American Legion

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.