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American Archives Month

The “Merci” Train

October 2011

curated by
Jaime Margalotti

American Archives Month raises public awareness about the importance of historic documents and records in archives and special collections.  The theme for 2011 is “I Found it in the Archives!,” highlighting discoveries of families, heritage, and treasures in each institution’s collections.

In the aftermath of WWII, many Americans participated in an effort to send food, clothing, and medical supplies to the ravaged countries of Europe.  While the support given to France and other nations is well-known, the French response to this aid is often forgotten.  In 1949, individual French citizens donated enough gifts to fill 49 boxcars, which were then shipped to the United States.  Each state received a boxcar from the “Merci Train,” with Hawaii (then a territory) and Washington, D.C., sharing one.  A selection of the gifts from Delaware’s boxcar were given directly to the University.  These included “three manuscripts, beautifully bound copies of literary or artistic works, a history of France in a very limited edition, two small framed paintings, musical scores, silver coins, cancelled paper currency and certain insignia of the Resistance forces.” The University of Delaware’s student newspaper, The Review, indicated that the gifts would be put on display in the University Library on February 18, 1949. 

Over time the whereabouts of many of the “Merci Train” gifts have been lost, but three of Delaware’s gifts remain in the holdings of the University of Delaware Library’s Special Collections Department (MSS 440).  On display are three manuscripts of local history and geography produced by A. Carriere of Millau, Aveyron, France, as well as a letter expressing the thanks of the author and the people of that region. 

1.  “Les Brigands de Millau” by A. Carriere, 1936
Manuscript addresses French history during the Revolution.

2.  “Monographie de la terre & commune de Saint-Léons:  patrie de J. H. Fabre” by A. Carriere, 1936
Manuscript discusses the geography and cultural history of the city of Saint-Léons.  It contains sections on local government and agriculture as well as many hand-drawn illustrations and maps of the area.

3. “Les Gorges de la Jonte” by A. Carriere, 1948
Manuscript of regional history with hand-drawn illustrations and maps.

4.  Letter written by A. Carriere, November 8, 1948

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