In fewer than 24 hours in DC, I had the rare pleasure of speaking to the regular Tuesday Colloquium of curators at the Smithsonian Museum of American History (joined by colleagues from the new Museum of the American Indian), and then a terrific public event at the National Archive, as part of the their incredibly popular show, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam.” My goal–besides meeting Fredheads and signing books–was to help people at the Smithsonian and National Archives understand that the Fred Harvey story is now very much a living, growing history, worthy of their curatorial attention.
The Fred Harvey story–a wonderful prism through which to see and understand the American West, Native American art and artistic commerce, the rise of the American service industry, foodie culture and the hospitality industry–was once considered a pretty static, almost cartoonish saga for which most of the pertinent details (and artifacts) had been lost to time. The museum show at the Heard in Phoenix in 1996 was considered its first and maybe last hurrah, the restored hotel and restaurant at La Posada in Winslow its only new shrine to the original heroes of Fred Harvey company (Fred and Ford Harvey, Dave Benjamin, Herman Schweizer, Mary Colter and others.)
But I think people all over the country are starting to realize that Harvey history is alive again, and what I did with the research and writing of Appetite for America is only the beginning. Not only are we now able to see the known major collections in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Winslow, Tucson, Santa Fe, Topeka, Waynoka, Dodge City, Florence, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Chicago, and others with fresh eyes, but we’re finding new collections all the time–everything from “new” diaries of some of the earliest Harvey Girls to, a large donation of Indian jewelry and artifacts from Kitty Harvey’s home, which we just found in the Smithsonian’s holdings (almost by accident, after QVC started marketing a ring copied from one in the Smithsonian collection, which belonged to Fred’s daughter Marie Harvey Hall.)
Let’s try to encourage museums that might be interested in a big Fred-related show to get one going while there are still living Harvey Girls, and Harvey family members who worked in the business and knew the main characters of the Fred Harvey story.
Keep spreading the Fred. I know I will.