Grande du Missouri
La Société des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux - The Society of the Forty Men and Eight Horses, an independent fraternal organization of veterans, popularly known as the Forty & Eight, was organized in 1920 by American Legionnaires as a fun and honor society.
La Société des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux is an independent, by invitation, honor organization of male and female U. S. veterans, more commonly known as the Forty & Eight. The Forty & Eight is committed to charitable and patriotic aims. Our purpose is to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, to promote the well being of veterans and their widows and orphans, and to actively participate in selected charitable endeavors, which include programs that promote child welfare and nurse's training.
Now composed of veterans of both World Wars and the Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts, it draws its origin from World War I when young Americans were sent to France to fight a war to end all wars. The narrow gauge railroads of France had boxcars (Voitures) that carried little more than half the capacity of American boxcars and these voitures were used to transport the men and horses to and from the fighting fronts.
On the side of these little boxcars was stenciled the capacity of each, holding either forty men (hommes) or eight horses (chevaux), and these voitures became the trademark of our organization.
If one could laugh at the train ride from the coast of France to the trenches crowded in these little boxcars only recently vacated by eight horses, one could surely adapt to the changes in his life when he returned home. Originally an arm of The American Legion, the Forty & Eight became an independent and separately incorporated veteran's organization in 1960. Membership in the Forty & Eight is by invitation of honorably discharged veterans and honorably serving members of the United States Armed Forces.
SAVE OUR BOXCAR
Voiture 333 Forty and Eight - 27659 Schenk Road Green Ridge, MO 65332 660-619-3557 SaveOurBoxcar@gmail.com
Sedalia, MO's Voiture 333 of the 40&8, a veterans' organization with 18 Voitures (Posts) and almost 1000 members in Missouri is conducting a fund-raising campaign to restore the French 40&8 Boxcar on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. We are asking your assistance in this effort through a donation of tickets and/or memorabilia for us to auction during the Save Our Boxcar dinner and (silent and live) auction fundraiser in the Agriculture Building on the Missouri State Fairgrounds on May 21, 2016 (Armed Forces Day). We are anticipating selling over 200 tickets for this event. Our fund-raising goal is $20,000.00. Our taxpayer ID # is 43-6068835.
We are responsible for maintaining an important piece of American and Missouri history of which most Missourians are not aware. On the Missouri State Fairgrounds sits a small narrow-gauge boxcar which was a gift to the state of Missouri and its citizens from the people of France after World War II. Drew Pearson, a prominent columnist, journalist, and nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, saw the Communists were receiving praise and gratitude in Europe for their small donations of food to the starving masses in Europe. He thought America could do better and in his broadcasts and columns on October 11, 1947, Pearson asked Americans to donate food from their homes, kitchens, gardens, and fields. Five weeks after Pearson's announcement, on November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its unprecedented odyssey across our country, beginning in Los Angeles, where there was a terrific send-off, and ending in New York City with another extraordinary celebration. Although the train traveled through only eleven states, every state contributed by sending its boxcars or trains to meet the Friendship Train at a junction or by sending trucks to the train. Many communities not on the original route insisted on giving, thereby causing delays all along the journey. In fact, the enormity of the donations plus the mountainous terrain in the West caused the train to divide, and at its end, there were three trains totaling 270 boxcars. The estimated worth was forty million dollars. In all aspects of the train's travel, no money was ever spent: the food, the transportation by rail and truck, the loading of the boxcars and trucks, the loading of the ship by the stevedores and the use of the ships was free.
Touched by the outpouring of support from America, French Railway worker and war veteran Andre Picard decided to gather a variety of French products to fill one boxcar that he could send as a thank you to the people of the United States. A local veteran’s organization took an interest in Picard’s project and the idea quickly spread. Soon the French national veteran’s organization assumed the lead role and sponsored the collection of gifts. The Gratitude Train (aka Merci Train and Train de la Reconnaissance) was the way five million people in France chose to say Merci or Thank you to their “little known” friends in America. It was a train of 49 French railroad box cars filled with tens of thousands of gifts of gratitude from at least that many individual French citizens. The Merci Train arrived February 3rd, 1949 in New York harbor on the French freighter Magellan. Each of the 48 American states at that time received one of the gift laden box cars. The 49th box car was shared by Washington D.C. and the Territory of Hawaii. The boxcar on the fairgrounds was Missouri's gift from the French people.
The boxcar arrived in Jefferson City with approximately 5200 pounds of gifts for the people of Missouri. The contents were divided up by state officials. A very few of these items are on display in the Pettis County Historical Museum. No one knows what happened to the remainder of the items. The boxcar sat in on a siding in the Missouri Pacific rail yards in Jefferson City until members of the 40&8 were able to have it moved to the Fairgrounds where it sat next to the race track for some time until it was moved to its permanent location across from the Conservation Building.
Members of Voiture 333 have maintained the boxcar over the years. It is on the property rolls of the Department of Agriculture but the organization of the 40&8 sees the historical importance of the boxcar and its meaning to the organization. The boxcar was manufactured in the United States in 1875 by the Middletown Car Company of Middletown, PA and shipped to France as part of an order of 5000 boxcars from the French National Railway. They were used in both World War I and World War II to transport men and equipment. They could hold 40 men or 8 horses or mules, thus the name 40&8 boxcar. The organization of the 40&8 began in the United States in 1922.
Over the years there have been many coats of paint added to the boxcar, so many that much of the definition of the metal has become hidden. Most of the boards are original to 1875 and are held together by the paint and little more. Some of the original plaques have been lost over the years. All this combined has led us to decide to attempt a total restoration of the boxcar. We are accepting donations of goods to be auctioned as well as cash donations.
Ernest Parker, Maj (Ret), USAF
Voiture 333, 40&8 Correspondant/Commissaire Intendant