Holiday Closure: Pioneer Day

The Research Center for the Utah State Archives and Utah State History will be closed for Pioneer Day, Tuesday, July 24, 2012. It will open again on Wednesday, July 25 at 9 a.m.

Pioneer Day commemorates the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake valley July 24, 1847.


Evidence From A Transatlantic Friendship

A Thank-You Gift from France

In 1949 a small boxcar arrived in Salt Lake City, a gift from the people of France.  Just after the end of World War II a train had traveled across America, collecting donations for war-devastated Europe.  Several years later, as a token of appreciation for the American assistance, a collection of boxcars known as the “Merci Train” arrived from France, filled with gifts.  The 49 boxcars had been used in World War I and were known as “Forty and Eights” because they could be used to transport 40 men or 8 horses.  One boxcar was to be sent to each of the 48 states and the remaining car was to be divided between the District of Columbia and the Territory of Hawaii.

Union Station in Ogden.

When Utah’s boxcar arrived, Governor J. Bracken Lee formally accepted the gift on behalf of the people of Utah.  The varied contents, including dolls, folk costumes, embroidery work, wine, books, crystal, and artwork, were placed on display for the public to see.  Today, a small collection of gifts from the boxcar is held by the Utah State Archives. 

Most of these items are currently on display at the Utah State Railroad Museum in the Ogden Union Station.  The items include a number of books relating the history, scenery, and culture of France.  The collection also includes medals, artwork, and a number of felt stars embroidered with the names of French and American cities.

What Happened to Utah’s Merci Train Boxcar?

After the Utah boxcar was emptied of its treasures, it ended up on display in Salt Lake City’s Memory Grove.  Over the years exposure to the elements took its toll.  In order to protect the car, it was repainted, but the original colorful detailing was covered over.  As part of the restoration of Memory Grove following the tornado that tore through the area in 1999, the Merci Train boxcar was removed from the park.  In 2006 volunteers completed a restoration of the boxcar and it was placed on the grounds of the Ogden Union Station, where it can be seen today.

The restored Merci Train boxcar.

The Mystery of the Remaining Merci Train Gifts.

The committee appointed by Governor Lee to oversee the contents of the Merci boxcar decided that after the initial public display in Salt Lake, the gifts would be divided up and dispersed among the state’s 29 counties so that more people would be able to see them.  The final fate of these dispersed gifts is unknown.  The gifts sent to the counties were presumably displayed for a time, but have been lost since then.  Perhaps some ended up in the collections of local museums or were distributed to residents.  Furthermore, the records of the Merci Train Committee have been lost as well, so there is no known inventory of the contents of the boxcar or any documentation of how the items were dispersed.  The only Merci Train gifts known to survive in Utah are in a the collection held by the Utah State Archives, but the most significant and expensive of the gifts are not among them.  Undoubtedly, many of the finest gifts are still out there, perhaps unidentified or in private hands.

Do You Know Anything About the Lost Merci Train Gifts?

Have you ever seen anything in some scattered corner of the state that might have come from the Merci Train?  If you have, we would love to hear about it.

More Information

For more information about the Merci Train and the gifts that have survived, you can visit the exhibit at the Utah State Railroad Museum, peruse the inventory of items held by the Utah State Archives at http://archives.utah.gov/research/inventories/20732.html , and read an article about Utah’s Merci Train boxcar in Beehive History 23 at http://utah.ptfs.com/awweb/main.jsp?flag=browse&smd=1&awdid=1 .


Top Baby Names in Utah 1906 Edition

It’s time to update and compare the most popular baby names, as found in birth certificates that are now public. A few shuffled around, but the #1 are the same as the year before (view 1905 top names)

Boys

  1. John
  2. William
  3. James
  4. George
  5. Joseph
  6. Charles
  7. Frank
  8. Robert
  9. Edward
  10. Harold

Girls

  1. Mary
  2. Alice
  3. Florence
  4. Ruth
  5. Thelma
  6. Helen
  7. Edna
  8. Dorothy
  9. Edith
  10. Mildred

New Index with Images for Garland Cemetery

The Garland City Cemetery Interment Registers are now online and may be searched by name. The original record documents burials in the Garland City Cemetery in a ledger format. Ledger columns include the name of the deceased, age, date of birth, place of birth, date of death, nearest relative, and a column labeled “other.”


Death Certificates for 1959-1960 Indexed by Name

Researchers may now search for death certificates by name for 1959-1960. Previously, images have been available for browsing. Thanks to one of our volunteer indexers, one may look for a death record by name, date, or county.


Newly Processed: April 2012

All public records at the Utah State Archives are accessible through the Research Center. However, once processed the records are easier to use with proper storage and fuller descriptions, including online series inventories. The following list includes record series that were processed during the month of April 2012:

Dept. of Community and Economic Development

Department of Natural Resources. Division of Water Resources


How do you research?

OCLC Research wants to know how researchers (you) use archives and special collections. Complete this survey and be entered in a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card!

Please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W8MKXP9 to answer some questions about how you find – and find out about – websites and other research resources. The information you provide will help OCLC Research make it easier to discover materials in special collections.

Previous survey results were incorporated in the design of ArchiveGrid, a place to access descriptions and finding aids from hundreds of archives and special collections.


Newly Processed: March 2012

All public records at the Utah State Archives are accessible through the Research Center. However, once processed the records are easier to use with proper storage and fuller descriptions, including online series inventories. The following list includes record series that were processed during the month of March 2012:

MX Missile Policy Board


Holiday Closure

The Research Center for the Utah State Archives and Utah State History will be closed Monday, February 20, 2012 for Washington & Lincoln Day.

It will open once again Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9 a.m.


Battleship Utah Silver Service

Just over one hundred years ago, the people of Utah were asked to raise money for a silver service set to be presented to the new ship named in honor of the state, the U.S.S. Utah. A committee was formed to accomplish this task and their records may be found at the Utah State Archives (Series 1129). As part of recent processing work, an index has been posted online for the schools and communities that contributed funds toward the silver service purchase. Read the full story at Utah State History, plus more on Wikipedia, including its final resting place in Pearl Harbor (the silver service having been removed long before and currently on exhibit at the Governor’s Mansion).


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