Two interesting takes on the historic discussion about what Fred Harvey brought to Native American art, and in what ways it might have commercialized it. First, a Q&A with me by the author of a new book on Navajo Artist Quincy Tahoma, exploring Harvey’s influence. Here’s part one of the interview and Vera, the author, says she’ll be posting part 2 soon.

Also, in the new issue of New Mexico magazine, there’s an article by Tibby Gold about Fred’s influence, timed for market in Santa Fe. Unfortunately, NM Mag doesn’t post all their content on-line so you’ll have to check out the article in the actual mag.

Interesting piece on the WTTW website about something I knew nothing about–mostly because my research on the Harvey company primarily carried through the late 1940s. But in the 1950s and 60s the company had a lot of different restaurants in and around Chicago–non-Harvey Girl restaurants–and according to this the Kungsholm was quite famous for its Puppet Opera. Who knew?

If not, please take a look–at Every morning on the site we post a “new” archival recipe taken directly from an original cookbook of a Fred Harvey chef–and encourage you to try it, change it, and report back to us (and others who follow the site.) We’ve already posted updated recipes from the leading Harvey-heritage chefs in the country, including John Sharpe at the Turquoise Room at La Posada, and Matt McTigue the executive chef at El Tovar.

Please check the Fred Harvey Cookbook site out. It’s Fredilicious!

I’ll be out this fall giving an updated talk on Fred Harvey and the book, with some great new photos in the power point. Here’s a tentative schedule, times to be determined.

September 14, Washington DC: National Archives
September 22, Dodge City, KS
September 24, Topeka, KS (Kansas Book Festival)
October 18, Purdue University
October 23, Albuquerque, NM
October 29, San Gabriel, CA
November 6, Las Vegas, NV
November 10, Fairfax, VA
November 18, Reading, PA
December 6, Omaha, NE

More dates will be added. If your venue would like to book an appearance (I have availability in Kansas the week of 9/19, and on the west cost in late October) please contact me or Bantam publicity.

Apparently amazon got access to a limited number of hardcover copies of Appetite for America and, for a short time, will be offering them again. If you still want a hardcover, this would be the time to order one. Click here to do that.

Appetite for America has been selected as a Kansas Notable Book of the Year by the Kansas State Library and the Kansas Center for the Book (the state affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.)

The award will be given in Topeka during the Kansas Book Festival, September 23-24. I’ll be there, and will also be in Dodge City, KS September 22.

Here are two very rare photos of young Fred Harvey. The locket photo has never before been published in color, and the other has never been published. They give you a different idea of what Fred looked like as a young businessman, a little less weathered by life. Both from Appetite for America, courtesy of Daggett Harvey, Jr.

Please check out our new Fred Foodie site, The Fred Harvey Cookbook Project. Every day, we post a “new” archival recipe from Fred Harvey chefs for you to try, tweak or completely deconstruct–and then we ask you to submit how your Fred-cooking experience went. Check it out!! And may Fred eat with you!

A Leavenworthy I met during my recent trip to Fred Harvey’s hometown, Mary Ann Brown of the great local historical society, shares this interesting, funny little article about Fred from early 1898.

Leavenworth Times: Jan 2, 1898
“JOKE on Fred Harvey. Thought he was through with his annual.”

The following is the story of a railroad pass and illustrates the folly of being in too much of a hurry to give up a good thing.

Fred Harvey, the great railroad dining house magnate, was coming home Friday from Kansas City to spend New Year’s with his family.
When the conductor asked for his fare he flashed his little annual pass and was allowed to ride as becomes a man actively associated with large railroad interests.

Upon leaving the Burlington train in East Leavenworth Mr. Harvey boarded the “plug” for Leavenworth, and no sooner had he seated himself in the train than, looking at the pass which he had retained in his hand, he remarked that “this will be outlawed tomorrow and I don’t need it any more.” With this remark he tore the annual passport to free passage on the Burlington system in pieces and tossed the scraps on the floor.

Just then the conductor touched him on the shoulder and asked for his fare from East Leavenworth to Leavenworth. Mr. Harvey had not counted on having to show his pass again during 1897.

Film critic Leonard Maltin just did a really terrific post about Appetite for America on his blog Movie Crazy, recommending it highly for summer travel reading.

He writes: “With … people thinking about vacation travel this summer, I can’t think of a better time to put in a plug for Stephen Fried’s wonderful book Appetite for America, which has just been released in paperback by Bantam. This amazing saga of an English-born entrepreneur who changed the face of the American West is one of those stories that’s larger than life, in some ways better than fiction.”

His post also includes an excerpt from one of his favorite parts of the book, the section about the making of The Harvey Girls movie with Judy Garland. Thanks, Leonard, for being such a passionate Harvey fan and Fred travel buff (I know he has visited El Tovar at the Grand Canyon and La Posada in Winslow.)

Provocative new academic review of Appetite for America in The Journal of American Culture

“Lively and engaging … a detailed, extensively researched and fascinating picture of the Fred Harvey empire. There is already a large body of scholarship on the Fred Harvey Company … [and] several short biographies of Harvey … but this is the first comprehensive study of the company, its major characters, their motivations and the role each played in the rise and fall of the empire. … Fried is a journalist by training, and Appetite for America is an anecdotal history for the general reader … The author clearly had a lot of fun researching and writing this book. … I stayed up half the night reading it and … loved every delicious, untroubling moment of it.”
–Joy Sperling, Denison University
Journal of American Culture

Full Review:
The Journal of American Culture, March 2011
Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the West
Stephen Fried. New York: Bantam Books, 2010.

In January 1946, MGM released The Harvey Girls, a sweeping musical extravaganza starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Angela Landsbury and Cyd Charisse. It was a feel-good tale of good versus evil, the taming of the west and a flock of Harvey Girls, waitresses in Fred Harvey’s famous railroad eating houses along the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (AT&SF) line. The Girls, dressed in vaguely nun-like black-and-white uniforms, redeem the ‘‘loose women’’ of the fictional town of Sandrock and civilize the men. The movie was short on plot but delivered elaborate song-and-dance numbers and pure escapism. Its lead song, ‘‘On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe’’ won an Oscar and the movie was one of the highest grossing films of its time. Today, few of us know the name Fred Harvey, why MGM would make such a high budget movie about a restaurateur and his waitresses, or why it was such a hit.

Fred Harvey was as well known in his time for his restaurant management systems, luxury hotels in the southwest, and the Fred Harvey brand as his contemporary Henry Ford was for his production systems, Frederick Taylor for his ‘‘scientific manage-ment,’’ or later Walt Disney for his theme park. But Fred Harvey’s success rose and fell with transcontinental passenger train travel. Although Harvey died in 1901, the Fred Harvey Company, under his son Ford Harvey’s management, emerged as a service industry empire that collapsed after automobile and airline travel eclipsed luxury train travel after World War II. Today, the Fred Harvey Company, absorbed by the Xanterra Corporation, still holds the concession rights to the Grand Canyon and several southwestern national parks.

Fred Harvey’s success was built on his consistently high level of service and mythologizing of the Fred Harvey brand. Harvey reinvented the restaurant stops along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line in the southwest at a pivotal time, when independent rail- roads battled for control of territory across the United States. The Santa Fe’s dominance was based in part on its widespread advertising though visual imagery: prints of famous works of art such as Thomas Moran’s view of the Grand Canyon, calendars distributed to almost a million people annually, and the relentless advertising of Fred Harvey’s restaurants and hotels along the line. Harvey’s restaurants were clean, formal, and provided standardized good food delivered in record time to accommodate the railway timetable. Harvey’s major contribution to American culture was the invention of fast high-quality food service. Additionally, he populated the southwest with good, clean, polite, usually malleable and marriageable young girls; indeed, Harvey was frequently described by contemporaries as the man who really ‘‘civilized’’ the west.

In its day, the Fred Harvey Company’s reputation drew monarchs, presidents, and movie stars to hotels such as El Tovar on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon and La Fonda in Santa Fe. The Fred Harvey Company promised his customers luxury, glamour and the fantasy of rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and offered the Harvey Girls financial independence, escape from the grime of big-city or the confines of small-town America to a new, reinvented life in the west, and the possibility of finding a rich western husband.

Harvey’s first restaurants were served by African-American waiters; indeed railway dining cars and sleeping accommodations nationwide were so-staffed for decades. For still obscure reasons, at the end of the nineteenth century, Harvey switched his entire serving staff to young women. In Appetite for America, Stephen Fried suggests that Harvey sought to protect African-American men from the regular beatings or worse that they endured in the west (86), but it is more likely that young women cost less, were more malleable, more easily regulated, and exerted a calming force on locals.

Harvey’s solicitations for Harvey Girls were published in newspapers and magazines in the east and Midwest; Harvey Girls were young, single, and of good moral character. Each was required to sign a contract agreeing to stay in Harvey’s employ for the full extent of their six-month term, to live in the highly structured Harvey dormitories, and to remain single. Harvey Girls were subjected to inspection daily: they wore perfectly maintained uniforms to work, tied their hair back simply, and wore no makeup.

In his restaurants, Harvey demanded standardized recipes, coffee made to strict specifications that went as far as daily testing and adjustment of the alkalinity of water used, bread cut precisely in 3/8in. slices, and orange juice squeezed only when ordered. Harvey invented the famous ‘‘cup-code’’ for faster beverage service. If coffee was ordered, the cup remained in the saucer; for milk it was inverted on the table and set beside the saucer; for iced tea it was inverted and leaned against the saucer; and for tea it was inverted on the saucer with the handle pointing in one of three directions depending on whether black, green, or orange pekoe tea was ordered. Harvey’s business model was equally terse and efficient. He insisted after his retirement that a family member and tight inner circle of advisors lead the company and that they maintain twelve conservative business practices that included in addition to the concentration of the business in as few hands as possible, actively catching employees young, promoting exclusively from within, gradual and steady company expansion, and reinvest- ing company profits in the business.

Fried’s Appetite for America is a lively and engaging biography of the key players in the history of the Fred Harvey company. Fried presents a detailed, extensively researched and fascinating picture of the Fred Harvey empire. There is already a large body of scholarship on the Fred Harvey Company exploring the company’s connections to an emerging southwest tourist industry, its promotion of Native American art and crafts, its patronage of architect Mary Colter, and its close working relationship with the early anthropology in Santa Fe. There are also several short biographies of Harvey and his company, but this is the first comprehensive study of the company, its major characters, their motivations and the role each played in the rise and fall of the empire. Fried’s narrative sometimes meanders around the Harvey family and through cultural history, taking interesting side trips to discuss such topics as the debate over standardized time (97), the history of American postcards (197), or the origin of Walt Disney’s inspiration for his theme parks (394). Fried’s more than complete documentation sublimates his narrative’s agenda. Yet, Appetite for America eschews critical analysis and scholarly method in favor of spinning a good yarn; it avoids asking critical questions or engaging the debates about Fred Harvey or his business model.

Fried’s book describes the Fred Harvey Company’s rise to wealth and fame and its inevitable fall. Fried makes his characters human, despite the fact that Fred Harvey was by all accounts a dry, humorless individual. Fried is deeply sympathetic to Fred Harvey, and he makes some interesting comments about the battle for control of the company between Byron Harvey, Fred Harvey’s brother and his nephew Freddie Harvey. The decisions not to exploit automobile travel sites along highway 66, to capture middle-class markets for food and lodging, or to compete for airline concessions, which Freddie advo- cated before his untimely death in an airline crash, functioned in concert to undermine the health of the business as railroad passenger service diminished after the war. Fried notes with sad irony that the 1946 song about the AT&SF made more money than the railroad that inspired it (392).

Fried’s history is energetic and engaging, but includes no real analysis of the implications of the Harvey methods. I would have preferred to see Harvey compared and contrasted with his peers, Ford and Taylor specifically, who collectively ushered in a new age of consumer products, their production, and promotion. Fried also glosses over the more troubling questions of race and gender that permeate the Harvey story and which established the paradigm for the treatment of several generations of service workers. Harvey’s employment of a mostly female work force was a key factor in his economic success and might have been treated with less certainty that it was a good thing; Harvey Girls may have considered themselves part of an elite force, but they were also essentially indentured servants with few rights.

Fried is a journalist by training, and Appetite for America is an anecdotal history for the general reader. The catchy double entendre of its title is echoed in several chapter titles that include the awful puns, ‘‘Acute Americanitis,’’ ‘‘National Parking,’’ and ‘‘Heir Raising.’’ There are, in addition, ‘‘Freditor’s Notes and Sources’’ plus three appendices: a description of Fried’s own ‘‘Grand Tour’’ of extant Harvey institutions, a collection of recipes from ‘‘Meals by Fred Harvey,’’ and a list of Harvey hotels with the current state of (dis)repair. The author clearly had a lot of fun researching and writing this book. Appetite for America is not quite biography, not quite social history, not quite business history, but I stayed up half the night reading it and, as with The Harvey Girls, loved every delicious, untroubling moment of it.

—Joy Sperling, Denison University

Terrific review in the Plain Dealer in Cleveland–the easternmost Fred Harvey City–in a paperback round-up:

<< Here are five more noteworthy new paperbacks: Appetite for America
Stephen Fried (Bantam, 398 pp.)

The subtitle of Fried’s wonderfully entertaining history is “Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West — One Meal at a Time.” Which raises the question — also the title of his prologue — “Who the Hell Is Fred Harvey?”

Fried answers: “Fred Harvey was Ray Kroc before McDonald’s, J.W. Marriott before Marriott Hotels, Howard Johnson before Hojo’s, Joe Horn and Frank Hardart before Horn & Hardart’s, Howard Schultz before Starbucks.”

Fred Harvey, an English immigrant born in 1835, was the founder of America’s service industry, beginning with a single lunch counter in 1876. Realizing the potential of the railroad’s Western expansion, he followed the rails, opening restaurants and hotels all along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. After his death in 1901, his son Ford took over the company named simply Fred Harvey.

At its peak, Fred Harvey owned more than 65 restaurants and lunch counters, 60 dining cars, a dozen hotels, all the restaurants and retail shops in five of the nation’s largest railroad stations, and countless newsstands and bookshops. The restaurants were known for their fine food and the people who served it: The Harvey Girls, a pioneering American women’s work force, romanticized by Judy Garland in the 1946 film “The Harvey Girls.”

In what many considered a bold move, the company branched out from the Santa Fe and opened its first major location east of Chicago, in 1930 in Cleveland’s Union Terminal, now Tower City Center. Fred Harvey ran all the terminal’s restaurants and much of its retail space. His book-selling was so innovative that the trade magazine Publishers Weekly sent a reporter to Cleveland to figure out exactly what the company was doing.

Not only is Harvey’s Horatio Alger life story fascinating in itself, Fried’s telling of it is lively and chock full of the excitement of a young capitalist expanding and innovating with can-do spirit.

Just spent two wonderful days in the Heart of Fredness–which is, of course, Kansas City and nearby Leavenworth, KS, where the Fred Harvey empire was conceived, born and raised, its headquarters for over 60 years, from 1876 until the late 1930s. I was originally spirited back by the Kansas City Public Library for its terrific lecture series–thanks to public affairs director Henry Fortunato. And when the folks in Fred’s hometown of Leavenworth heard I would be nearby, the Leavenworth County Historical Society arranged an entire day of events visiting and talking about that city’s Fred Harvey Treasures (which are many.) Since both institutions were incredibly helpful when I was researching the book–and wondered if it would ever get done–it was great to be able to return to them with paperback in hand.

Some highlights from KC talk: local Harveyana collector Tom Taylor displayed some of his treasures (and regaled us with tales of his best Fred china deals) and during the book signing I met a woman (the mother of one of the librarians) who had known both Minnie Harvey Huckel and Kitty Harvey pretty well, and promised to write me with her recollections of them (which I will post here–she did say Minnie had an amazing glass collection, I wonder what became of it?)

The next morning I was taken to Leavenworth in a blinding rainstorm by Mary Stephenson–the driving force behind my visit there, who is very active in LCHS and actually lives in Sybil Harvey’s beautifully restored old house (across the street from the Harvey mansion, with an amazing blooming tulip tree in the front yard)–and Shirley Stieger, her Harvey Girl next-door neighbor and owner of the delightful Union Park Guest House around the corner, where I stayed (it’s a B&B where you get a whole little house, very cool). The peonies were in bloom everywhere in Leavenworth, and they were on all the tables at the LCHS event, and there were lots of Leavenworthies dressed as Harvey Girls taking care of us.

After the luncheon, my talk and a book signing (with copies of the new paperback provided by the local indie store the Book Barn), we went over to the Fred Harvey Museum, Fred’s old mansion, which is being lovingly restored by local volunteers–to whom I apologize for anyone who took offense at my description in the book of their efforts as Sisyphean, because they will finish and have not, as far as I know, been cursed by the gods. (Although, like many community-minded volunteers who have been laboring for a long time, they could probably use a little family therapy and the occasional reminder they all got into this for the love of Fred and Leavenworth.) Good things do come to those who wait, and they’ve made some impressive progress on the house since the last time I was here. And the little “temporary” museum in Fred’s old carriage house has some nice new things (I bought one of the Harvey Girl insulated cups–which got me flagged at airport security because of, I swear, a TSA “insulated cup warning.”)

After that, we had some time to kill before a happy-hour book signing in town, so five of us took a little road trip, first to Fred Harvey’s previous home on 2nd street which, as I wrote in another post, is a wreck. Fred’s old house condemned was so depressing we decided to visit the family burial plot at Mt. Muncie Cemetery to cheer us up, which it kinda did. And then we retired to a nice downtown drinkery, JW Crancer’s, to have a toast or two to dear old Fred.

I was in Leavenworth, KS this week, where I spoke at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and got a chance to tour the Fred Harvey Museum (still under construction in Fred’s Olive Street mansion, but coming along) and the lovingly restored home across the street built for his daughter Sybil.

In between events, a group of us decided to visit Fred’s original house in Leavenworth, the one where he and his growing family lived from approximately 1869 until 1884. This is where he and his wife, Sally, raised their children and where he developed from a successful traveling freight agent into a restaurant magnate and household name (after which the Harveys bought the Olive Street, where he lived only part of the year because he spent so much time in England for his health.)

That original four-bedroom house is at 1318 S. 2nd Street, the corner of 2nd and Linn, a block from the train tracks and the river.

While the later Harvey mansion has all kinds of lovely plaques and historical landmarkers out front, Fred’s original home has quite different signage–a white notice pasted to the left of the padlocked front door proclaiming that the building is not fit for human habitation and has been condemned, so “Do Not Enter.” Below you’ll find some photos of its current sad condition.

No idea what happened to it or what, if anything, should/could be done (certainly nobody would be in favor of even a penny going to preserve this building instead of more funding for the Fred Harvey Museum project.) Still, it was a pretty depressing during an otherwise magical visit to Fred’s hometown.

Please join me at the Kansas City Public Library on Thursday May 19th, at 6 pm (free event but please RSVP with this link).

I will also be appearing in Fred’s hometown of Leavenworth, KS the next day, May 20, beginning at 11:30 with a city tour and then a talk at the local historical society, followed by a tour of his original home. Some events are free, others not, click here for more details.

See you soon in the fertile crescent of comfort food, the original homes of Fred Harvey and of the Fred Harvey hospitality empire.