Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Legacy of Fred Harvey



Having a grandfather who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, I heard stories about Fred Harvey when I was a youngster.  So, when I heard about this exhibit at the Heard Museum, I decided I needed to check it out.

Fred Harvey lived the true American success story.  He immigrated to America as a teenager and took jobs in New York as a busboy, dishwasher and waiter.  He began his career with the Santa Fe Railroad in 1876, opening a restaurant in Topeka Kansas.  His business quickly grew as he opened restaurants all along the Santa Fe Railroad line.  He built a reputation for excellence in food and service.  He hired only women to serve his customers instead of waiters as was common at the time.  He ended up providing opportunities for young women that were not easily available anywhere in the United States.


The Santa Fe Railroad ran from Chicago to California crossing quite a swath of Native American territory.  This exhibit at the Heard Museum talked about the influence Fred Harvey had on Native American peoples.  Native Americans sold many of their beautiful weavings, pottery and jewelry crafts at stops along the railroad and in the Fred Harvey restaurants and gift shops.  In fact, Fred Harvey hired many Native Americans to create items to sell in his shops, making many artists famous at the time.  The presence of the railroad also impacted some the the Native American crafts.  Above are two Hopi carvings of "railroad men" and in the top photo you can see how the railroad ended up in weaving designs and baskets.


The waitresses at Fred Harvey restaurants became known fondly as "Harvey Girls".  They wore distinctive uniforms that inspired Leo Poblano of the Zuni Pueblo to create this inlaid likeness of a Harvey Girl.

It was a very informative exhibit.  I'm glad I went to see it.  It brought back many memories of stories my grandfather (and my mother) told me about his adventures "out west".

14 comments:

Bill Nicholls said...

Sounds like the guy was a local hero as to speak

Jacob said...

Thanks for this. I remember a series of Fred Harvey restaurants along the Illinois Turnpike (I think that's what it was) many years ago...then they all disappeared. And I didn't know that he was so involved with the railroads.

Roseann said...

I actually met one of the last Harvey Girls. She was working as a Grand Canyon guide.
Lest you think she was 1000 years old I think the Harvey Girls were still working into the 1950's. Because I'm an Eastern girl I had never heard of them and I enjoyed the story and traditions of the Harvey Girls.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Mr Harvey sounds like he was a man ahead of his time Sharon!

William Kendall said...

This, I think, is the first I've heard of him. Quite ahead of the times.

Karl Demetz said...

Today I've learned something new (again).

cieldequimper said...

Fantastic! I love those baskets!

Steve Reed said...

Interesting! I've never heard of Fred Harvey. He sounds like an early Howard Johnson!

RedPat said...

What a wonderful exhibit and he sounds like he was a wonderful man, Sharon!

Halcyon said...

Beautiful works. So much craftsmanship!

LOLfromPasa said...

How interesting. We always go out of my way to see a Fred Harvey House on our travels. So many have been restored. I know I would have enjoyed this exhibit.

Kate said...

Great information about the Harvey businesses and history of the different enterprises!

Lois said...

Interesting exhibit Sharon and I had never heard of Fred Harvey before. My great-grandfather worked for the Florida East Coast Railway and reading your post reminded me of the stories my grandmother used to tell me about him.

Jack said...

I am not familiar with the Fred Harvey restaurants. Still, your post is most informative about a little bit of Americana.