PHOENIX – Such gratitude filled the French people toward the U.S. after World War II that in 1949 the French people sent the Merci Train to the U.S. filled with gifts for the American people. Artifacts from the train can be seen at the Arizona Capitol Museum inside the historic state capitol.
The Merci Train carried many various expressions of gratitude; from many painted and sculpted works of art, china, fashion, posters and written letters. Many letters contained references to the assistance provided by the U.S. during both World Wars I and II. The box car is still intact and can be seen at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale. A selection of items from the train appears in the “From Friendship to Gratitude – The Merci Train Collection” exhibit in the AZCM.
Recently added to the exhibit are intricately engraved shell casings left behind in the aftermath of World War I, called Trench Art. It’s easy to imagine soldiers battering away at their spent shells, but the battering did not happen in the trenches as the sound would be heard by the enemy. Active duty soldiers were not the only artisans to create Trench Art, civilians, prisoners of war, or convalescing soldiers also created works. The artist, or artists, for the shells in the AZCM collection are unknown.
Also added to the exhibit are high-quality, reproduced posters featuring the charm of France. The posters show great artistry depicting the French countryside of Val de Loire and Provence, the beaches of Côte d'Azur, known as the French Riviera, and more. The posters are available for viewing in the museum and online as part of the AZCM’s collection on the Arizona Memory Project.
Reprints of the posters are available for purchase at the Arizona Capitol Museum Store, or online at www.azcapitolgifts.com.
The AZCM is located at 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix inside the historic state capitol. Its hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking are free. For more information about AZCM exhibits, or to schedule a tour, go online to www.azlibrary.gov/azcm or call 602-926-3620.
The AZCM is a branch of the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State.