An immigrant who changed US rail travel in the West, after-the-jump:
But first: Top Comments appears nightly, as a round-up of the best comments on Daily Kos. Surely ... you come across comments daily that are perceptive, apropos and .. well, perhaps even humorous. But they are more meaningful if they're well-known ... which is where you come in (especially in diaries/stories receiving little attention).
Send your nominations to TopComments at gmail dot com by 9:30 PM Eastern Time nightly, or by our KosMail message board. Please indicate (a) why you liked the comment, and (b) your Dkos user name (to properly credit you) as well as a link to the comment itself.
As a rail buff, one often sees the name Fred Harvey, or Harvey Houses mentioned to this day. His story has been noted in bits-and-pieces on this site (with the nonpareil Ojibwa touching on aspects of his legacy) … I’d simply like to present a short career retrospective: of his impact on travel in the southwestern United States, running the first “chain restaurants” as well as hotels and when the family-owned Fred Harvey Company was finally sold in 1968: though it was much smaller than at its peak, it was still the sixth largest food retailer in the US.
Fred Harvey was born in London in 1835 and emigrated to the US as a seventeen year-old. He learned the restaurant business in NYC all the way up from dishwasher (developing an appreciation for fresh food and good service) and later in the Midwest worked for the Burlington Railroad as a freight agent.
His job entailed travel, and west of the Mississippi he was most unhappy with the food services, as trains in the post-Civil War era did not yet offer onboard dining. Roadhouses near train stops often had horrid food and thus train travel was not looked at favorably. Fred Harvey thought he could put his food service background to good use, and tried to interest the his employer (Burlington Railroad) in allowing him to develop eateries on-route.
They turned him down, but the smaller Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe took him up and — critically — did not charge Fred Harvey rent for the eating houses he opened. Thus, he was able to serve first-rate food at reasonable prices. That decision helped make that railroad’s reputation soar (and today is part of the large BNSF — Burlington Northern Santa Fe — firm).
At its peak, there were 84 Harvey Houses in operation: with fresh, specialized food delivered by the railroads to places that seldom saw them. He offered meals served on fine china with crystal glasses from Belgium, silverware from England and linen tablecloths from Ireland and it is believed that the advent of the Blue Plate Special may have began at a Harvey House.
After his death: another innovation of his descendants was to hire as its chief architect in 1910 … a woman named Mary Colter, who designed many of the later Harvey Houses and hotels in the Southwest — one of the very few female American architects of her day in any major capacity.
Another innovation of Fred himself: beginning in 1883, he hired an exclusively female staff that became known as the Harvey Girls. He recruited in the East and Midwest for single women 18-30. The bad news is that he explicitly sought white women, who were subject to termination if they failed to meet standards for a one-year period (with marriage during that period sufficient grounds). On the plus side, many escaped what might have been a stifling life living with their parents in that era and their pay of $18.50/month with room & board (plus vacation travel) was good for its time. In later years, the Harvey company did expand its hiring (and especially during the WW-II era).
More than a few historians have said that Fred Harvey’s operations helped to civilize the wild west (at least to an extent). And the Harvey Girls were the subject of a self-titled 1946 MGM film starring Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse and Angela Lansbury.
One other aspect of the Harvey Company was its promotion of Native American art and crafts. As native peoples began to sell their wares at train stops, Fred Harvey expanded local tourism to visit their towns. It’s always difficult (as with the Harvey Girls) to judge the company’s practices by today’s standards. I messaged the aforementioned Ojibwa, who did think that — on balance — he provided employment and entrepreneurial economic opportunities for many, though did perpetuate some stereotypes (notably by insisting that Indians had to look the way tourists were expecting, such as Sioux headdresses being worn by Pueblo men). Fred Harvey also became a noted picture postcard publisher, further developing Southwest tourism by promoting hotels and travel.
In his later years, Fred Harvey began building for other railroads and in 1891 relented and began to offer Harvey meal service onboard trains. After his death, the company fed many a soldier during WW-II and adapted some of its dining facilities to the new interstate highways, though most Harvey locations either closed or were sold in the post-war period.
Fred Harvey died in 1901 and his company survived him by sixty-seven years. The legendary cowboy philosopher Will Rogers once said:
“In the early days, the traveler fed on the buffalo. For doing so, the buffalo got his picture on the nickel. Well, Fred Harvey should have his picture on one side of the dime and one of his waitresses with her arms full of delicious ham and eggs on the other side, ‘cause they have kept the West supplied with food and wives.”
Here is an excellent 7-½ minute feature shown on CBS Sunday Morning in 2019: with biographer Stephen Fried as well as three of Fred Harvey’s great-grandchildren. There are also some of the last Harvey Girls from the 1950’s, who look back fondly at their service.
We have to close, of course, with the great Judy Garland from the 1946 film Harvey Girls. This song (written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer) later won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Now, on to Top Comments:
In the diary by Rule of Claw on the tragedy in Lewiston, Maine — BeadLady replies to Delta Overdue with a family story. The last phrase of the last sentence means that women deserve bodily autonomy right freaking now!
And from Ed Tracey, your faithful correspondent this evening ........
In the diary by Brynne about the bar association disciplinary hearing in California for John Eastman — BigIrish310 takes aim at his defense.
Next - enjoy jotter's wonderful (and now eternal) *PictureQuilt™* below. Just click on the picture and it will magically take you to the comment featuring that photo.
October 25th, 2023
(NOTE: Any missing images in the Quilt were removed because (a) they were from an unapproved source that somehow snuck through in the comments, or (b) an image from the DailyKos Image Library which didn't have permissions set to allow others to use it.)
And lastly: yesterday's Top Mojo - mega-mojo to the intrepid mik ...... who rescued this feature from oblivion: