In 1949, the Placer County Museum received a beautiful tapestry from the French Gratitude Train. The train, also called the Merci Train and the Train de la Reconnaissance, was filled with tens of thousands of gifts of gratitude from French citizens.
It was a “thank you” gift to the United States for relief supplies collected by the Friendship Train as it traveled across United States, passing through Roseville on its way to New York. The supplies and millions of dollars in aid sent to France and Italy in 1947 were indispensable during severe food shortages that followed the end of WWII.
The idea of the Gratitude Train came from Andre Picard, who was a French railroad worker and WWII veteran. The train cars were decorated with the coat of arms of the 40 provinces of France.
The tapestry that became part of the Placer County Museums Collection was donated to the Merci Train by Madame Juliette Morreton from the city of Beauvais in northern France. Made by an unknown weaver it depicts Comtesse Du Barry, courtier and mistress of King Louis XV who was guillotined during the French Revolution.
Beauvais was extensively damaged during the German advance on Paris in 1940 and later liberated by British troops in August 1944.
The tag that was attached to the tapestry reads: “To our American friends with hearty gratefulness for all what they have done for France and French people.”
The scale of destruction after WWII was enormous. As people began to deal with the consequence of war and focused on rebuilding their lives and cities they, like Juliette Morreton, found a lot to be thankful for.