top of page
Grand Promenade 2024 (1).jpg
40 x 8 2.jpg

 North Carolina Grand Chef de Gare William (Bill) Slater installed on  15 July 2023 at the NC Grand Promenade




In March of 1920, Joseph W. Breen, a member of the newly formed American Legion and an officer of Breen-McCracken American Legion Post 297, met in Philadelphia with fifteen other prominent Legionnaires where they originated the idea of The Forty and Eight.  They envisioned a new and different level of elite membership and camaraderie for leaders of the American Legion.  The box car of the French railways, so familiar to American ground troops of World War I was chosen as the symbolic heart of the new organization.  The French railroad theme was applied to officer titles and organizational functions.
The organization was named La Société des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux (The Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses).  Its members were called Voyageurs Militaire (military travelers) and candidates for membership were called Prisonniers de Guerre (Prisoners of War).  The cargo capacity sign “40 Hommes/8 Chevaux” emblazoned on each French boxcar that carried American doughboys to the front, and  "French horizon blue" color, became symbols of the new society.  An initiation ceremony was developed based on the common wartime experiences of American soldiers, sailors and marines, incorporating fun making with patriotic bonding.
The first statewide Forty and Eight Promenade (meeting) was held in June, 1920, following the 2nd Annual Convention of the American Legion’s Department of Pennsylvania.  Several prominent Legionnaires were wrecked (initiated) and Joseph W. Breen was unanimously elected Chef de Chemin de Fer (Chief of the Railroad).  
The new Forty and Eight organization agreed to send a delegation to the Legion’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, with as much fanfare as possible in order to introduce the Forty and Eight to the nation and to other Legionnaires.  A railroad box car was rented, and in it, the Forty and Eight delegation rode the rails to the Cleveland American Legion convention.  This publicity stunt gained substantial news coverage for the energetic new elite organization.  In Cleveland more than 700 Legionnaires became members of the Forty and Eight.


 NC Grand Chef de Gare 2023-2024

 Bill Slater 

bottom of page