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The 1947 Friendship Train in New York
by Dorothy R. Scheele

Although the Friendship Train stopped in only five New York cities, communities from all over the state contributed.

On a cold Sunday evening in Buffalo the Friendship Train made its first stop in the Empire State. The date was November 16, 1947. The train rolled in at the New York Central siding opposite Lindberg Drive. Native son Henry Kaiser of the Kaiser Frazer Corporation was the honorary conductor. Three thousand impassioned people participated in the festivities. Richard W. Michaels was master of ceremonies. An American Legion Band played, and Boy Scouts, displaying flags from the United Nations, massed around the speakers platform.

Mayor Dowd and George R. Bennett, local chair of the Friendship Train committee, spoke, noting their appreciation of all the donated food. The citizens of western New York had reason to be excited and proud: originally hoping to fill seven boxcars, the final tally was 13. That they were so successful is not surprising since nearly every person, business, and civic club worked to collect as much food as they possibly could. Buffalo locals of railroad brotherhoods donated their labor for the entire New York run.

The Friendship Train arrived in Syracuse on the morning of November 17th. A parade, led by Mayor Frank J. Costello, accompanied by Syracuse citizens and residents of central New York, walked to the New York Central Station where an astonishing number of 1500 people waited.

Syracuse's goal was one carload of flour. Civic organizations placed collection boxes all around the city, and B'Nai Brith sent more than 500 letters to its members, encouraging them to donate. The community of Liverpool conducted a house-to-house campaign to ensure that Syracuse would meet its goal, which it did.

Later the same day, the train stopped in Utica. Mayor Golder of Utica, mayors from nearby communities, and the local populace marched to greet the train at Union Station. The walk started with the music of the French and Italian national anthems played by a sound truck.

Donations came from myriad sources. The people of Utica and Rome had contributed $7,821 and $7400 respectively. The 12,000 residents of the village of Friendship and Alleghany County donated $575. Three religious institutions of Mohawk College: the Hillel Foundation, the Student Christian Fellowship, and the Newman Club donated approximately $500.

Various services contributed to the food drive. Daniel Laino lent two ten-ton trucks to collect the food, and the employees of the Public Works Department loaded the trucks.

In Albany on a cold evening 300 shivering people waited for the train's arrival. Speaking at the welcoming festivities, Mayor Corning praised the tremendous response the people of Albany gave to the Friendship Train and noted that their generosity was just another indication of the spirit of the people of the city. To emphasize their commitment to the train, the Sons of Italy had given a testimonial dinner to the Italian Consul, and Mayor Corning, upon his arrival in New York City, hosted the French Consul Chancel.

Albany's service clubs added a carload of strained baby food as did the Beech-Nut Packing Company of Canajoharie. The Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Boy Scouts helped load the boxcars which had slogans "Food for Friends from Albany, New York."

Some of the other nearby cities adding their contributions in Albany were Troy, Middletown, Poughkeepsie, Plattsburgh, Menands, Coeymands, and Ravena. Rochester's freight cars were on the siding waiting to be connected to the train. Schenectady's boxcar, valued at $2,500, joined the train in Albany. Yonkers contributed approximately 25,000 pounds of beef. The triple cities of Binghamton, Endicott, and Johnson City along with Windsor and Vestal collected well over $1,000.

Among individual businesses which donated to the Friendship Train were the National Association of House Dress Manufacturers, which donated a carload of dresses, and 10,000 Rexall druggists who donated 16 tons of vitamins, antiseptics, and surgical preparations. The Bronx Medical Society collected over a million vitamin pills from physicians and drug companies.

In New York City an estimated one million impassioned people lined lower Broadway, and an estimated 25,000 were at City Hall, all eager to share in this once-in-a-lifetime event. Several thousand school children, released by the school district, also were there to witness the parade which left from the Battery and continued to City Hall. Later that day a second parade, complete with trucks, bands, officials, and other dignitaries marched up Broadway.

Estimates of the total number of cars New York City donated varies. A spokesman for the food train committee surmised about 26 carloads. Drew Pearson predicted that when all the trains were in, the number would be between 30 and 40.

Communities and cities were not the only contributors to the train. Among individual businesses which donated to the Friendship Train were the National Association of House Dress Manufacturers, which donated a carload of dresses, and 10,000 Rexall druggists who donated 16 tons of vitamins, antiseptics, and surgical preparations. The Bronx Medical Society collected over a million vitamin pills from physicians and drug companies.

From New York City the food was loaded onto the ships which would carry the vitally needed nourishment across the Atlantic to France and Italy.

List of Works Consulted

“$40,000 Collected To Add 12 Cars To Friendship Train” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 15, 1947: 3.
“2 Tons of Macaroni Given Friendship Train by Italians” Times Union [Albany] Nov. 13, 1947: 17.
“3 Carloads Ready for Food Train” Utica Observer-Dispatch. Nov. 17, 1947: 6.
“8 Food Cars Wait European Train” Times Union [Albany] Nov. 15, 1947: 13.
“13 Cars Are Added to Friendship Train During Stay Here” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 17, 1947: Second Section: 15.
“Area Groups To Aid Food Train Drive” Utica Daily Press Nov. 11, 1947: 7.
“Area Industry Urged to Give To Food Train” Buffalo Courier Express Nov. 8, 1947: 6.
“Area to Add 3 Carloads Of Food Gifts” Utica Daily Press Nov. 17, 1947: 13.
“City Amasses Gifts For Friendship Train” Home News [Bronx and Manhattan] Nov. 10, 1947: 3.
“City Hails Friendship Train; Food Total Is Put at 270 Cars” New York Times Nov. 1947, 18: 1+.
“City To Load Friendship Car Today” Herald Statesman [Yonkers, NY] Nov. 19, 1947: 1.
“City’s Contribution to Friendship Train to Be Dedicated on Monday” Schenectady Gazette Nov. 15, 1947: Second Section 11+ .
“County Lions Clubs Send Car of Milk to N. Y. City” Binghamton Press Nov. 17, 1947: 17.
“District Cities to Hitch On Friendship Train in Albany” Knickerbocker News [Albany, NY] 13, 1947: 2-B.
“District to Add 8 Cars to Food Train” Knickerbocker News [Albany, NY] Nov. 17, 1947: 1-B.
“Donation From City Is Valued at $2,500” Schenectady Gazette Nov. 18, 1947: 6.
“Donations To Stock Friendship Train Must Be In Friday” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 11, 1947: 22.
“European Friendship Train Was Big Success” Pioche Record [Pioche, NV] Feb. 28, 1948: 5.
“Flour Purchase Meets With Accord From Wide Area” Post-Standard [Syracuse] Nov. 13, 1947: 5.
“Food Cars Being Loaded Here To Augment Friendship Train” Times Union [Albany, NY] Nov. 16, 1947: B-1.
“’Friendship Train’ Due Here Tonight, Will Take Albany Gifts of Food Aboard” Times Union [Albany, NY] Nov. 17, 1947: 11.
“Friendship Train Arrives Here Today; Dewey Says It Aids World Peace” Utica Daily Press Nov. 17, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Donations Pour In: Fund Totals $9000” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 14, 1947: 30.
“Friendship Train Drove Over Top” Times Union [Albany, NY] Nov. 15, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Due To Arrive Here Nov. 17” “Food Donations Sought For ‘Friendship Train’” Times Union [Albany, NY] Nov. 7, 1947: 19.
“Friendship Train Receives Baby Food” Schenectady Gazette Nov. 17, 1947: 16.
“Gala Gotham Greeting Arranged for Friendship Train” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Nov. 18, 1947: 3.
“Hails Friendship Train Contribution as ‘Terrific’” Schenectady Gazette Nov. 17, 1947: 17.
“Hollywood Fanfare Sends Friendship Train East to Collect Contributions for Europe” The New York Times 8 Nov. 1947, 5.
“Kaiser Speeds Food Trains” Utica Observer-Dispatch Nov. 18, 1947: 2-A.
“Legion Donations Boost Food Fund; Brewers Give $1000” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 12, 1947: 29.
“Mayor Asks Friendship Train Gifts” Herald Statesman [Yonkers NY] Nov.17, 1947: 1+.
“Mayors Ask Friendship Train Gifts” Binghamton Press Nov. 13, 1947: 5.
“One Week Left to Give Friendship-Train Cash” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 8, 1947: 6.
Pearson, Drew. “Friendship Train Values” Post-Standard Nov. 21, 1947: Second Section: 15.
Pearson, Drew. “Message to France” Post-Standard Dec. 20, 1947: 9.
“Phones Spread Appeal for Relief Drive” Utica Observer-Dispatch Nov. 18, 1947: 2-A
“Poultrymen Send Hens To White House” Buffalo Courier Express Nov. 7, 1947: 1.
“Reception, Parade Slated Monday to Greet Friendship Train” Syracuse Herald-Tribune Nov. 14, 1947, 22.
“Residents Asked To Donate Pennies To Provide Food” Post-Standard [Syracuse NY] Nov. 7, 1947: 7.
“Residents Urged To Join Parade at 9:30 A. M. Monday” Standard-Post [Syracuse] Nov. 15, 1947: 14.
“Seek Fund Aid” Utica Daily Press Nov. 13, 1947: 5.
“Sons of Italy Lodge Votes $100 Gift to Food Train” Schenectady Gazette Nov. 18, 1947: 6.
“Western N. Y. Adds 12 Cars To Food Train” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Nov. 17, 1947: 1.
“WNY Contributing At Least 10 Boxcars To Friendship Train” Buffalo Evening News Nov. 13, 1947: 35.

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 www.mercitrain.org has information about that train.

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