ContactHomePhotosNewsreelsHistory by StateLinks

The 1947 Friendship Train in Ohio
by Dorothy R. Scheele

In Mansfield, Ohio, on a raw and rainy November 15th, 1947, a crowd of approximately 300, anticipating the 3:30 arrival of the Friendship Train from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, waited eagerly at the station. This section of the exciting train, which was spotted on the tracks near the Ohio Brass Company Plant, had 20 boxcars. Donations from the Mansfield residents, nearby communities, and from Zanesville, Akron, Columbus, and Newark would add four more cars. Combined, these populations had donated a startling 190,000 pounds of food with an estimated value of $20,000. Four freight cars, completely packed, were required to transport the badly needed commodities. The food consisted mainly of spaghetti, evaporated milk, macaroni and cheese, wheat flour, and oats. Throughout the country non-perishables had been eliminated because they would not survive a long trip. While they were loading the boxcars, the packers had included a list of all the donors. Most likely, many Ohioans received thank you letters when the Merci Train, France’s thank you to Americans, arrived in the United States 16 months later.

Joseph W. Nichols was chairman of the food committee which Mayor Roy W. Vaughn had appointed. In addition to the impressive quantity of foodstuffs, Frank A. Berkey, treasurer of the committee, reported that the citizenry had contributed $6,775. A portion of this money would be used to cover the expenses of organizing the train, and the rest would be used to purchase more food.

As was customary with the Friendship Train’s amazing odyssey, the governor of the incoming state would board the train at its last stop in the train’s departing state. In this instance, Ohio’s governor, Thomas J. Herbert, was not present. Mayor Vaughn rode the train from Indiana to Mansfield.

The senior high school band welcomed the train. After this greeting Drew Pearson spoke, thanking the crowd. Claude Lazard and Nicoli Giuli, representatives of the French and Italian governments, spoke briefly, commenting on the need for the food and on the extraordinary generosity of the people of Ohio. Tom Slater of the National Citizens Food Committee served as master of ceremonies and assured the crowd that Europeans would definitely know that the food came from the American people, not the United States government. In countless cities films were taken of the boxcars begin loaded, thereby assuring anyone concerned that the food did come from the American people.

Dominic Marcello informed the crowd that more than 20 private organizations and churches would supervise the distribution of the food.

From Mansfield the train departed at 6:00 p.m. It would cross Pennsylvania, enter New Jersey where it collected more non-perishables for the train and then go on to New York to the ships waiting for it.

Zanesville, 70 miles east of Columbus, sent its one carload of food to Mansfield for shipment. Ben McMasters headed the food drive of leading citizens which initiated the campaign. Zanesville Chamber of Commerce continued the drive after its inception. The goal was to collect enough cash to fill one boxcar with foodstuffs.

Because there was not enough time to collect food, only cash was accepted. Checks were mailed to William Harper, Treasurer of the National Bank and of the fund drive. John Garrison purchased the food with the donated funds.

Zanesville’s boxcar, specifically designated as such, roared off from Mansfield with the Friendship Train.

Columbus contributed to the train although the city did not have a spectacular campaign. The Columbus Dispatch reported that because the city did not have the capability of transporting food, it would collect only money. On the day of the train’s arrival in Mansfield, a delegation traveled to the city to present the check. The amount was not disclosed.

The expanding train's second section, on the New York Central

Toledo’s donations were alleged to be the third largest in all the cities where the train had stopped since leaving Los Angeles. (FTTOL 1) The train arrived in Toledo on Saturday evening, November 15th, and departed at 9:30 that same evening. M.C. ( Bob) Mills, Chairman of the Citizens’ Food Committee, undoubtedly contributed to the noteworthy success.

A band greeted the arrival of the Friendship Train. As was customary, the Governor of the state the train was entering boarded it at the last stop of the previous state. In this instance, because of the absence of the Governor Thomas J. Herbert, Vice Mayor Michael DiSalle joined the train in Elkhart, Indiana. Other dignitaries and officials were Mayor George Welsh of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was President of the Mayors’ Conference of the United States; Jean Belliard who was representing the French embassy in Washington; Mme Alberto Tarchianni, wife of the Italian ambassador to the United States, and David Carr, Drew Pearson’s assistant. (FTTOL 7) A band heralded the train’s arrival.

With unstinting generosity Toledo reached its goal of five carloads. Collection booths had been set up in downtown Toledo. The contributions from the booths amounted to $3,000. The Toledo Housewives League collected cash from grocery store owners. Girl Scouts collected cans of evaporated milk. The manager of Sears Super Market, Fred Sears, donated 500 pounds of dried lima beans.

Frequently throughout the nation, admission to a movie, a dance or a county fair was the donation to the Friendship Train. In Toledo the Paramount movie theater requested one can of evaporated milk to their Saturday morning cartoon feature. (FTTOL 6) The six thousand four hundred people who attended a show, “Holiday on Ice,” contributed several bags of flour and 500 cans of evaporated milk.

Nearby communities in Michigan increased Toledo’s donation: employees and management of the Kaiser-Frazer Corp. at Ypsilanti donated a car load of wheat. The Monroe, Michigan, Junior Chamber of Commerce contracted several truck loads of canned milk. The Defiance Milk Products Company sold their milk below cost and shipped it at company expense to Toledo. Other nearby Michigan communities contributing included Ney, Jewell, Sherwood, Hicksville, Ayersville, and Oakwood. (FTTOL 5)

Reflected in the citizens’ warm generosity was their enthusiasm for the train’s merciful mission. The Friendship Train left Toledo at approximately 9:30.


The Friendship Train’s time in Cleveland was a happy and giving occasion. The train arrived at 9:30 a.m. on Nov 16th at the Nottingham Station of the New York Central Railroad. Children waving flags and posters greeted the Friendship Train, the posters declaring, “Food Given by the Children of Cleveland to the Children of France,” and “Food From the Children of Cleveland to the Children of France.” Despite the icy rain and sleet, a forty piece band of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians played the French, Italian, and American anthems, and 3,000 people were present to witness the unique occasion. (FT1 FT ICY RAIN FAILS TO DAMP)

Officials and dignitaries spoke at the lively occasion which was led by Sidney Andorn of the radio station WGAR. Clergy present were Rev. David Loegler and MSGR Leo Hammer of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church. Mr. Hammer offered a benediction. Signora Teresa Tarchiana, wife of the Italian ambassador, stated that the children of Italy would have a better Christmas as a result of Cleveland’s donations. Henry J. Kaiser spoke, and the chairman of the Food Train Committee, Clarence T. Morris thanked Clevelanders for ‘putting the city over the top.’ The city’s contributions amounted to 200,000 pounds and a cash donation of $9,000 which was used to purchase food.
One of the motivating factors for the Cleveland’s donations was the appearance of Irma Mohaupt, formerly a Russian slave. She and her family had been freed by the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Chester A. Lathrop of Cincinnati who had reportedly spent months trying to gain the family’s freedom. Irma Mohaupt had told her story in the Times Star; consequently, she was well known. She spoke at the Hospitality House, advocating the Friendship Train. She said that she knew the unhappy and hard times in Europe and exhorted people to donate, saying that they would feel happiness in giving. (FT 3)

Another persuasive factor appeared in the November 14th Cleveland Plain Dealer. “And so, if you feel that men and women and boys and girls shouldn’t necessarily be forced to starve to death, even if they were born on the wrong side of the Atlantic, you have a chance to do something about it. (FT 4)

What were some of the donations? Not surprising, the gifts came from various organizations: church groups, sororities, clubs, parent-teacher associations, and civic organizations. The total amount of the 6,000 to 7,000 cases of food was valued at $40,000. Among the donations was one from the student body of Baldwin-Wallace College who omitted dessert from two meals each day resulting in enough cash to purchase 500 pounds of staples. Thomas Jefferson High School raised $253 with which the school bought 35 cases of staples. Addison Junior High School raised $85.00, an impressive amount considering the years and the age of the school. (FT 5)

The Women’s City Club offered $1,005, one of the largest sums donated to the train. Mrs. Henry Frick, President of the club said the club had contributed $200 of its money to the train. According to William H. Gray, President of the Retail Merchants’ Board, the organization gave $500 to the train. (FT6) The Pavella Capri restaurant donated $100 on the spot while the train had halted. (FT 7) A gift of $15.00 appeared anonymously. Later the donor was identified as 'a colored woman', a statement which reflects the 1947 attitude toward African-Americans.

The train left at 10 30 a.m. and continued to Ashtabula, the final stop of the northern train in the Buckeye state.

Despite the inclement weather and the relatively small population of Ashtabula, enthusiasm abounded, and 3,000 turned out in to see the Friendship Train. Both train and city officials spoke at the ceremony. The Ashtabula donated two refrigerated cars of canned milk. S
From there the train went on to Erie and cities in northern New York and Trenton, New Jersey, ending its journey in New York Harbor where the ships waited.


According to Drew Pearson, a special section of the Friendship Train traveled through Cincinnati arriving there on November 23rd. The Cuvier Press Club sponsored the food drive. Ray Hamilton was chairman of the Friendship Train Committee; Judge Clarence Denning served on the committee; Charles F. Curro was treasurer, and Walter Seinsheimer was secretary.
The city contributed an impressive five boxcars of food. Some of the contributors were the United Italian Society of Greater Cincinnati, Arlington High School, the Italian Relief Society, and the Hamilton Jr. Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club, and Hughes High School students. The organization Our Lady of Rosary of St. Annes Altar Society and the Women’s Guild of Greenshills sponsored a movie. Children were asked to bring one can of milk for admission and adults were asked to bring two cans.

A ceremony for the departure of the train was held at the train station. The officers for the Friendship Train attended as did Judge Clarence Denning who was representing Mayor Carl Rich, and Major Emmon Shaw who was head of the Army recruiting office. This office collected the food for the city.

The Buckeye state can be rightfully proud of the citizens’ generosity and kindness.
France had thanked every state by sending each one a carload of gifts from the French citizenry. The thank you gifts arrived on the Merci Train. To this day, the boxcar for almost every state is still on display. Ohio’s boxcar is located at Camp Perry, Ohio. A snapshot of it is on Earl Bennett’s web site,

List of Works Consulted

“4 Box Cars Filled to Rafters,” “Crowd Stands In Rain to Hear Area Praised for Food Gifts,” Mansfield News- Journal, Nov. 16, 1947: 1.
”300 Watch Food Train Despite Rain” Mansfield News- Journal, Nov. 15, 1947: 1+.
“Appeal for Donations to Friendship Train By Cincinnatian, Who Appeals Knowingly”
“Area Towns Add Foodstuffs For Friendship Train” Toledo Blade Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“Butler County Gives Carload of Wheat” Cincinnati Enquirer: Nov. 23: 2.
“Fourth Section Of Friendship Train Is Due; To Pick Up Five Boxcars Of Food Today” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 24: 2.
“Friday Is Dead Line For Gifts To Go On Friendship Train” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 11, 1947: 5.
“Friendship Train Gifts To Europe Asked Here” Columbus Dispatch Nov. 9, 1947: B-7.
“Friendship Train Takes 5 More Carloads In Toledo” Toledo Blade Nov. 17, 1947:17.
“Friendship Train To Arrive In Cincinnati On Saturday: Food Group Readies Plans” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 16, 1947: 14.
“Many Groups Send Offers Of Friendship Train Food; Date For Arrival Revealed” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“Mayor Calls For Organization To Support Friendship Train” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 12, 1947: 2. “Rich Proclaims Week For Friendship Train” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 15, 1947: 3.
Mansfield News- Journal, Nov. 16, 1947: 1.
Toledo Blade Nov. 17, 1947: 17.
“Five Boxcars Of Generosity” Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 25, 1947: 12.
Nov. 22, 5:
Times-Star Nov. 17: 1947: 14.
“Zanesville To Load Car For Friendship Train” Nov. 11, 1947: 1.
“Zanesville Sending Carload of Food For Starving Children of Europe” Zanesville News Nov 11, 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.

Return to Friendship Train History by State

ContactPhotosHistory by StateHomeNewsreelsLinks
Copyright 2008 - 2017 Dorothy R. Scheele. All Rights Reserved.