In 1947, newspaper columnist Drew Pearson spearheaded a national effort to assist the French people who were struggling to recover from World War II. His effort resulted in the American Friendship Train, a gift of more than 700 railroad cars of food and clothing.
Fort Worth contributed 19 of the 46 cars sent from Texas — 15 donated by the Amon Carter Foundation and four collected through the efforts of the Lions Club. To express their thanks, the French people sent the French Gratitude Train, often called the Merci Train, to the United States in 1949. It comprised 49 wooden “40 and 8” boxcars filled with gifts ranging from a Louis XV carriage to children’s drawings.
The car destined for Texas was officially welcomed to the state in Fort Worth on Feb. 14, 1949. Lifted by crane to a trailer, the boxcar was on display in front of the Hotel Texas for the welcome ceremony, and was then moved to the Santa Fe station for public viewing on Feb. 15. The Texas car traveled on to Austin where it was unsealed and its contents revealed.
This photo shows the Texas Merci Train boxcar upon its arrival in Fort Worth. The car is decorated with 42 plaques representing those French departments and provinces that contributed contents to the Texas car. The Texas Merci Train boxcar resides at the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin.
The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries offers a rich and diverse collection of materials on the history of Texas and the Southwest. Each week, readers of Time Frames get a glimpse of the past with an image from Special Collections. 817-272-3393; library.uta.edu/special-collections.