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USA : The Merci Box-car in New York ( State )
Updated : April 19, 2015
Main sources :
Most of the information below has been collected from old newspaper articles. [ Caution : 80+ MB content ].
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" - "car" - "boxcar" - "french".
Known missing facts are shown with "_____" or a " ? ".
New York state counties - A lesson in geograhy
Dutchess County - Poughkeepsie
Oneida County - Utica, Rome
Onondaga County - Syracuse
Ulster County - ( Poughkeepsie )
Oswego County - Rail City Museum
The New York state boxcar
The boxcar was supposed to be delivered to the capitol of each state; in New York state it would have been Albany, but it doesn't appear that the New York box-car was ever in Albany.
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.
New York state welcome committee
Created by Governor Thomas E. Dewey.
Appointed by Governor Thomas E. Dewey to the welcome committee :
- Charles W. Hall, Utica banker.
- E.A. O´Hara, Syracuse, publisher of the Syracuse Herald-Journal.
- William H. Hill, publisher of the Binghamton Sun.
- Dr. Albert Fitzell, Oneonta.
- John F. O´Rourke, New York City.
Wednesday, February 02.
- Loaded off the "Magellan" at the Weehawken docks, Erie Railroad Pier North H, New Jersey, and ferried across the Hudson river on a barge / lighter to "the Battery".
- Placed on a 20-ton army / air-force truck-trailer.
- Stayed in the park for the night with Police guards.
Thursday, February 03.
- Broadway ticker-tape parade.
From "Battery Park" to "City Hall" ( 10 blocks ). Started at lunch-time / noon. Parade started at lunch-time, giving office-workers the opportunity to watch and enjoy the parade
Parade led by 150 mounted New York City policemen.
In the vanguard of the parade was Mr. Perraud, ( born in Rome, Oneida County ), who carried the torch lighted at the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris. Bronze torch ( transported on the "De Grasse" - arrived February 03 in New York ).
Cars with French and US dignitaries. Some French officials arrived on the De Grasse. Others arrived by plane.
Massed colors ( parade of flags ) followed the vanguard. Oneida County 40&8 William J. Spargo was right guard, Robert P. McAdam was left guard. The county's 40&8 colors were carried by William Weller, and the county's locomotive and box-car driven by William R. Harper.
Members from Ulster County Voiture 381, 40&8 society, took part in the parade :
- Walter J. Miller - Kingston - "grand conducteur"
- J. Chris Schue - White Plains - "grand chef de gare of Grande Voiture de New York state"
- Meyer Kaplan - Kingston - "grand cheminot"
- Thomas Bohan - Ulster Park - "chef de train"
- Wesley J. O´Brian - Woodstock - "chef de gare passe"
- Joe Kelly - Kingston - "publiciste"
"40 et 8 Society" from Rome, Oneida County, took part, with 15 members, in the parade on February 3, 1949, celebrating the "New York" boxcar from the "Merci Train" with their "40 et 8" float-locomotive and float-boxcar, under the direction of William J. Spargo, "grand chiminot" for New York 5th American Legion District
New Yorks "Merci Train" boxcar transported on a 20-ton army / air-force truck-trailer.
First auto: Mr. Grover A. Whalen - "official greeter" of New York city, Henri Bonnet - French ambassador to the USA, Ludovic Chancel - French consul-general in New York.
Bronze torch ( transported on the "De Grasse" - arrived February 03 in New York ) carried in parade by a guard of honor.
Army, Navy, Marine & Coast Guard marching units, bands, French boy scouts, French girl scouts and other 40&8 units from the American Legion participated in the parade.
- Reception at City Hall.
French ambassador officially presents the "Merci Train" box-car to the Mayor of New York City.
New York committee for distribution of the gifts
Governor Thomas E. Dewey's state committee for distribution of the gifts in the New York box-car.
- Elmer Bowen member of committee.
- Committee meeting held noon on Friday 18, 1949 in New York City.
The committees that were involved with the "Friendship Train" will take an active part in the distribution all over New York state.
The committee disagreed about the distribution of the gifts. Basically it was between "New York City" and the smaller communities all over New York state. These smaller communities had, comparatively it their size, contributed significantly to the "Friendship Train", and therefore felt that they should received gifts accordingly.
This aspect is currently researched.
Mayor O´Dwyer presented to Drew Pearson the city's certificate for "distinguished and exceptional service" for originating the idea of the "Friendship Train".
Louis H. van Slyke, chaiman of Friendship Train committee, from the welcome committee on behalf Governor Thomas E. Dewey.
Exchange of greetings by short-wave radio between Pierre Brig-ea , French boy from Paris, and 17-year-old Ruth Nathanson ( 87-03 150th street, Jamaica, Queens ) from Forest Hills High School, senior class.
Speech in French by Ruth Nathanson.
Also attending was Port Washington girl scouts under the leadership of Mrs. Frank Schulz.
Borough President Burke was represented by Borough Works Commissioner Maurice FitzGerald.
N.Y. state Governor Dewey was represented by State Attorney-General Nathaniel Goldstein.
The men from 40&8 Societies were angered by the fact that New York Mayor O'Dwyer and Grover Whalen ignored the 40&8'ers during the reception at city hall. The 40&8 society was never mentioned by name.
The many 40&8 membes who came a long way, as far away as Indianapolis and Detroit, were also never mentioned. Instead the term "members of the Veterans of foreign wars" was used.
Mayor O'Dwyer also forgot / or stayed away from the American Legion luncheon at the St. George.
- Official reception / luncheon at the "Waldorf-Astoria" hotel.
Given by New York City Mayor Willian O´Dwyer's special welcome committe, headed by Grover Whalen, for French ambassador Henri Bonnet and other French and US officials.
- After the ceremony at City Hall.
After the ceremony New York's "Merci Train" box-car was taken to the "Old Board of Education" building at "500 Park Avenue, Manhatten".
The box-car was un-packed and the gifts were put on display for the general public to see.
Contents of the New York box-car from the "Merci Train" is being recorded by Dr. Carles F. Gosnell - state librarian.
Gifts to New York State received officially in New York City by Attorney General Goldstein.
- February 08, 1949 from 02:00 PM.
Gifts were on display at the "Old Board of Education" building at "500 Fifth Avenue, Manhatten".
Exhibition was open daily from 11:00 AM to midnight till Friday 18, 1949.
Box-car was transported from New York City to Poughkeepsie.
Ownership of the New York boxcar from the "Merci Train" was handed over to the "Dutchess county 40&8 Society - Voiture #502", at a ceremony in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Saturday, March 08, 1949.
The box-car was placed at the "Empire Market lot" on New Market street, but a more permanent location, "_____", was to be selected later.
1949 - 1956
Sometime during 1949 - 1956 the ownership of the box-car was transfered to the 40&8 "Onondaga County Voiture #359".
The New York boxcar on display in Clinton Square, downtown Syracuse, N.Y. - Summer 1956
© : http://www.railcitymuseum.com & Stanley A. Groman.
[ http://www.railcitymuseum.com/RAIL_CITY_v_12_02_2012/40__8_Merci_Train_Box_Car/IMAG022.GIF ]
The box-car was loaned to the Rail City Museum, Sandy Creek, Oswego County, N.Y. 13145, where it was on display for 18 years, from _____ to _______ .
During that time it was also used as advertising for the Rail City Museum and placed i.e. in Syracuse.
Owner of the boxcar, when it was at Rail City Museum, was "Onondaga County 40&8 Society - Voiture #359", and no longer the "Dutchess county 40&8 Society - Voiture #502".
From the photograph It can be seen that the name of the previous county ( = "Dutchess" ) has been painted over.
From this photograph :
© : www.mercitrain.org/NewYork/
taken on July 22, 1997, ( according to the date-stamp on the photograph ), it is clear that the box-car in 1997 had been painted in a red'ish color, but was very well kept.
It seems that the box-car on the photograph is at the "Oneida County 40&8 - Voiture 92" and the ownership therefore by 1997 must have been transfered to the "Oneida County 40&8 - Voiture 92".
1997 - 2010
Restauration of the box-car. Re-painted in grey. Protective shelter built.
A ramp to the back side-door was built around November 2010 according to photos on the "Oneida County 40&8 - Voiture 92" Facebook-page.
Today ( 2014 ) it is the "Oneida County 40&8 - Voiture 92" that takes care of the New York box-car.
Oneida County 40&8 can be found on Facebook where you can see recent pictures of the "40&8" locomotive and the Merci-Box-Car.
Official adress : 5163 Judd Rd, 13492 Whitesboro, N.Y.
The box-car is now ( 2014 ) placed under a roof with all 4 sides open.
New York City today
In New York city you can still find a small reminder of the "Merci Train" parade.
In 2003 on the side-walks on Broadway the "Downtown Alliance" began installing commemorative markers celebrating every ticker-tape parade on Broadway.
The "Merci Train" also has its commemorative marker :
© : www.benoithenry.fr
My photos of the Merci box car in New York
Location : 40 & 8 Voiture # 92, Corner of Judd & Halsey Roads, Whitesboro (Utica), New York.
You can download my Google Earth kmz-file with the positions of all the remaining 43 boxcars.
The New York box-car is one of the best kept box-cars, and the only one, I have seen, with 2 lanterns.
Presumably the lanterns are rear lanterns, which both would have been placed at the rear of the last car in the train. The car is displayed with a lantern at each end of the car.
The coat-of-arms are very well done, but there are some very strange spelling of the names of the French regions.
Click on a photograph to enlarge it.