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WWII History Hidden Away in Moundsville

Louis Marx, right, and his wife Idella meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a photo in Francis Turner’s collection.

MOUNDSVILLE — The pens which ended conflicts with Germany and Italy during World War II have resurfaced in an unusual place — the Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville.

Two fountain pens used to sign the armistice with Italy, on Sept. 3, 1943, and a copy of the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945, ended up in the collection of Louis Marx, founder of Louis Marx and Company. Marx was a close family friend of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and numerous generals of the Army at the time.

The pens eventually made their way into the possession of his son, Louis Marx Jr., and then to Marx Jr.’s CFO and friend, Thomas Chudy, who eventually sold them to Francis Turner, who founded the now-defunct Marx Toy Museum.

The pens now rest in their cases, inside a glass display box in Turner’s possession. Turner also has numerous other pieces of Marx’s family’s memorabilia, including several passports — one of which specifies that, if found, it should be returned to Eisenhower.

“Eisenhower had a Marx train, and it was broken, so he went into the New York office, where he met Louis Marx, and that became the story of their friendship,” Turner said. “He was probably in his 30s or 40s.”

Louis Marx and Company was once the largest toy company in the world, with a factory in Glen Dale. The company would eventually close in 1980.

The Marx family was close to several generals, including, at the time, Eisenhower, who later served as president from 1953-1961. Several of them became godfathers to Marx’s children, including Gen. Alfred Greunther, who lent his last name to one child’s middle name — to Greunther’s chagrin.

“If I had a name like ‘Bradley,’ it would not be bad at all, but Greunther? Oh me oh my, the problem is yours, the advice is mine,” Greunther stated in a handwritten letter to Marx, congratulating him and his wife, Idella, on the child.

Turner also has the letter in his possession.

Turner said the historical items are not generally for public viewing, but he would bring them to the grand opening of the Marx Toy Museum display at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, which is set to open this week. The pens, passports, photos and letters will be on display from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, coinciding with the permanent exhibit’s opening.

Turner said he doesn’t have any concrete plans for the future of the collection, but said he felt it was a shame to keep them in his museum, which closed several years ago.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with them,” he said.

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