Written by: Jennifer Cardona-Alfaro and Patrick Cash
October 5, 1948: During the 1948-1949 academic year, the Mars Hill College Band had the opportunity to perform at several special events and occasions. On October 5, 1948, the MHC Band made one of its more outstanding appearances of the year when they were 1 of 8 bands invited to play for the 384th stop of the Freedom Train exhibit at the Biltmore Railway Station in Asheville, North Carolina. Consisting of 45 students, the MHC band was under the direction of Mr. James Hall and performed for two hours where they presented a variety of popular, patriotic, and light classical music.
This was an eventful moment, not only for Mars Hill College, but also for Western North Carolina as the 384th stop of the Freedom Train exhibit was the exhibits only stop in Western North Carolina. Originating from the idea of United States Attorney General Tom C. Clark, the Smithsonian Institution designed the Freedom Train as a traveled exhibit that would reflect the meaning of “American Citizenship” in a time when Washington D.C. officials felt that American citizens were taking liberty and independence for granted in the time following World War II. Commissioned by President Harry Truman, the Freedom Train made its first stop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 17, 1947 and began its cross-country trip.
During its expedition, the Freedom Train carried 127 of the nation’s most important documents to the American people in a variety of cities and towns across the nation. Included in this collection of documents were the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the German Instrument of Surrender and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender from World War II. Along with the historical document, the Freedom Train exhibit also displayed six historical flags from the nation’s history and dozens of historically important documents and objects. Along with highlighting the nation’s history through its collection, the Freedom Train exhibit would also be the first train to pass through all 49 continental states.