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French Gratitude Train photographs

 Collection — Folder: SP139
Identifier: SP139

Scope and Contents

This collection includes black-and-white photographs of the French Gratitude Train in 1949 in New York City and the United States, depicting gifts from France and Italy to the United States including art and replicas of artwork, historical fashion, and historical artifacts, as well as scenes parades, speeches, and gifts as they were removed from a train car.


  • 1949

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Historical Note

In 1947, the people of war-torn France and Italy were starving post-World War II, so Americans collected foodstuffs and other supplies from local communities across the country to send to their struggling former allies. The original train departed Los Angeles, California on November 7, 1947, traveled across the U.S. collecting cars of donations on the way and reached New York 11 days later with almost 300 boxcars. Other trains from different regions followed, eventually totaling over 700 boxcars worth about $40 million in goods when they all reached New York. The supplies reached France on December 18, 1947.

In 1949, the French sent a response to express their gratitude to the American people in the form of the Merci Train, also known as the French Gratitude Train. Composed of 49 cars and filled with "gifts of gratitude," the train arrived in New York City by ship on February 3, 1949, and was divided amongst the 48 states with the remaining car to be shared by the District of Columbia and Hawaii. The gifts included original and reproduced paintings, sculptures, ornamental objects, fashion, and historical artifacts, as well as dolls, furniture, clothing, and flags. Each boxcar contained 5 tons of gifts donated by private French and Italian citizens. Some items, including the decorated boxcars, ended up in museums and memorials, while other items were distributed to American citizens themselves.


Mitchell, Dawn. "After World War II, the Merci Train brought heartfelt thank-you gifts from France to Indiana." IndyStar, September 28, 2018. Accessed November 30, 2021.

Pearson, Drew. "The Second Big Friendship Train Is Rolling." Ventura County Star (CA), November 21, 1947. Accessed November 30, 2021.

Wikipedia. "Friendship Train." Accessed November 30, 2021.

Wikipedia. "Merci Train." Accessed November 30, 2021.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by subject.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2021/12/01 by Brittany Kropf. EAD finding aid created 2021/12/01 by Brittany Kropf.
French Gratitude Train photographs
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.