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USA : Kansas : Story of David C. White

"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).

During my research of the "Merci Train", that came to include the "Friendship Train",
I have come across several small, but significant stories about persons, towns & events
that were too remarkable to be left untold.

This is one of these stories :

Story of David C. White

"...if we want to avoid another war, we'd better give our wheat than our boys and girls..."

Newspaper clippings about David C. White

Where the newspapers disagree I have mentioned both/all facts given.

Born in Nebraska. Raised in Kansas.

David C. White was a farmer in Kingsdown, Ford County, Kansas. He lived from 1876 - 1960.

His farm, in 1947, was 1,900 acres ( approx. 7.7 km2 ) big. He owned a total of 4,000 acres ( approx. 16,2 km2 ) of land in western Kansas.

Try to see on, i.e. Google Streetview, what Kingsdown is like. This is farm-land and flat. The horizon is far, far away 360 degrees all around you. You can download my .kmz-file with POI's regarding "The Friendship Train".

This is the kind of country that molds a very special kind of people.

Prohibition - Alcohol dry

Prohibition in the USA lasted from January 17, 1920 ( 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act ) till 1933.

Kansas, however, maintained prohibition untill 1948 when, with a vote of 422,294 against 358,485, prohibition in Kansas was repealed.

A difference of 63,809 voters, so it would only have taken about 32,000 voters ( 4 % ) to give the opposite result.

Kansas still in modern times ( 2014 ) has some of the most restrictive alcohol-laws in the USA.
David C. White was born in Nebraska in January 02, 1876, but his family moved to Hutchinson ( Reno County ) in Kansas in October 1877.

He married Sadie Belle Doles around 1902 at the age of 26. At that time he lived in Bland and Sadie lived in Haven - both small townships south-east of Hutchinson.

He got his farm in Kingsdown in 1905 and lived there till his death.

When he was 22 years old ( 1898 ), he was elected, against his knowledge, constable in Reno County. Later, again without his knowledge, he was elected Justice of Peace in Kingsdown. On both occasions friends had put his name on the ballot without his knowledge.

Prohibition party

David C. White repeatedly tried to be elected governor in Kansas, but because he belonged to the "Prohibition Party" - i.e. a party that wanted an alcohol-dry Kansas, he really didn't have much chance against the 2 big parties; The Republicans and The Democrats, even though the prohibition movement was very strong in Kansas.

He ran for Governor in Kansas in 1940, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952 and for the United States Senate in 1954. Everytime he ran on the "Prohibition Ticket". He lost all these elections.

But he pursued his political career with a determination that must be applauded.

Gifts to the "Friendship Train"

Bringing "our boys" home.

In 1947 the The Army Quartermaster Corp began bringing the dead soldiers back from the cemetaries in Europe and Asia.

Ships and especially railroads were used for the transport of the caskets. 118 Pullmann coaches were converted to Mortuary Cars.

In San Francisco the "USAT Honda Knot" arrived on October 10, 1947 with 3,028 coffins.

The "USAT Joseph V. Connolly" arrived on October 26, 1947 in New York harbour with 6,248 coffins.

A total of 233,181 dead American soldiers were brought home in the years 1947 - 1954.

Some links with further information :
memorialday foundation
David C. White was a "normal" farmer, having started farming in Kingsdown ( about 50 km south-east of Dodge City ), Ford County, Kansas, in 1905 or 1908.

He appeared in the newspapers in November 1947 after having given several box-car-loads of wheat to the "Friendship Train". The exact number of box-cars is un-certain. The newspaper reports varies from 2 to 5 boxcars.

The value of the wheat is quite another matter - simply because it became the focus of a dispute between White and the US - IRS ( Internal Revenue Service ). Se more below.

David C. White made this famous remark being asked why he gave that much :

"...You know - if we want to avoid another war, we'd better give our wheat than our boys and girls. ..."

He said this in November 1947 - just more than 2 years after the end of WW2, and at a time when America was beginning to ship home the bodies of their dead soldiers from Europe and Asia to be buried in their home-towns.

I think you have to be there to understand the sentiment and the feelings involved. See box to the right with more details.

When you read the newspapers from the fall of 1947 and all of 1948 and 1949 there are countless mentions of single soldiers finally returning to their home towns.

Read the article in LIFE Magazine - November 17, 1947 - issue about when Staff Sergeant Arnold B. Werner returned to his hometown of Hebron, Nebraska.

It was reported that White gave food gifts several times :
  • 4,000 bushels of wheat through the Kansas Council of Churches. ( approx 108 tons )
  • 3,266 bushels through the Mennonite brethren. ( approx 88 tons )
  • 5 railroad-cars - more than $20,000 worth of wheat.
A bushel is about 35 litres - or approx 27 kg wheat.

A boxcar in 1947 would carry a maximum weight of about 50 tons. So David White was arguably the single most giving individual person in the "Friendship Train".

In 1949, even though he was in the middle of a fight with the IRS over tax on his gifts in 1947, White continued to give gifts, 2 car-loads ( 3,000 bushels ) of wheat, to Europe - this time through the CROP - Christian Rural Overseas program.

White also continued to advocate the "dry" movement in various "letters to the editor".

Then finally in August 1952, at the age of 76, he finally won the court-case against the IRS and in November received the cheque from the IRS.

After winning the case aginst the IRS he ran in 1954, again on the Prohibition Ticket, but this time for State Senator. Again he lost the election.

David C. White died at 84 on Saturday, September 10, 1960, after 2 years of illness, and was buried on Wednesday, September 14, 1960 in Bucklin Cemetary - Lot B9 L22, Bucklin, Ford County, Kansas. ( Approx. 10 km from Kingsdown )

He was survived by his widow, Sadie Belle White, nee Doles, three sons and three daughters. Sadie was born January 22, 1875, and died November 13, 1966, at 91.

He is one of the few who could say : "I beat the IRS".

Tax 1947

In May 1948 the tax-man entered the scene regarding the White's 1947 income assessment.

The IRS claimed that David White should pay income-tax on the wheat that he had given to the "Friendship Train" - just as if he had sold the wheat and received payment = income.

The IRS calculated that there was 7,226 bushels of wheat in the 5 box-cars given to the "Friendship Train" in 1947.

Each bushel had a value of $2.65, so White would have to add an additional $19,150.67 to his income in 1947. [ 2.65 x 7.226 = 19,148.90 but the newspaper reports the sum as $19,150.67 - go figure ]

White was allowed a 15 % allowable deduction for "gifts", but in the end he still had to pay an extra $8,950.27 in income-tax.

The IRS explained that according to the law White could, tax-free, give no more than 15 % of his income as a gift. If White gave 50 % of his income as a gift, he would have to pay income tax of the 35 %.

Not surprisingly this IRS attitude was critized by almost everybody - the absurdity of being taxed for giving gifts was .... well absurd. White for sure must have felt like saying : "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore". [ From "Wizard of Oz" ].

The IRS accepted that White had not received any cash / money by giving the wheat to the "Friendship Train", but that White had received "the satisfaction of giving", which should be taxed.

The IRS took this stand against many farmers who had given to the "Friendship Train", but the David C. White case was the "key case" and the one that got news coverage - not only because White had given so much, but because he in fact had checked with amongst others Drew Pearson on whether a gift to the "Friendship Train" would be taxed.

Drew Pearson had been assured by his legal staff that any donations to the "Friendship Train" would be deductable from income tax returns.

Drew Pearson in fact hired a tax-expert, Randolph Paul and Associates from Washington DC, who argued the case on White's behalf during the hearings within the IRS system.

According to one newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, from June 05, 1948, White had in fact not only not included the value of the gift in his income, but he had deducted the gift from his income tax. This of course is not the same as just not paying tax on the gift.

According to the Tribune the IRS had disallowed the deduction and had taxed the value of the gift.

After a lenghty argument with the IRS, the IRS finally concluded that White should pay, which he did in May 1949 - under protest.

White then filed a claim against the IRS in Wichita in August 1949 for a refund.

In November 1949 Drew Pearson visited Kansas finishing the Kansas "Merci Box-car's" tour of 105 Kansas counties. He critized the IRS for wanting to tax White's generous gift to the "Friendship Train" because White had had the "satisfaction of giving" and told that a friend of his had remarked : "Since when is the government taxing love affairs ?".

David C. White and his wife actually received "gifts from the Merci car" in appreciation of the generous gifts they had made to the "Friendship Train". This was perhaps not really according to the law, and one of the few times that a private individual received items from a "Merci Boxcar". However in this case it should be fully justfied.

In September 1950 David C. White then filed his refund claim against the IRS at the US district court in Wichita.

Judge Delmas C. Hill of the District Court ruled in favor of David White in the beginning of 1952 saying that the IRS should pay White back his $9,555.28 payment from May 1949.

The IRS appealed to the "Federal Court of Appeals - 10th Circuit in Denver", but the appellate court dismissed the government's appeal in August 1952, so the IRS finally had to pay White back his $9,555.28. The IRS also had to pay interest and costs.

As a newspaper wrote :
"... The courts have not yet reached the point of putting their OK on the taxing of feelings of satisfaction over a good deed performed...".

But the story doesn't end here.

It took the IRS almost 3 more months to make the actual payment to David White.

On November 19, 1949 the newspapers reported that White on Monday November 17, 1952, had received a cheque of $11,576.00 from the IRS.

The $11,576.00 covered the original $9,555.28 White paid in May 1949 and $2,021.00 in interest. $2,021.00 as about 42 months of interest on $9,555.28 amounts to about $575 pr. year which amounts to approx. 6 % interest / year.

David C. White remarked :
"I've had to fight all my life for certain principles. I regard this as another battle won in that fight".

Through the "system"

The disagreement between David C. White and the IRS began when the local IRS in Dodge City, Kansas, had altered White's own income assessment.

The case then went to Wichita ( largest city in Kansas ) for a hearing with the state IRS and was handled within the IRS "appeal system" till March 1949 where the IRS finally decided that White must pay income-tax of the gifts.

By March 1949 White delivered, in person, under protest, to the office of Lynn Brodrick, deputy collector of internal revenue, a cheque of $9,555.28 covering the extra income-tax and interests.

By May 1949 the sums involved were :
Extra income-tax - $9,037.43 or $9,037.28
Interest - $517.85
Price of one bushel was set to $2.64. When White actually sold his 1947-wheat he only got $2.04 / $2.02 pr bushel.

White declared that they would now go to the courts and sue for a refund from the IRS.

District Court in Wichita, Judge Delmas C. Hill, ruled in favor of White early 1952.

The Federal Court of Appeals, 10th circuit, in Denver, dismissed the goverments appeal in August 1952.

David C. White had finally won against the IRS and the US-Government.


David C. White had several lawyers involved in the fight with the IRS.

Locally in Dodge City he was represented by Carl Van Riber.

For the case in Wichita he was represented by Judge W.D. Jochems from Wichita, who also filed the case at the federal court.

For the court-case he retained, with the help of Drew Pearson, Randolph Paul and Associates from Washington DC with Louis Eisenstein as lead council.

Traffic accident

David C. White was at the age of 73 involved in a traffic accident on September 06, 1949 at the intersection between Kansas K17 and Kansas K96.

White was driving on K17 and allegedly failed to yield to Mr. Glen A. Smith from Hutchinson driving on K96 when entering K96 from K17. Perhaps White was more used to other kinds of "yields" - pun intended.

The case was heard in the city court of Hutchinson on Monday 12, 1949, but Judge Victor Wilson stated that White had been unable to appear in court.

The case was then postponed till Friday, September 30, 1949, were David White was acquitted because White insisted that he had obeyed the stop sign on K17. When entering the main highway, K96, he saw Smith's car too late to avoid a collision.

Apparently there was no persons injured and there was supposedly only slight damage done to the 2 cars.

It must be noted how fast the judicial system worked in 1949. The case was tried the first time within a week after the accident happened, and was concluded within the same month.

The type of accident however is, sadly, very typical, also in present time, where elderly people mis-judge the speed of other cars in the traffic, especially when entering a main road from a smaller road.

Known photographs af David C. White

Pictures are of course © the rightfull owners.
Clippings are from various newspapers.

david c white kansas friendship train gratitude train merci train
Ocotber 1940.
david c white kansas friendship train gratitude train merci train
November 1947.

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