1946 City Menus

If, as I speculated a couple of days ago, differences between City of San Francisco and other City train menus in the late 1950s were due to differences between the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific commissaries, those differences did not extend back to 1946. Here, courtesy of the New York Public Library, are 1946 dinner menus from the City of Denver and City of San Francisco.

Click image to download a 774-KB PDF of this menu.

The menus are about two months separated in time–one is dated January 20 and the other March 18–which may account for the slight design differences. But the items on the menus are very similar. The a la carte sides, for example, are nearly identical, and while there are some differences in the table d’ôte side, they can be accounted for by the usual rotation of meals over time.

Click image to download a 786-KB PDF of this menu.

Here’s a third menu I found on the web that is for the City of Denver and dated just two weeks before the first menu. It is interesting to see how all three menus have slight variations of many of the same things. One menu has Grape-Nut custard pudding; one has rice custard pudding; and one has rice-and-raisin pudding. One menu has Roquefort cheese and crackers; one has liederkranz cheese and crackers; and one has camembert cheese and crackers. One has potatoes au gratin; one has potatoes O’Brien au gratin; and one has Demonico potatoes.

Click image to download a 303-KB PDF of this menu.

The most difficult thing to account for is the replacement of the Union Pacific’s variety of photo menu covers with nearly identical simple covers showing the winged streamliner over the name of the train. As we will eventually see, UP’s photo covers extend back to the 1920s, and as we have already seen, UP put photos on menus as early as April, 1946. Perhaps during the war years it was considered extravagant and unseemly to decorate menus with cheerful photos, even those with patriotic themes, and this ended only between the March, 1946 menu shown here and the April one shown previously.

Although all three menus claim to comply with Office of Price Administration price controls, the prices on the April menu are 10 to 25 percent higher than on the March menu. Most price controls did not end until 1947. The most expensive thing on the April menu was an a la carte sirloin steak for $1.75 (about $21 today), while the most expensive meals on the table d’hôte menu–trout, lamb chops, or prime rib– are $1.60 (about $19 today).

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