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