Harvey Girls: a slice of pie and some “Americana”

A Tour Director asked me if I had heard of the Harvey Houses. When I replied, “No, I haven’t.” She was almost incredulous asking again, “You haven’t heard of the Harvey Girls?”

That’s right! I had not heard about Harvey Houses and the Harvey Girls.  She gave me a short version and it got my interest piqued so I checked out some books from the library and now I know about this wonderful era of the Atcheson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, Fred Harvey, and the opening of the West.

One thing I love about learning history is that it is so interconnected. No country, state, or region’s history stands alone, but we are all interconnected. Historical figures move in and out of one region’s story and show up in another. For example, reading about Fred Harvey I bumped into the interesting characters of “Buffalo Bill” Cody, William Randolph Hearst and Charles Lindbergh.

 They say “Knowledge is power” and in my case, whenever I learn these historical tidbits I want to learn as much as I can and visit the sights. I found the story of Fred Harvey fascinating and so I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned in some conversations.  Talking with my mother I learned that she isn’t certain, but believes that her grandmother was a Harvey Girl in St. Louis. I wonder if there’s anyway one research it…

I can honestly say I have never given much thought to visiting the Southwest, but now I want to see it all: Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, plus California from Needles to Barstow, but especially New Mexico and the historic Grand Canyon lodges. Say, wouldn’t it be fun to take a train trip?

Bibliography:

Appetite for America: How visionary businessman Fred Harvey built a hospitality empire that civilized the Wild West by Stephen Fried

The Harvey Girls: Women who opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes

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