The Friendship Train of 1947
Learning about the Friendship Train of 1947
My husband and I were both teenagers when the Friendship Train traveled across America back in 1947, and neither one of us remembers hearing anything about it. My interest was peaked when I watched a short TV documentary about the Train and was surprised that I had no recall of it. I asked my husband and he did not recall it either, which is really surprising as he is a history buff, especially about World War II. After searching for information, I came across an article that stated few people knew of this small piece of American history so we were not the only ones.
My next order of business was to look up "Friendship Train" on the internet and there were many articles/websites pertaining to it. To my surprise, an article from the newspaper in Ames, Iowa popped up and stated that Iowa was one of the biggest contributing states to the train. Since my husband and I are both from Iowa, we were delighted to hear that, and definitely surprised that we were so ignorant about it since the train probably went right through a town where I lived and where my husband lived nearby. For further information, check the following link: www.ameshistoricalsociety.org and then do a site search for "Friendship Train."
Inspiration of DrewPearson
The Friendship Train was the inspiration of Drew Pearson, a noted Washington newspaperman. While in Europe, Pearson heard about the Communists donating a few carloads of grain and how everybody was making such a "big deal" about it. This angered him as he had no love for Communism or Communists. He felt that Americans, if challenged, would respond to a plea to collect food from America's homes, gardens and fields and that this collection could far surpass anything the Communists had done. In his radio broadcasts and newspaper columns on October 11, 1947, Pearson pleaded with all Americans to open up their hearts and hands to help starving people in Europe.
The Friendship Train started its historic journey with much fanfare in Los Angeles and ended in New York with just as great a response and celebration. The Train itself only traveled through eleven of the forty-eight states, but every state sent boxcars, semis, or trains to delivery points along the route, thereby causing delays. What started out as one train, ended up to be three, with a total of 700 boxcars, and a value of over $40,000,000. These boxcars contained not only food, but also medicine, fuel and clothing as well.
More Interesting Information
To make this effort all the more outstanding it should be noted that everything was "free." Not one cent was spent for transportation, the loading of he boxcars, the loading of the ships, along with the use of the ship.
Since my husband and I have lived in Iowa all of our adult lives, we were especially interested in the article we found about the stop this Friendship Train made in Ames, Iowa on November 13, 1947. Over 5,000 people came to the railroad to greet the train. They had set their goal for collection at $10,000 (products or money) but far surpassed that after everything was totaled up. One big push in Ames was for evaporated milk, which was collected by school children of all ages. After all donations were added up, Iowans donated more than $100,000 worth of food, which was the largest donation by any state to date.
One Story of Note
An interesting story that came out of Iowa was about a group of children in Ames who published a small newspaper called "Westend News." The week the Friendship Train came to town the children decided to charge two cents for their paper instead of one cent (the regular price) and the increase was donated to the train.
Arrival in New York
The first section of the train reached New York on November 17, 1947 and two more sections came from the north and the south. The donations from all Americans were then loaded on a ship and that ship arrived in France on December 18, 1947.
For much more information and stories about the Friendship Train, go to the following websites: www.ameshistoricalsociety.org/exhibits/events/friendship_train; www.thefriendshiptrain1947.org. You will find many interesting facts that will make you extremely proud of America and its citizens. And you will read about the distribution of the food, etc. to the starving people of France and Italy, as well as a fire that was deliberately set and destroyed some of the donations.
You can also purchase a book through Amazon.com about the Friendship Train. To me this is a very fascinating story about a time after World War II and the generosity of the American people that has never been widely recognized or acknowledged.