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a traveling exhibit of original documents that had an important influence on American history
The air-conditioned, streamlined "Spirit of 1776" was white with three horizontal red, white, and blue stripes, and was composed of 7 cars and a diesel locomotive. It was christened on September 17, 1947, the 160th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitutional Convention was held. From Philadelphia the train embarked on a 33,000-mile tour of the United States, which ended on January 22, 1949. Some 300 communities, in all 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii were not states at the time), were visited during the tour.
Documents displayed inside the Freedom Train included the Magna Carta, Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence, the original Bill of Rights, George Washington's first draft of his Inaugural Address and his annotated copy of the Constitution, the Treaty of Paris (1783), Francis Scott Key's manuscript of The Star-Spangled Banner, Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and his "reading copy" of the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of the United Nations (1942), the German unconditional surrender (May 1945), and the Proclamation of the Independence of the Philippines. Copies of the Mayflower Compact; The Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the United States, in 1640; Thomas Paine's Common Sense and The Crisis; and Issue No. 93 of Peter Zenger's Journal were also exhibited. The documents were loaned by the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other institutions and private individuals. They were exhibited under bullet-proof glass and guarded by a detachment of United States Marines.
The aim of the Freedom Train was to remind Americans of the freedoms they enjoy and to dramatize the American way of life. U.S. Attorney General Tom C. Clark originated the idea in April 1946. The concept was subsequently adopted by a coalition that included Paramount Pictures and the Advertising Council. In May 1947 the coalition organized the American Heritage Foundation, which chose the documents to be displayed, operated the tour, and paid the costs of the program. The train and tour were supported by contributions from such organizations as the United States Chamber of Commerce, the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Loyal Order of Moose, and the Girl Scouts, as well as by individuals.
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This page was last updated on 09/16/2017.