halsey Thomas, Red Cross field director with the "Veterans Administration" said that it was impossible to realize "... the sacrifice the people of France must have made to send these gifts, especially the relics which have been in French families for many years ...".
    • Ann Nora M. Guinan from Hartford : "... has never seen anything like it in all [my] life ...".
    • Mr. and Mrs. William Stables from South Coventry : "... beautiful ...".
    • Mr. and Mrs. William A. Leonard from Hartford : "... A wonderful exhibit of gratitude ..."
  • Sunday, February 13, 1949.
    • Gifts on display at "Drill Shed" of the Connecticut State Armory in Hartford from 02 to 05 PM.
  • Monday, February 14, 1949.
    • Gifts on display at "Drill Shed" of the Connecticut State Armory in Hartford.
    • 03:15 PM : The Hartford reception was recorded by Station WTIC - at the request of WWBC ( World Wide Broadcasting Corporation ) - and transmitted to France on short-wave.
    • 08:00 PM : Concert by the Connecticut National Guard - 43d Division Band.
    • Exhibition extended also to include Monday on request from the National Guard.
  • Tuesday, February 15, 1949.
    • Officials met to decide on the distribution of the many French gifts. See below.
    • After the distribution was decided upon, the empty boxcar, without the gifts, began a tour of all Connecticut. The tour was on a trailer truck. Tour began Wednesday or Thursday.
    • The tour schedule was upset by snow-storm and bad weather.
    • After the tour the boxcar was turned over to the American Legion's 40&8 Society.
  • Sunday, February 27, 1949.
    • Connecticut Merci boxcar PRESUMABLY in Norwich.
  • Monday, February 28, 1949.
    • Connecticut Merci boxcar arrived, in snow, to "New London" from Norwich and Manchester
      • Boxcar stayed during the night at Groton barracks of the State Police - Lieut. William E. Mackenzie -
      • Detective George Mitchell from the State Police "Special Service Division" accompanied the boxcar all the way through Connecticut.
      • Boxcar met at the city line in Williams Street and escorted by a detail of local Police - Police Captain John C. Courtney - and State Police from the Groton barracks.
      • Truck with boxcar parked in Granite Street - alongside Williams park. A platform was erected at the park.
      • Amplifying system of the Patrolmens Benevolent Association.
      • Welcome reception started at 04:00 PM :
        • In charge of arrangements : John C. Albohm - Superintendent of schools. Assisted by Malcolm Greenaway - instructor in French at Bulkeley.
        • Mayor Samuel J. Selleck
        • City Manager Edward R. Henkle
        • Members of the City council.
        • Board of education :
          • President William C. Stuart
          • Secretary Frederick W. Edgerton
          • Member Edward P. Neilan
        • Delegations from schools
        • Delegations from patriotic organizations
        • Delegations from Francophile organizations
        • Rev. Lawrence W. Doucette of St. Mary's Church :
          • "... warm handclasp of gratitude across the sea ..." - "... These gifts are not from the government but from the people of France to the people of the United States. This is the age of the people. These gifts will help to bring America and France closer together. The gifts will be spread about the 48 states like seeds which will bloom forth in good will and friendship ...".
        • Exchange student at Connecticut College from Lyon, France - Mlle. Marie Louise Burle :
          • "... There is not one French family the condition of which has not been improved thanks to the gifts of the United States. Children, adults, old people, all have benefited. I can express the gartitude of France with all the more sincerety and emotion because I myself, since my arrival in this country, have fully appreciated the generosity of the Americans. When I return to my country, I will be happy to tell of all the friendship I have found here. It is a pleasure to me to be able to say for the French people. All my affections and my gratitude to the great American people ..."
        • Chapman Technical Highschool band played La Marseillaise and The Star Spangled Banner.
        • American Legion 40-and-8 Society - William Guyon :
          • "... The Merci, or thank you car, symbolizes a great deal to all members of the Forty and Eight and the American legion. It is truly more than just a freight car filled with gifts From France. It carries the spirit of a great people, a people, who probably more than any other in the world love freedom and democracy asstrongly as we do, here in America ..."
        • Veterans of Foreign Wars - Frank S. Hollrieder, commander of Murphy-Rathbun post, No. 189.
        • New London Council of the Union of St. John the Baptist ( L'Union St. Jean de Baptiste )- Aime Surprenant
        • Bulkeley French Club - Gerard Corcoran :
          • "... will remain in all of our minds as one that culminates the feelings we have long had in New London for the people of France ..."
        • President of the William Memorial Institute ( W.M.I. ) French Club - Sheila Neilan - ( French dep. "adopted" 2 French children in 1945 ) :
          • "... it is especially interesting to note that the word gartude is exactly the same in both languages and in this instance means also genuine friendship. With out two adopted French children we at WMI wish to say Vive l'Amerique, vive la France ..."
        • President of the Chapman Technical Highschool French club
        • Kenneth H. Lundy - representing Governor Chester Bowles
    • Boxcar will stay during the night at the State Police barracks in Bethany.
  • Tuesday, March 01, 1949.
    • Boxcar left at 09:00 AM the State Police barracks in Bethany
    • Boxcar transported to Waterbury / New Haven, but sidetracked in Groton
    • Boxcar to be shown tuesday in Norwich, New Haven, Stratford, Bridgeport and Westport.
  • Thursday, March 03, 1949.
    • Boxcar delayed due to snowstorm - Is in Greenwich and Derby on thursday.
    • Boxcar stayed at State Police barracks in Bethany during the night.
    • Boxcar transported to Torrington and Winsted Thursday afternoon - planned.
  • Friday, March 04, 1949.
    • 08:00 AM - Boxcar left State Police barracks in Bethany
    • 09:00 AM - Boxcar scheduled in Waterbury. On display in front of Waterbury City Hall / Railroad Station. This second time
    • Winstead and Torrington after Waterbury

Present day

The Connecticut boxcar is presumed to have been destroyed by a fire in the 1950ties.

Last location presumably was Stratford - at a Veterans Organization - most likely the 40-and-8 Society of the American Legion

On Janury 16, 1957 newspapers reported that a fire had destroyed a meat market, an antique shop and an American Legion hall in New Haven. Stratford is not so far from New Haven.

To be researched.

If you have ANY information about the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar - please contact me.

Details about the Connecticut boxcar

There are very few pictures of the CT boxcar.

From "The New London Day" (CT), March 01, 1949 :
merci gratitude train connecticut

From "Along the Line" - February 1949.
Magazine for New Haven Railroad employees.
merci gratitude train connecticut
Courtesy and ©
New Haven RR Historical and Technical Association, Inc.


To be researched.

The gifts from the Connecticut boxcar

  • CT's boxcar contained 34 boxes of gifts. Many of the boxes were the boxes in which food was sent from the USA to France.
  • Unpacked and inventorized at the "State Armory" in Hartford from Tuesday, February 08, 1949 till Friday 11th.
  • Participating in the unpacking were :
    • Glenn O. Rowell - Chairman of the Gratitude Train Committee in Connecticut.
    • Mrs. Edward Sutter
    • Miss Jeanne Low - a teacher in Manchester - born in Boulogne-sur-Mèr in France, volonteered to unpack the gifts and found a gift from her home-town : several small replicas of a statue "Our Lady of Boulogne". The original is in the Cathedral in Boulogne.
    • Members of the "American Aid for France" group."
  • Most of the volonteers were of French decent, translating the many letters and messages written on the official "Merci Train" label.
  • Gifts displayed at the State Armory
    • Saturday, February 12, 1949 from 10 AM - 05 PM and from 07 PM to 09 PM.
    • Sunday, February 13, 1949 from 02 PM to 05 PM.
    • Monday, February 14, 1949.
  • A State committee - "Merci/Gratitude Train Committee" - with Glenn O. Rowell as chairman, decided on who would get which gift. Committee met on Tuesday, February 15, 1949, at 10:00 AM. Glenn O. Rowell had been chairman of the Connecticut "Friendship Train" committee.
    • Chairman Glenn O. Rowell.
    • Finis E. Engleman - State education commissioner.
    • Dr. Alfred L. Burgdorf - city health officer.
    • Charles C. Cunningham - director of Wadsworth Atheneum
    • "other officials"
  • One gift, found in one of the boxes from the Normandy province, contained a letter to "The Governor of the State of Colorado". This letter was given to Connecticut Governor Bowles to forward to his collegue in Colorado.
  • Many gifts were adressed to specific persons or institutions.
  • Specifically adressed gifts were given out at a ceremony at the "State Armory" on Tuesday, February 15, 1949, at 12:15 PM where Governor Bowles was expected to present the gifts to the receivers.
    • President Charles Seymour of Yale University has been asked to receive the gifts to Yale, but they were received by Reuben A. Holden, Assistant to Yale President Charles Seymour
    • Bishop O'Brian and Mayor Coleman are expected to attent the ceremony.
    • Mayor Jasper McLevy of Bridgeport.
    • Ceremony broadcast by station WTIC.
  • Charles C. Cunningham, director ( 1946-1966 ) of Wadsworth Atheneum ➚, appraised the objects of art.

Gifts included priceless heirlooms - many centuries old, paintings, statues, prints, books, pottery, dolls, toys, vases, dishes, silverware etc.


Many institutions wanted to receive one or more gifts from the CT boxcar, so gifts were divided into packages and chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education.

Distribution of the majority of smaller presents was done by counties, each town and city receiving its proportional share.

If you have ANY information about a gift from the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar - please contact me.


List - no particular order - of known gifts from the Connecticut boxcar :

  1. Sevres porcelain vase.
    • From : French President Vincent Auriol.
    • Allocated to : Governor Chester A. Bowles.
    • Present or last known location : Presumably at "Governor's Residence" in Hartford.
    • Other remarks : "Delicate blue vase" packed in a clothlined container moulded to the contour of the vase. Came with plain card envelope. Card engraved "Vincent Auriol, President of France" and handwriting "Expressing deepest French gratitude".
  2. 300 year old crucifix.
    • From : City of Toulon.
    • Allocated to : Most Rev. Henry J. O'Brian, bishop of the Hartford Diocese, who chose a Catholic family to received the crucifix during the ceremony on Tuesday, February 15, 1949 at 12.15 PM.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : The giver wrote on "Merci Train" label : "...very dear heirloom of my family for 300 to 400 years. It was given to me by my grandmother on her deathbed. I can't ever remember when it didn't look as old and worn as it does now. I hope it will bring happiness to the American family who will receive it. I have no children to whom to pass the cricufix on and I hope it will be passed to generations to come as a rememberance of the gratitude of France."
  3. 700 year old bell.
    • From : .
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location : Abbey of Regina Laudis ➚ , Bethlehem, CT.
    • Other remarks : Original bell from the Chapel of St. Bernadin at Monans-Sartoux in the French Alps. The chapel was abandonned in 1929. "...I am offering the bell so that it may perpetuate and ring the friendship which binds the peoples of our two countries..."
      See pictures of the bell at www.mercitrain.org
      merci gratitude train connecticut bell Page 227 of the book "Mother Benedict - Foundress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis".
      Read the book on Google books
  4. Wedding gown - brocaded satin - with weil and tiara.
    • From : The People of Lyon.
    • Allocated to : Connie Eaccarino.
    • Present or last known location : Wedding on June 04 / 18, 1949 - New Haven.
    • Other remarks : Contest won by Connie Eaccarino.
  5. A hand-carved bench with canopy - listed as "a bench".
    • From : 2 Parisian matrons.
    • Allocated to : Yale University.
    • Present or last known location : Kept in the "Art Gallery" untill a permanent place is decided upon.
    • Other remarks :
      Stipulated to be given to Yale University.
      Large hand-carved bench complete with canopy.
      Bench was taken from a French cathedral, which was destroyed during WW2.
      Given on Tuesday, February 15, 1949, at 12:15 PM to Reuben A. Holden, Assistant to Yale President Charles Seymour.
      Yale also received from the French Government 8 works of art of "Sevres National Manufacture of Porcelain" and 50,000 French Francs ( 350 FF = 1 USD ) for "filling gaps in the seminary library and in the work library".
  6. A pewter plate.
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Yale University.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks :
      Stipulated to be given to Yale University with the request that it be presented to the highest ranking student in the Yale Medical School next June ( 1950 ).
      Given on Tuesday, February 15, 1949, at 12:15 PM to Reuben A. Holden, Assistant to Yale President Charles Seymour.
      Yale also received from the French Government 8 works of art of "Sevres National Manufacture of Porcelain" and 50,000 French Francs ( 350 FF = 1 USD ) for "filling gaps in the seminary library and in the work library".
  7. Hand-painted set af seashell ashtrays.
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Yale University.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks :
      Stipulated to be given to Yale University.
      Placed in a butter tin.
      Hand-painted pictures with English captions inside.
      Note : "The most old (80 years old) student of Paris Quartier Latin sends to American students his best wishes for the next year 1949. Good luck. My friends."
      Given on Tuesday, February 15, 1949, at 12:15 PM to Reuben A. Holden, Assistant to Yale President Charles Seymour.
      Yale also received from the French Government 8 works of art of "Sevres National Manufacture of Porcelain" and 50,000 French Francs ( 350 FF = 1 USD ) for "filling gaps in the seminary library and in the work library".
  8. Collection of photographs with leather-bound book with the history of "Royat les Bains". One box.
    • From : City of "Royat-les-Bains". Puy de Dôme, Auvergne, France.
    • Allocated to : City of Bridgeport.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks :
      Stipulated by the French. Came in one box. Several large, framed photographs of the city of Royat les Bains.
      In the book was a photostatic copy of a letter written in 1930 by "Edward T. Buckingham" - Mayor of Bridgeport (1929-1933) to the Mayor of Royat-les-Bains - Bertrand :
      "It is with great pleasure I send you from Charles Cyrus of Bridgeport this key which is a symbol of the city. It is my sincere desire we will soon have the pleasure of seeing you".
      Letter, dated November 17, 1948, from the present mayor of Royat-Les-Bains. Mayor Bertrand died in 1945.
      See also Library of Congress item # 11, where the city of Royat-Les-Bains donated a health-treatment to an American soldier.
  9. French medal - "Croix de Guerre".
    • From : A French family.
    • Allocated to : An American family who lost a son during the war.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Stipulated by the French. Decided by The Veterans Administration. Came in a simple cardboard box. "...to be given to a family who lost a son in the war..."
      Family chosen by "The Veterans Administration". Given on Tuesday, February 15, 1949, at 12:15 pm.
  10. "Several" small replicas of the statue "Our Lady of Boulogne"
    • From : A seminary from Boulogne-sur-Mèr .
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Gift unpacked by Miss Jeanne Low, born in Boulogne-sur-Mèr. - The original statue is in the Cathedral at Boulogne.
  11. Bell from a chapel in the French Alps.
    • From : .
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Presumably one of the 49 bells from Annecy.
  12. Painting.
    • From : .
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Photo - held by Mrs. Edward Sutter.
  13. Statue.
    • From : National Museum in Paris.
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Photo - "statue with discus".
  14. Local head-dress.
    • From : Old couple in Poitou, Central France.
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Couple been married for 50 years. "... for an American couple we hope will live to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary... ... it was very much in fashion in 1900..."
  15. Chest - containing a painting of General De Gaulle surrounded by leaves of hammered bronze.
    • From : "Quesnoy-sur-Deule" in the north of France.
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Made during the German occupation of France ( 1940 - 1944 ) by a veteran of WW1. Two letters were found in the chest - one to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosewelt and one to Frederick Roberts in New Orleans.
  16. Painting.
    • From : A youth in Monsoult.
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : The youth painted the scene where "...on August 29, 1944, I saw for the first time the American soldiers who liberated us ..."
  17. Two small flags - USA and the UK.
    • From : A woman in Siene.
    • Allocated to : .
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Hand-stitched from scraps of cloth. Both flags had waved in the breeze welcoming advancing US and British troops. US flag had only 12 stars because the seamstress ran out of cloth / time.
  18. Painting / Picture in frame. 5 women dressed in the latest style of 1801.
    • From : Albert Gobert, 291 Rue Solserino A, Lille
    • Allocated to : Rocky Hill Library.
    • Present or last known location : Displayed at Rocky Hill schools May / June 1949.
    • Other remarks : Painted by "Pasquier". Title : "The good style, Plate No. 15. The meeting of the Little Working Women". "In thanks for the aid of America to France."
  19. Book - Poem - "The Flame"
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Rocky Hill Library.
    • Present or last known location : Displayed at Rocky Hill schools May / June 1949.
    • Other remarks : Written by Renée Peyaud. Poem in 2 parts : 1 = WW1. 2 = WW2.
  20. Book - "France" - written in English.
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Rocky Hill Library.
    • Present or last known location : Displayed at Rocky Hill schools May / June 1949.
    • Other remarks : "This has been written to portray the liberation of France step by step in the war against Fascism. It has been prepared to give our allies the central information about the country they liberated. May this book, dedicated to those who played a part in making our country free, remind our allies of those terrible, and glorious days. May it be accepted as a token of gratitude and appreciation for the decisive part they have played in the history of France."
  21. Shield - cast iron.
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Museum of Connecticut History ?.
    • Present location : Museum of Connecticut History ➚, Hartford, CT.
    • Other remarks : 26 inches ( 66 cm ) in diameter. Weight approx 20 pounds ( 9 kilo ). Intended as wall decoration. Depicts scenes from the French-Prussian war 1970-1871 with names of famous French military.
      merci gratitude train french boxcar connecticut merci gratitude train french boxcar connecticut merci gratitude train french boxcar connecticut
      Click on pictures to enlarge.
      Pictures courtesy of and © Museum of Connecticut History ➚, Hartford, CT.
  22. Dish - Faience.
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Museum of Connecticut History ?.
    • Present location : Museum of Connecticut History ➚, Hartford, CT.
    • Other remarks :
      21 3/4 inches ( 55 cm ) in diameter.
      Presumably decorative although Faience-dishes were mostly utilitarian.
      From the town "Quimper" in Bretagne (Brittany), France.
      "HB" means the house of "Hubaudière-Bousquet".
      The "AP" presumably means "Alfred Porquier".
      merci gratitude train french boxcar connecticut merci gratitude train french boxcar connecticut merci gratitude train french boxcar connecticut
      Click on pictures to enlarge.
      Pictures courtesy of and © Museum of Connecticut History ➚, Hartford, CT.
  23. Pair of hair clips
    • From : Senteuil
    • Allocated to :
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks :
  24. Box of statuary
    • From : Paris
    • Allocated to :
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks :
  25. Gavel
    • From :
    • Allocated to :
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Made from wood taken from "Belleau Wood"
  26. Snuff box
    • From :
    • Allocated to :
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : From the 17th century. Form of a shoe inlaid with ivory.
  27. 5 books
    • From : A family in Lille
    • Allocated to :
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Books were "kept in our family as dear loved things". Books published in 1803, 1818, 1825, 1850 and 1855.
  28. Box with content
    • From :
    • Allocated to : The Catholic Children of Connecticut - c/o Catholic Bishop of Hartford.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Given to Most Rev. Henry J. O'Brian - bishop of the Hartford Diocese.
  29. Boxes of toys - French model automobile
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Newington Home and Hospital for Crippled Children
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Model car shown in picture from February 19, 1949.
  30. A large scarf
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Raymond Library, Hartford.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Scarf was gaily colered with printed pictures of chateaus and famous French landmarks. Received by Miss Helen Crowley, librarian. Would be placed on display immediately.
  31. A book - pictures of France
    • From : ?
    • Allocated to : Raymond Library, Hartford.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by Miss Helen Crowley, librarian. Would be placed on display immediately.
  32. French history book
    • From : Madame Lucie Paul Margueritte, Rue de la Tour, Paris.
    • Allocated to : Raymond Library, Hartford.
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by Miss Helen Crowley, librarian. Would be placed on display immediately.
  33. Framed picture
    • From : Albert Gobert, 291 Rue Solserino A, Lille.
    • Allocated to : Town of Rocky Hill.
    • Present or last known location : Displayed in schools and then presented to Rocky Hill library.
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by Mrs. Oscar W. McLane. Picture shows 5 women dressed in the latest style of 1801. Title "The Good Style. Plate # 15. The meeting of the Little working Women". Painter : Pasquier. Note : "In thanks for the aid of America to France."
  34. Paper-bound book - "The Flame" (Poem)
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Town of Rocky Hill.
    • Present or last known location : Displayed in schools and then presented to Rocky Hill library.
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by Mrs. Oscar W. McLane. Author : Renee Peyod. Poem was in 2 parts - first part (1914) about WW1 - second part (1940) about WW2.
  35. Book "France" - in English
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Town of Rocky Hill.
    • Present or last known location : Displayed in schools and then presented to Rocky Hill library.
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by Mrs. Oscar W. McLane. "This has been written to portray the liberation of France step by step in the war against Fascism. It has been prepared to give our allies the central information about the country they liberated. May this book, dedicated to those who played a part in making our country free, remind our allies of those terrible, and glorious days. May it be accepted as a token of gratitude and appreciation fro the decissive part they have played in the history of France."
  36. Hand-made lace linen doily
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Wethersfield
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by First Selectman Frederick B. Woodhouse. Suggested that the doily be framed and hung on the Town Hall wall above the gilded Atletic Club baseball trophies.
  37. Book - "La Petite Fadette" - by George Sand
    • From : Mme. Venture, 39 Rue Beauregard, Paris
    • Allocated to : Wethersfield
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by First Selectman Frederick B. Woodhouse. Given to Wethersfield Library. Note "Souvenir of my youth, which I share with my good friends. Merry christmas 1948. Happy New Year 1949."
  38. Pamphlet on highlights in French arts and crafts.
    • From :
    • Allocated to : Wethersfield
    • Present or last known location :
    • Other remarks : Chosen by lot at the Hartford Board of Education. Received by First Selectman Frederick B. Woodhouse. Given to Wethersfield Library.
If you have ANY information about a gift from the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar - please contact me.

Connie Eaccarino

Connecticut was not the only state to get a wedding-gown from the people of Lyon. Rhode Island also got a wedding-gown.
The story of Connie Eaccarino actually deserves a page for it-self, but since the Connecticut boxcar has perished, there is room on this page.


One of the gifts found in the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar was a wedding-gown.

The people of Lyon gave a wedding-gown to the Connecticut boxcar, stipulating that the gown should be given to a Connecticut woman, who was going to be married in June, and who fitted the gown the best.

The wedding-gown was exhibited with the other gifts at the Hartford State Armory from Saturday, February 12, 1949 to Monday, February 14, 1949.

Apparently the note from Lyon was displayed with the gown, which made Miss Josephine Corona, 130 Shultas Place, Hartford, ( to be married on June 04, 1949 ), on Monday approach one of the volontary workers at the exhibition - Mrs. Edward Sutters, 26 Robin Road, West Hartford - and explain "... that the gown was to be given away and that she would like to have it ...".

Glenn O. Rowell, chairman of the "Merci Train Committee" was not present, so Mrs. Sutters thought it was a joke.

Later in the afternoon more girls appeared and wanted to be meassured for the wedding-gown. Presumably the local radio-station had spread the news about the French wedding-gown.

Finally the official explanation came from the committee : The wedding-gown would be given to one lucky girl, but not right away. A special wedding-gown committee would decide which girl would receive the wedding-gown that had a 24 inch waist.

The first girls to "claim" the wedding-gown were
  • Miss Josephine Corona, 130 Shultas Place, Hartford
  • Dorothy Rose Bouchard ( daughter of the State Armory superintendent )
  • Mildrew Webb, 755 North Main Street, Buckland
  • Gloriette Boucher, 230 Windsor Avenue, Wilson
  • Lillian Lefkin, 710 Garden Street, Hartford
  • Mabel Acorn, 335 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield
  • Shirley Landry, Lake Bonair Road, Ellington
  • Rose Anne Roussel, 8 Hamilton Street, Hartford
  • Barbara Haley, 221 Victoria Road, Hartford


All in all some 150 - 175 Connecticut women sent in applications to the "Merci Train Committee", the State Governor and to Connecticut's state secretary before the contest deadline at midnight Monday, February 28, 1949.

All girls intended to marry in June and all had 24 inch waists.

The wedding-gown was kept in a vault in the office of Mrs. Winnifred McDonald, secretary of the state :
merci gratitude train connecticut
Photo © Connecticut State Register and Manual 1950


The University of Connecticut made a request that the wedding-gown be given to the University to join a collection of wedding-gowns ( dating back to the 1700's ) in the Department of Home Economics ( assistand professor of arts Miss Wilma Keyes ) - but after the lucky winner had worn it at her wedding.

The lucky winner would also have to agree - since once it had been given to her - it was hers.


A "measuring-in" ceremony of the 175 applicants was held in the evening on Wednesday, March 09, 1949, at the studios of WTIC, with a committee of 8 women, which resulted in a small group of 6 woman taking part in the finals :
  1. Selena Demand, Wolcott. Fiancé : William Oliver. Wolcott.
  2. Helen Hazuka, Deep River. Fiancé : John Pavelka, Killingly.
  3. Ageline Zappula, New Britain. Fiancé : Louis Procopion, Waterbury.
  4. Mary Grogan, Bridgeport. Fiancé : John Magner, Bridgeport.
  5. Connie Eaccarino, New Haven. Fiancé : John Farrell, West Haven.
  6. Joan Sommerman, Hartford. Fiancé : Raymond Milvae, Bloomfield.

The girls were measured by Mrs. Lucienne Popot, East Hartford, who had come from France just 4 months earlier. She was a former designer at the famous dressmaking houses "Patou" and "Molyneux" in Paris.

Many of the girls were eliminated immediately because they were not 5 foot 2 of height ( 1.57 meter ) or had a 24 inch waist ( 61 cm ).

Miss Mabel Acorn was the first to be meassured, and thefirst to be eliminated because she was too large around the waist. Many of the girls tried various excuses regarding the waist-line : "... why - I was 24 inches tonight before I left home ..."

After some discussion it was decided to meassure the girls with shoes off.

The height scale turned out to be mis-aligned, so the height-meassuring had to be started all over again.


A jury of 3 artists
  • Herbert J. Gute of Yale University.
  • Howard Free, Berlin.
  • Mrs. Ruth Buol, New Britain.

then chose the winner based on the girl's size, height, sleeve / shoulder meassurements, fit and personality.

Drew Pearson would be the one that presented the wedding-gown to the lucky winner.


Drew Pearson reported in his column "Washington Merry Go'Round" that Connecticut businessmen had arranged that the lucky winner, AND the three runner-up couples, would also receive
  • a wedding ring
  • lingerie
  • slipper
  • honeymoon hats
  • silver service
  • full photograph coverage

Air France had offered the lucky winning couple a trip to Lyon, France, but "CAB said no".
( Civil Aeronautics Board ? )

So the "French Line" would supply a sea voyage instead.

Another newspaper article stated that the winner would receive
  • an one-week honey-moon at Arrowhead Lodge, Schroon Lake, ME.
  • assortment of other gifts
    • sterling silver
    • wedding band
    • going-away hat
    • photographs of the wedding in a photograph album
    • multil-layered wedding cake

and that the runners-up would receive spring hats from a New York designer to wear for Easter.


On Sunday, March 13, 1949, starting at 01.15 PM, the final contest was held at station WTHT. Broadcast would take place at 03:15 PM. Drew Pearson announced the award.

Connie Eaccarino, age 22, a "chic brunette" telephone operator from New Haven won the wedding-gown, and would marry John Farrell, age 21, from West Haven, on June 04 / June 18, 1949, in the Church of St. John the Baptist, Dixwell Avenue, New Haven.

She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Eaccarino, 747 Dixwell Avenue, New Haven.

John Farrell, 434 Second Avenue, West Haven, age 21, a food store clerk, won a new suit, shoes and a hat. He had served with the US Navy, but never beyond American waters.

Runner-up was Angeline Zappula / Louis Procopion who won a one-week weddingtrip to Arrowhead Lodge, Schroon Lake, ME., and new spring hats.

The 4 other contestants won hats from a New York designer and their future husbans won headgear made in Connecticut.

Connie was also awarded a medal from France by Rev. H.C. Belec of St. Joseph's Church, Norwich.


Connie Eaccarino then appeared on the TV show "We The People" on WCBS on June 07, 1949.


The original press photo can from time to time be bought on www.ebay.com :

connie eaccarino merci gratitude train connie eaccarino merci gratitude train


The "Cindarella" theme - fitting the shoe - was of course shamelessly used by the newspapers - but it did make a good story.

In fact newspapers from all over the USA had articles about the contest and the final winner - Connie Eaccarino.


Then finally, on Sunday, July 30, 1950, Connie Farrell, born Eaccarino, ( Mrs. John H. Farrell ) and her husband John, left for France from Idlewood Airport, NY., for their 2 week holiday in France.

John Farrell now ran an auto-supply store in Hamden, CT.

She would also visit an aunt in Italy that she had never seen.

With her she brought letters from CT Governor Bowles to Mayor Eduard Herriot, Lyson, France and Louis Cast, president of the French Gratitude Train committee.

The all-expenses paid trip was sponsored by Lever Brothers Company.










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