He kept the West in food and wives. -- Will Rogers
October 1, 2003 5:35 AM   Subscribe

The story of Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls is the story of the civilization of the American West. From 1896 to 1945, Harvey House Restaurants and Hotels along the route of the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe represented first-rate food served in clean, stylish surroundings at reasonable cost. His corps of well-trained waitresses, wearing their distinctive uniforms and bound by a code of hard work and good conduct, provided both adventure and independence to generations of young women. Today, all that is left of the Harvey empire is the remembrances of former employees, beautiful buildings which dot the southwest, some vintage recipes, a 1946 Judy Garland film, and (possibly) the enduring term "Blue-Plate Special".
posted by anastasiav (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Meanwhile, the Fred Garvin story goes unnoted, as always.
posted by trondant at 6:18 AM on October 1, 2003

good chapter on the Harvey Houses, and other interesting foodities in this book: From Hardtack to Homefries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals
posted by jessamyn at 6:33 AM on October 1, 2003

Another excellent book, featuring interviews with former Harvey Girls.
posted by JanetLand at 6:52 AM on October 1, 2003

This is really interesting stuff.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on October 1, 2003

Thanks anastasiav, great post.

There's a Harvey House Museum in Florence Kansas where they recreate the original - complete with meals served by volunteers in costume.

Transcript (with pic) of a local public television feature about it is here, promo page with video here. (mis-spellings from the original)

"We serve a five course meal based on menus from Fred Harvey's days. And we try to make it extra special fancy because Fred Harvey's wife went and bought fancy linens and fancy china and we try to make it very special. To begin with we serve drinks and we put a relishtray on, an appitiser, and we serve our salad and then theose plates are removed and we serve our main course dinner. We serve roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, aspargus in season wihh cheese sauce, cole slaw, fresh homemade roles and charolote of peach for desert. With a dabble of whipped cream."

BTW I'd swear that I had that exact same meal at a buddie's home in Indianopolis a few years back ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2003

It was so well organized and operated... well, let me give you an example. When the train pulled out of a station, the conductor would announce the next dining stop. He would also annouce that eating in the dining room at the restaurant was 6 bits

Beats all this new-fangled 64-bit nonsense, what?

Fantastic post, anastasiav!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:46 AM on October 1, 2003

I've thoroughly enjoyed this, anastasiav - thanks for all the work. By the way, it looks like Angelica, the company that designed the original Harvey Girls uniforms, is still alive and kicking, and still making uniforms.
posted by taz at 12:31 PM on October 1, 2003

I ended up catching most of The Harvey Girls one late night on AMC, and despite the fact that I was rolling my eyes every once in awhile, I was hooked.

It's great to learn more. And it looks like the next time I'm in Barstow on the way to my mother's house, I'll have to stop at the railroad museum instead of Barstow Station...
posted by Katemonkey at 4:07 PM on October 1, 2003

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