New to the Collection: Masonic Jewels
A Brittle and Torn Manuscript: Conservation of an early Scottish Rite Patent

When Do 40 Men Equal 8 Horses?

88_16_1DS1 This fraternal badge provides a visual representation of the name of the group that used it - La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux, familiarly known as "The Forty & Eight."  During WWI, American soldiers traveled to the French front in boxcars stenciled "40/8," signifying their capacity for forty men or eight horses.  Although uncomfortable, this mode of transportation became symbolic of the bond between those who served.  According to the group's official history, the 40/8 boxcars evolved into a "lighthearted symbol of the deeper service, sacrifice and unspoken horrors of war that bind all who have borne the battle."

Originally founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from WWI service in France, the group began as part of the American Legion.  In 1960, the Forty & Eight broke away to become an independent veterans organization, which is still active today.  Membership is by invitation among honorably serving or honorably discharged members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The group is devoted to upholding and defending the U.S. Constitution; to promoting the well-being of veterans, their widows and orphans; and to actively participating in selected charitable programs, including those that promote child welfare and nurses training.  Are you a member of this group?  Do you have other objects associated with it?  The National Heritage Museum would love to hear about it in a comment here.

The Forty & Eight Medal, ca. 1920, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Eva M. Mahoney, 88.16.1.


Aimee Newell

Hello Mr. Swagerty: Thanks so much for the information about the evolution of diagnosing and treating PTSD. And, I'm glad to learn that our post helped you with learning more about your own medal. We appreciate your interest in our blog and your comment. Aimee Newell, Director of Collections

Emery V. Swagerty

In response to Mr. Robert McKenney, PTSD is equivalent to what was called "shell shock" during the WWI era and then in the WWII era was called "battle fatigue." It was a recognized condition, although treatment was obviously much less advanced than what's available now. So in one respect, they hadn't heard of the term post-traumatic stress disorder, but they did have another name for the same thing. I appreciate that the photo of this medal was posted, as I hadn't had any luck finding out anything about a similar medal I've had for a while. I think I'd gotten it at a flea market in Seattle nearly 30 years ago, along with some other American Legion medals, but I hadn't realized it actually had any connection to the American Legion on its own.

Aimee E Newell

Hello Mr. McKenney: Thanks so much for reading our blog and sharing your story with us. I am intrigued to know about another man who had one of these badges. I pretty much shared everything I know about the group - and about our badge - in the post above. It must be exciting to think about your uncle's experiences. Thanks again for posting a comment. Aimee Newell

Robert McKenney

I photographed a medal just like this with a blue ribbon. He also had a Victory Medal, and 5 campagne bars, on a rainbow ribbon, all enclosed in a red velvet box,that belonged to my uncle, Charles Edwards, who lived in Wilton, Maine into his eighties. He hunted deer with his 8mm service rifle, and was quite successful. He fished on the local lake and was a kind man who never spoke of the war. He was survived by a wife and four children, plus many grandchildren. No one heard about Post Traumatic Stress Diagnosis back in then.

Aimee E Newell

Thanks so much for reading our blog. And, for commenting. We always appreciate the interest. Aimee Newell

Equestrian Horses

Great piece of history!! Thanks for the story.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)