This big bowl weighs nearly 2 pounds (before packing). It is the large double salad bowl from which individual portions would be served. It is a full 8 inches across and 3 inches tall, thick walled with burly rims both top and bottom. The bright white base china is set off wonderfully with three transfers: a bud, a single flower and a spray of two fully opened blooms.
This pattern is "California Poppy," made by Syracuse China for the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and/or Fred Harvey, the famous restaurateur who operated hotels and eating houses along the AT&SF routes through the American Southwest (see below).
This piece is date coded 96-L (December 1967). It is correctly manufacturer bottom marked, but there is no railroad marking.
CONDITION is fabulous - hardly any signs of use ! There are NO cracks, chips, flakes, crazing or repairs. The pretty poppy flowers are bright and sunny yellow. There are a few very lightest surface marks, you must tilt it in bright light to see them. Beautiful white china with no stains or age darkening.
This bowl is heavy commercial china, restaurant ware -- not lighter, household weight. This identifies it definitely as an authentic piece that was produced for either the AT&SFRR or Fred Harvey (both used this ware). "Poppy" was an "exclusive" pattern** -- Syracuse China contracted to produce and sell the design only to the Santa Fe/Fred Harvey and no one else. Many Syracuse-produced pieces indeed were specifically railroad backstamped for Santa Fe Dining Service, but most were not. Accordingly, we can't tell if those without railroad markings were used by the railroad (which many were), or instead were used by Fred Harvey's operations. Either use is completely and historically correct.
PATTERN BACKGROUND: First ordered in 1910 from European china companies, "Poppy" later became the standard pattern used on streamliner trains other than the Super Chief and El Capitan. Contracted by the AT&SF to produce the ware, the Syracuse China Company went to extreme lengths to ensure the accuracy of their artwork by actually growing a bed of poppies at their upstate New York factory, so their artists would have real flowers to copy.
**IMPORTANT COLLECTOR NOTE: Apparently, the Santa Fe's exclusive rights to the California Poppy pattern applied only to its use on heavy restaurantware or commercial weight china. Syracuse China's lighter, household weight china ("thinware") also was decorated with identical "Poppy"artwork, but this was never sold to the railroad or used on trains. Instead, it was made for ordinary commercial sales through standard retail outlets.
Beware especially of pieces with "S.S." in the bottom marking. "S.S." means "Store Selection," a mark applied to high-quality seconds that were sold at the company's factory outlet store. However, although this ware has no collectible value to railroad china collectors, many enjoy using it on the table, while their authentic Santa Fe pieces sit safely on display cabinet shelves.
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