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The US Freedom Train-Interesting vintage photos show the seven-car train traveling across United States from 1947 to 1949

Neil Patrick

The Freedom Train was a train that traveled all across the United States in the late 1940s, carrying some of the greatest national treasures of the USA.

Drawing of Freedom Train Interior

Drawing of Freedom Train Interior Photo Credit

Freedom Train, Taken on September 6, 1949

Freedom Train, Taken on September 6, 1949 Photo Credit

The idea for this amazing train came to William Coblenz from the Public Information Division of the Department of Justice, during his lunch break. While he was perusing an exhibit in the Nation Archives, Coblenz realized that most Americans would never see the historic documents.

Photograph of Freedom Train Display Car

Photograph of Freedom Train Display Car Photo Credit

Photograph of Freedom Train Display Case Installation

Photograph of Freedom Train Display Case Installation Photo Credit

The more he thought about the problem, the more he became inspired. He got an idea to make a train with travelling exhibition of artifacts and documents. He presented the idea to Solon Buck, the Archivist of the United States, who then proceeded it all the way to President Truman, who finally agreed on it.

The train was named“The Spirit of 1776” and was painted red, white and blue. It held some of the most important artifacts in possession of the United States, including: The Emancipation Proclamation, the flag that was used in the famous Iwo Jima photograph, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, a letter from Christopher Columbus and George Washington’s original copy of the Constitution.

It even carried an original copy of the Magna Carta of 1215.

Photograph of Freedom Train Exhibit

Photograph of Freedom Train Exhibit Photo Credit

Photograph of National Archives Employees Peggy Mangum and Florence Nichol Loading the Log of the Frigate Constitution onto the Freedom Train

Photograph of National Archives Employees Peggy Mangum and Florence Nichol Loading the Log of the Frigate Constitution onto the Freedom Train Photo Credit

Of course, this possessions required an intensified security, so the special detachment of the Marines was always present.

The train covered over 37,000 miles, visiting the 48 states, neither Alaska or Hawaii were states at this time, and it displayed the artifacts to over 3.5 million people in 326 cities and towns. Sometimes people stood in queue for over 6 hours, only to see them.

Photograph of Original Train Car Exterior of Freedom Train

Photograph of Original Train Car Exterior of Freedom Train Photo Credit

Photograph of Original Train Car Interior of Freedom Train

Photograph of Original Train Car Interior of Freedom Train Photo Credit

On one occasion, when the train was stopped in Brooklyn, New York, few bored schoolgirls amused themselves by planting red lipstick kisses on the train.

The white stripe on the side of the engine was completely gone and replaced by a stripe of red lipstick.

Photograph of the Freedom Train Around the Corner

Photograph of the Freedom Train Around the Corner Photo Credit

Photograph of the Freedom Train at a Station

Photograph of the Freedom Train at a Station Photo Credit

Photograph of the Freedom Train in Florida. Taken Circa 1948

Photograph of the Freedom Train in Florida. Taken Circa 1948 Photo Credit

Taken on November 23, 1950

Taken on November 23rd, 1950 Photo Credit

While some cities stated that would hold separated exhibitions for white and black people, the American Heritage Foundation told them that they would either have integrated exhibitions or none at all.

Did you know that – San Francisco was built on the abandoned & buried ships of the gold rush – another interesting article from us.

In 1960, the train was taken back to its Livery and finally retired.