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Fred Harvey and His Harvey Girls Civilized and Helped Build the American West

Never-ending history of America's West, the railroads, and the building of the American West.

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Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls

Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls

Frederick Harvey And His Vision

Frederick Henry Harvey was born in 1835 in London, England. At the age of seventeen, he migrated to the United States. Fred's first job was working at Smith and McNell's Restaurant as a busboy. It didn't take him long to progress to waiter and then to line cook, learning the golden rule of fresh supplies with quality service and high standards. The lessons learned would stay with him throughout his work ethic.

In 1876, Fred had a 'hand-shake' contract with Charles Morse, superintendent of the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, to open his Harvey Houses along the railroad's route. Morse never charged Fred and rent for this opportunity.

In 1880, Fred Harvey Houses were placed every hundred miles along the railroad's tracks. Fred's entrepreneurship of quality and excellent service propelled the popularity of his Harvey Houses, and before long, he began adding hotels along with contracts with the railroad to serve their dining cards.

Fred knew he needed young women with experience, good character, and a sincere smile. He began running ads for young women for interviews, and he was thrilled with the response. During the time of the Harvey Houses, some 100,000 young women were employed throughout his Harry Houses and hotels.

Harvey's ad read as follows:

"Wanted, young women, 18-30, of good moral character, adventurous, and intelligent to waitress at the Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe Trail in the west. Wages of $17.50 per month, liberal tips, and free room and board. Write Fred Harvey, Union Depot, Kansas City, Missouri."

The young women saw their chance for independence, a chance to make their own money, and to see the world outside their limited home life.

Thousands responded and were required to come to Kansas City for their interview. If accepted, they were required to sign the following rules:

  • Sign a pledge they were of high character
  • A six-week training period to learn the rules of etiquette and how to set a proper table, making sure the custom Harvey dinnerware and glasses were not chipped or cracked
  • They had to sign a pledge they would not marry for the first six months.

After training, they were sent to rural towns with shifts of 12 hours, six days a week. When not at work, they lived in a dorm with a dorm mother who constantly monitored them.

Harvey eventually dropped the marriage clause as too many of the girls found husbands. This is how these young women married, began families, increased the local communities and help build the West.

Group of Harvey Girls

Group of Harvey Girls

Harvey Girls Starched Uniform

Harvey Girls Starched Uniform

Fred Harvey

Fred Harvey

Fred Harvey, Father of Western Hospitality

Fred Harvey, who started with the railroad as a clerk, saw the need for offering travelers good food and efficient services and trained women serves to aid travelers. Fred is credited with being the first to operate a 'chain' of restaurants while promoting tourism in the American Southwest. His Harvey Girls, experienced professionals, were to become known as 'ambassadors of travelers.

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The decline in rail travel, coupled with the influx of automobiles, led to declining rail travelers.

At the time of his death in 1901, there were five hotels, 47 restaurants, and 39 dining cars operated by Fred Harvey. His sons, Ford and Byron, then took over management of the family business until it was sold in 1968 to AmPac, Inc., then in 1988, it was sold to JMC Realty which became Xanterra in 2002.

The Fred Harvey Museum is at 625 Oliver St., Leavenworth, Kansas, 913-682-7949.

Fred and his wife are buried in Mt. Muncie Cemetery, Kansas.

The famous Will Rogers summed it up best when he said, "he kept the west in food and wives."


Harvey Grave Marker

Harvey Grave Marker

Restoration of Some of the Harvey Houses

In Winslow, Arizona, the La Posada, the last of the Harvey Houses, has been restored and still operates as a hotel. Allan Affeldt and his wife Tina Mion purchased it, restoring it to its glory. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Louis Union Station. Opened in 1894 with the last train departing in 1978 and restored 1985, today it is a retail, restaurant, entertainment, and hotel.


La Posada, Arizona

La Posada, Arizona

Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.

Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.

Grand Hall union Station St. Louis

Grand Hall union Station St. Louis

Sources Used

https://www.kansastravel.org

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/article/526340

https://harveylibrary.arizona.edu

https://en/wikipedia.org

http://www.briticanna.com/biography/Fred-Harvey


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