|Travel to France, via Carson City with Nevada State Museum’s newest exhibit|
In 1947, Americans filled 700 railroad boxcars, dubbed The Friendship Train, with food, clothing and fuel to assist the struggling, post-WWII people of France. In response, French people collected and sent thank you gifts back to the United States on The Merci Train, with one boxcar designated for each state. Included were 21 French travel posters now on display for the first time ever at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City in an exhibit called “Gifts of Healing: French Travel Posters 1945-1949.” The Nevada Merci Train boxcar is on permanent display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.
The new exhibit features artwork carried aboard the train in February 1949. Research indicates that all states received a set of posters, yet only three appear to have retained possession of their collection and Nevada will be the only state to exhibit them. Staff from the Nevada State Museum and Nevada State Archives restored the posters for the exhibit, generously sponsored by Hazel Woodgate and the John and Grace Naumann Foundation.
“These wonderful pieces give a glimpse of French life after the war and so much more. They really help us to see and feel what they were going through and how much they were willing to sacrifice to show their thanks for American support,” said Sue Ann Monteleone, Nevada State Museum registrar. “The posters beautifully represent many French regions, and the artifacts include a wedding dress from Lyon and several heartrending pieces from the museum’s collection of gifts from French citizens.”
The Merci Train carried 49 boxcars filled with tokens and treasures from the French provinces, one boxcar for each state and one to be shared between Hawaii and Washington, D.C. More than 50,000 items were given by French people. The bulk of the gifts were works of art including paintings, folk art, sculptures, ceramics and trench art made from artillery shells used in WW I. Children sent their prized possessions and families sent war medals of their lost relatives.
The Nevada State Museum is one of seven managed by the state Division of Museums and History, an agency of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. The museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at 600 N. Carson St. Admission is $8 for adults and free for museum members and children 17 and under.