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The Friendship Train in Minnesota
by Dorothy R. Scheele

The Friendship Train, one of America’s greatest contributions to mankind, exploded into American life in November 1947.  Leaving from Los Angeles on November 7, the train reached New York 11 days later.  Its purpose: to collect food for the famished people of France and Italy.  All aspects of the Friendship Train were gratis, from the food itself, rail transportation, unloading the freight cars and reloading of the ships, trans-Atlantic shipping, and the myriad other jobs demanded by such a colossal endeavor.

Although the FT traveled through only 11 states, every state contributed to it.  Minnesota’s donation consisted of four boxcars of grain and staples.  Originally, the North Star state had promised two boxcars, and the American Veterans Committee suggested five would be the number.  Four became the final figure.

The American Veterans Committee sponsored the food drive, along with the help of other organizations, such as the Minnesota Council of Churches in St. Paul and the Minnesota Twin City Wholesale Grocery Company.  Gov. Luther Youngdahl exhorted the citizens to be unstintingly generous.  The press and radio stations urged generosity also as did hundreds of grocers who helped with collections and donations.  The total amount of funds collected was $1,652.

The state’s ethos regarding the FT is conveyed in an article on page one, November 28, in the Minneapolis Star written by two members of the American Veterans: Paul C. Howard, chairman, Friendship Train committee, American Veterans committee, Minneapolis chapter No. 1, Warren Christianson, chairman, Friendship Train committee American Veterans committee, University chapter.  Paul C. Howard, Chairman, Friendship Train committee, American Veterans committee; Minneapolis chapter No. 1, Warren Christianson chairman, Friendship Train committee University.

“We believe that the Friendship Train is a symbol of the desires of people throughout America to share and help towards the goal of permanent peace.  As veterans, we feel that our contribution to the Friendship Train idea is not only a matter of sharing but a repayment of the kindness and help given by the people throughout Western Europe.”  
On November 12 three freight cars, filled almost entirely by the residents of the Twin Cities, set off for Chicago.   A fourth car which had been filled by farmers in the northwestern section of the state arrived in Chicago that same day.  Hallock, Kittson County, with a population of approximately 1,350, was the center for the contents of this carload of wheat in that county.  The food drive had been sponsored by the Protestant churches.  Other contributors were General Mills, 1,500 pounds of flour; the International Milling Company 1,400 pounds; and the Russell Miller Milling Company donated an undetermined amount.  Idaho had also contributed 2,000 bushels of wheat. 

Among the citizens who served in the Minnesota campaign to collect for the FT were Paul C. Howard and Warren Christianson, co-chairs of the FT committee; A. N. Satterlee, chairman of the Minnesota Food Conservation committee; American Veterans committee, Minneapolis Chapter 1; and the  University Chapter of the American Veterans.

As in countless cities across the country, a send-off ceremony celebrated the departure of their Friendship Trains.  Minnesota’s celebration occurred on the day before the boxcars chugged toward Chicago.   Gov. Youngdahl, Mayors Hubert Humphrey and John Donough were among the officials present. 

Only two area of the North Star state contributed to the FT.   A request of 15 historical societies asking for information about the Train brought no results.  All replies stated that their records had no mention of it.   Nonetheless, MN created a laudatory contribution.   In the words of Dr. Howard Wiley the state had evinced humanity’s most noble feelings:  “.  .  . the concern of men for their brothers.”


“Three Food Cars Rolling Toward Friendship Train” Minneapolis Star Nov. 12, 1947: 1.
 “Five Boxcars of Food to Leave Twin Cities on Friendship Train” Minneapolis Star Nov. 10, 1947: 1.
“State Pledges 2 Cars of Food” Minneapolis Star Nov. 7, 1947: 1

The author welcomes any additional information which would add to this state's history.

The Friendship Train was the genesis for the French Merci Train. Website has information about that train.

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