The new topic at LDS-Church-History is Z.C.M.I.

Now a retired department store, the history of Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution is surprisingly interesting.

Setup up by the political organization - The Council of the Fifty in March, 1868 as a "co-operative covenant" its purpose was to sell goods "as low as they can possibly be sold" with "the profits be[ing] divided among the people [Mormons] at large."  Concerns over the economic impact of the transcontinental railroad and economic tensions with non-Mormons prompted its creation.

Brigham proposed a boycott of all "Gentile" (non-Mormon) merchants, which was sustained by the Salt Lake City School of Prophets, and later sustained in General Conference.  The church opened the first store in 1869 and the next year began a manufacturing enterprise which became known particularly for their boots, shoes and "mountaineer" overalls. 

Prices were fixed, and remained constant even when goods were scarce.  Church leaders told members it was their duty "to sustain" the institution with the hope that profits would be widely distributed to church members through stock ownership, as opposed to the more typical approach of just the wealthy owning stock and further increasing their wealth.  About 150 retail branches eventually expanded throughout the territory in most Mormon towns.

Eventually Z.C.M.I. became known as America's first Department store.  The facade of the old downtown department store is set to return in the downtown Salt Lake reconstruction project.

Over the next couple of months, the history of Z.C.M.I will be traced through, covering the period from its creation to its recent demise.

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