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USA : The Merci Box car in Michigan

Updated : April 17, 2015

"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 - Other information - The gifts - My photos

Main sources :

→ →, where you can see some photos from the restoration.

40-and-8 Society in Michigan.

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

When researching the "Merci Train" it is important to distinguish between :
  • The single boxcar given to a state.
  • The "Merci Train" as a name for the 49 boxcars.
  • The "Merci Train" as the name for the transport of the boxcars to each individual state.
  • The contents - gifts - that were in each boxcar.
  • The fact that "The 40 & 8 Society's" made 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" - "merci / gratitude car" - "merci / gratitude / French boxcar".

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

Since the newspapers in Michigan are generally not "online" and are not represented in "Google Newspapers" it is difficult to get information about the Michigan boxcar. This page is therefore constantly being updated when new information is found.

The Michigan boxcar

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

  • Saturday, February 12, 1949.
    Transported on the western section of the "Merci Train" to arrive in Lansing, Capital of Michigan, on February 12, 1949.
There apparently was some local political dis-agreement in Michigan regarding the boxcar.

Ownership of the boxcar transfered to "The Forty & Eight Society" on September 7, 1949.

On display at various fairs, exhibitions from 1949 - ?; i.e. the annual Coast Guard Festival parade in Grand Haven.

When the boxcar was not wanted anymore for displays it was placed on the "The Forty & Eight Society" grounds and was basically left to deterioate.

Restoration took place from 2002 to 2006.

Currently (2014) on display at → "The Forty & Eight Society", 2949 S. Waverly Highway, Lansing, Michigan 48911.

Details about the Michigan boxcar

See also my own photos below

It is worth noting that the wheels / axles / wheel bearings were removed soon after the boxcar arrived in Lansing. This can be seen from an early photo :

michigan merci train boxcar
Original : →

Reason for this is not clear, but one explanation would be that it would have made the transportation of the boxcar easier.

The boxcar was transported to Lansing on US flatcars, since the French couplers and brake system were not compatible with the American couplers and brake system..

The boxcar was taken on tour to various cities in Michigan on a truck trailer. Apparently it was easier to transport a "box" than a "box on wheels".

On the photo you can also see all the original coat-of-arms and shields that were on the "Merci Train" boxcars.

The Michigan box-car is painted red, which is not the original color - being "dark slate-grey". All coat-of-arms and signs and other shields are re-productions, but of good quality.

The banners "Gratitude Train" - "Train de la reconnaissance Francaise" are very well made.

The "Eagle" shield is not bad either. The "PLM" and "Hommes 40" shields are worn and should have been painted on.

Details about the restoration can be read on the second-last picture.

Other information about the Michigan boxcar

There are a few articles on the internet about the Michigan boxcar :

From & © : → - ( at bottom of page )

( Text written before 2002 )
"Decorated with the colorful shields of French provinces and filled with thank-you gifts, this French Merci 40 et 8 boxcar arrived in Lansing, Michigan, on February 12, 1949.

Forty-nine such cars were shipped to the United States by the French people in gratitude for a "Friendship Train" of food and other goods sent to their war-torn country by the American people in 1947. (The "40 et 8" refers to the capacity of the boxcar to carry 40 men or 8 horses.)

The boxcar was taken to Southern Michigan prison in Jackson, where it was opened on April 11.

The disposition of the boxcar had been delayed while a committee of state government and museum representatives decided its fate. Its contents were unpacked and inventoried, then prison inmates prepared the boxcar to become a traveling museum for a selection of its contents.

Other contents were distributed to named parties where indicated (e.g., items in box 38 were marked for the Archbishop of Detroit; a painting, for Kalamazoo) and to appropriate depositories (e.g., books to the Library of Michigan, seeds to Michigan State College).

Some artifacts (such as the doll and medal exhibited in Thanks for the Memories) are held in the collections of the Michigan Historical Museum.

The Michigan 40 et 8 chapter of the American Legion provided the truck trailer assembly so that the boxcar could be hauled around the state.

It also took on the responsibility of maintaining and displaying the boxcar.

However, over the years the boxcar fell into disrepair. The 40 et 8 chapter is looking to reconstruct the boxcar on its original frame.

Two brief news items about the boxcar appeared in "Michigan News," a Michigan History Magazine column, in December 1949 (Vol. 33). These items are reprinted below."

From & © : → - ( at bottom of page )

From : "Michigan News," a Michigan History Magazine column, in December 1949 (Vol. 33)

"... ON GOVERNOR'S DAY AT THE STATE FAIR, September 7, 1949, Governor G. Mennen Williams turned the French Merci boxcar over to the Grand Voiture of the Michigan 40 and 8 for exhibition throughout the state.

Attending the ceremony at the State Fairgrounds in Detroit were Mr. Donat A. Gauthier, French consul at Detroit; Governor G. Mennen Williams; his executive assistant, Mr. Lawrence L. Farrell; Mr. Chester W. Ellison, a member of the Michigan Historical Commission; Dr. Lewis Beeson, secretary of the Historical Commission; Mr. C. J. Sherman, director of the Historical Museum in Lansing; Mr. Charles Figy, director of agriculture; Mr. James Friel, manager of the State Fair; and representing the 40 and 8 organization were Messrs. Carleton L. Seaman, grand chef de gare; Joseph Heath, chairman of the Merci boxcar committee; Karl S. Warner; Andrew Stark; Thomas F. Harrison; Harold Riley; and Emanuel Christensen, vice-commander of the American Legion, Department of Michigan.

Under an agreement entered into by a committee of state officials headed by Dr. Beeson the Grand Voiture of the 40 and 8 have agreed to make the French Merci boxcar available to Michigan communities who officially request that it be exhibited on the understanding that the community requesting the boxcar may be requested to pay the reasonable cost of transportation and furnish adequate protection while the boxcar is on exhibition.

Since its arrival in Michigan January, 1949, the boxcar has been carefully repaired and equipped with display cases and lighting by the committee appointed by the governor.

This committee consists of Dr. Lewis Beeson, chairman; Mr. Charles Figy; Mrs. Loleta Fyan; Mr. Earnest C. Brooks; and Mr. Norman E. Borgerson.

The Michigan 40 and 8 furnished the truck trailer assembly on which the boxcar is transported.

Material in the boxcar was carefully inventoried by a committee consisting of Mr. C. J. Sherman; Mr. Henry D. Brown, director of the Detroit Historical Museum; Miss Margaret Brayton, director of the Children's Museum, Detroit; Mr. Alexis A. Praus, director of the Kalamazoo Public Museum; and Mr. Frank L. DuMond; director of the Grand Rapids Museum.

Gifts which were suitable for exhibition in the car were selected and placed on display for the first time at the State Fair.

Other gifts which lent themselves to a traveling exhibit were selected and are available for exhibition in museums and elsewhere throughout the state.

The first display of the traveling exhibit was at Kalamazoo where the Kalamazoo Public Museum had it for its feature exhibit during the month of June.

Following the Kalamazoo showing the traveling exhibit was on display at Grand Rapids.

The same material was shown at the Upper Peninsula State Fair at Escanaba, August 16 to 21. At the Upper Peninsula State Fair 40,000 people saw the exhibit.

The Merci boxcar exhibit itself at the State Fair attracted an unusual amount of interest. Crowds were lined up continuously to see the display within the boxcar.

Since its showing at the fair the boxcar has been on display elsewhere in Detroit and was exhibited in Lansing, October 28 and 29, in connection with the seventy-fifth annual meeting of the Historical Society of Michigan

(pp. 364-365). ..."

From & & © : → - ( at bottom of page )

From : "Michigan News," a Michigan History Magazine column, in December 1949 (Vol. 33)

"... THE TRAVELING EXHIBIT OF GIFTS from the French Merci boxcar was taken by Mr. C. J. Sherman, director of the Michigan Historical Museum, to Escanaba for the Upper Peninsula State Fair, August 16 to 21.

The exhibit was arranged for by the Delta County Historical Society. They secured space for the exhibit in the exhibition building on the fairgrounds.

This was the first showing of the French gifts on the Upper Peninsula.

Comments of the 40,000 people seeing the exhibit were interesting:

"I wondered what had happened to the boxcar. I was in Lansing when it arrived."
"I'm glad that I saw your sign out front and came in."
"This is something to see. They're beautiful!"
"Would I like to have those pins."
"Look how pretty the faces on the little dolls are."

Mr. Ernest Tibergien, stopping to look at the portrait of General Foch, said "Why, isn't that a coincidence." Mr. Tibergien went on to explain. "The donor's card here below the portrait says 'Mons. Alfred Creinaud, 22 Rue Lemercier, Paris.'

Twenty-six years ago I lived next door at 28 Rue Lemercier. At the end of World War I, I came to the United States."

Mr. Tibergien's home is in Gladstone where he is employed as an engineer for the Marble Arms Company.

After her husband's discovery Mrs. Tibergien copied down the names and addresses of other donors and said that she wanted to write and let them know that she and Mr. Tibergien had seen and appreciated their gifts.

(pp. 368-369). ..."

Article from → " Michigan History Magazine", page 58-59, volume, 20XX

michigan history magazine michigan history magazine
Originals & © :

The gifts from the Michigan boxcar

To be researched.

My photos of the "Merci Train" box car in Michigan

Location :
The Forty & Eight Society, 2949 S. Waverly Highway, Lansing, Michigan.

You can download my Google Earth kmz-file with the positions of all the remaining 43 boxcars.

Click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar
Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar
Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar
Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar
Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar
Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar
Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar Michigan Gratitude Merci Train boxcar

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