Questions & Answers
Buying & Selling
Variation on "PMWF" China
|Above: A group of pieces in SP's PMWF pattern. Photo courtesy Tom and Meg Coughlin. Below: Backstamp from a PMWF plate. Photo courtesy John Fowler.|
Above: A 9.5 inch Divided Lunch Plate in the Syracuse Morwel pattern. Photo courtesy of Wendy Munson. Below: A small, 9.5 oz teapot in the Syracuse Flordia pattern .
Above: The back of the teapot. Note the lack of a railroad backstamp. Below: A small, unhandled #2 creamer in the Syracuse Tremont pattern. Photo courtesy of Fran Boyajan.
Of the many china patterns used by America's railroads, Southern Pacific's "Prairie Mountain Wildflowers" pattern or "PMWF" is one of the most popular among collectors. The pattern features a white base color with multicolored flowers in shades of red, yellow, green, and blue. It has many variations, perhaps over a hundred different pieces, not including the known special or trial pieces made for Southern Pacific.
Since most collectors like the idea that a given piece of china was actually used in railroad dining car service, they should be aware that one variation in PMWF was not used by the Southern Pacific but rather by a large department store in Salt Lake City, Utah. Specifically, this china looks like PMWF but lacks a railroad backstamp, lacks the black strike (stripe), and has a date code after 10/63 and through at least midyear 1970 (maybe even later). The china was part of an order placed through Dohrmann Hotel Supply. This was the same company as Dohrmann Commissary Co. which supplied PMWF to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The first order was placed 10/10/63 and included:
3 Plate, Essex pattern, 5-1/2"
4 Plate, Essex pattern, 6-1/2"
6 Plate, Essex pattern, 8-1/4"
7 Plate, Essex pattern, 9-1/4"
8 Plate, Essex pattern, 10"
#3 Divided Lunch Plate, Morwel pattern, 9-5/8"
#6 Grapefruit bowl, Winthrop pattern, 6-1/2"
Unhandled Boullion Cup, Essex pattern, 7-1/2 Oz.
#3-1/2 Fruit bowl, Winthrop pattern, 4-3/4"
Tea Saucer, Winthrop pattern, 5-5/8"
Tea Cup, Kent pattern, 7-1/4 Oz.
#2 Unhandled Cream, Tremont pattern, 1 Oz.
#2 Unhandled Cream, Ohio pattern, 1 Oz.
Small Tea Pot Body W/cover, Florida pattern, 9-1/2
8 Dish (Oval Platter), Winthrop pattern, 11-3/4"
(see notes below)
These are plate sizes, catalog item numbers, and pattern types. The order sheet is marked as order "#21889 S2795 10/10/63". Also on the order sheet is the name given by Syracuse to this pattern, "ZION C.M.I. TEA ROOM". I think that this china should be referred to by this name, although a good shorter name would be"ZCMI Tea Room". Over time there were 15 different pieces ordered in this variation, and all are different from the standard Southern Pacific Railroad pieces.
This china was ordered for the Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution (A.K.A., "ZCMI"), a large Mormon company in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company had a large department store with a dining room and tea room. At this point I do not know if this china was sold or just used in their dining room and tea room. It does look like PMWF, since it used the #85701 wildflower decal as did the railroad versions of PMWF. Incidentally, ZCMI still exists as a major retail concern in Salt Lake City, although it now operates as Meier & Frank, one of the May Department Store companies.
To summarize the telltale signs: (1) no railroad backstamp (2) no black stripe on the front or body, and (3) a datecode after 10/63 through at least midyear 1970. This is still an attractive china pattern to collect, but collectors should be advised about its non-railroad origins.
Information was obtained directly from the Syracuse archives. The only other information on Z.C.M.I. that came on the order sheet is the decal placement on each item, and at this point I do not have enough china to determine the number-to-flower decal relationship.
I have also seen an Econorim butter chip with no strike (line or stripe). However, this was manufactured by Shenango, and I have not obtained the records from their archives, so I do not know if this was just a fluke, a special order by Southern Pacific, or some other order.
Web Editor's Note: Photos are by the author unless otherwise noted. Roy is currently writing a book on the Prairie Mountain Wildflowers pattern and welcomes information on odd or unusual PMWF variations. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com. We thank him for supplying the information for this web page and for the permission to display it on our website. Thanks also to Tom and Meg Coughlin, John Fowler, Fran Boyajan and Wendy Munson for photos.