From the book jacket:
As much an American success story as a story about America itself, the saga of Fred Harvey—told here, in-depth, for the first time ever--is a captivating tale of a man whose life, entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, hard work, and resilience have become the stuff of legend. He and his family business left an indelible mark on our nation’s culture and history; to a surprising degree, we still live in an America of Fred Harvey’s making. But just who was Fred Harvey?
To answer that question, award-winning journalist Stephen Fried has recreated a life that reads like a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story. He also brings a fresh eye to America’s expansion into the “wild west” of Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid--the great days of the railroads, a time when a deal could still be made with a handshake—and follows the country and the company as they grew up together through the early days of autos and planes. This is the drama of a young Londoner who arrived in America virtually penniless and literally worked his way up from dishwasher to become a household name. He was Ray Kroc before McDonald’s; Jan Marriot before Marriott Hotels; Howard Schultz before Starbucks; and the restaurant/hotels he and his equally brilliant son, Ford, built along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe rail line would be celebrated by princes and presidents, as well as countless ordinary travelers who simply wanted the best cup of coffee in the country.
It was Harvey who first asked the question, Can’t eating on the go be enjoyable and relaxing? He replaced the “flea-bag” hotels and train station “grub” early travelers had grown to deplore with world-class cuisine and opulent guest houses—including the magical hotel at the end of the train to the Grand Canyon. He was, in the words of one prominent New York critic of the day, a “food missionary” on a quest to civilize America--one meal at a time.
And he staffed his Harvey Houses with a carefully-screened crew of young single women, the Harvey Girls, America’s first female work force, who tamed the west with their perfect service and then often settling down to marry their best customers. They became such a part of Americana that during WWII they inspired an Oscar-winning movie starring Judy Garland as everyone’s dream Harvey Girl.
How this offbeat hero grew his company from a single lunch-counter in Topeka into a multi-generational family empire that invented many of business practices we take for granted today—and “more than any single organization,” says one historian, “introduced America to Americans”--is a story that Stephen Fried tells with the verve and passion of Fred Harvey himself. Inspiring, instructive, and hugely entertaining, APPETITE FOR AMERICA is historical biography that is as richly rewarding as a slice of fresh apple pie--and every bit as satisfying.
“Impressive ... delightful ... a business story and a sweeping social history populated with memorable characters ....”
--Jonathan Eig, Wall Street Journal
“Meaty ... an expansive chronicle of dining out in America .... How important was Fred Harvey? ... As the gold standard of hospitality, Harvey played host to everyone who was anyone ...”
--Jane and Michael Stern, New York Times Book Review
“Delicious ... very satisfying ... Harvey’s amazing story is a tale of trailblazing entrepreneurship in trying circumstances.”
“Once in a while, you pick up a book that prompts you to make a list of people you simply must recommend it to. Appetite for America is one of those.”
--Roz Shea, bookreporter.com
“I've been devouring the story of Fred Harvey in the new book Appetite for America ... when you read the descriptions of this impeccable level of service and the incredible attention to detail in restaurants and in hotels, where design was everything and everything had to look beautiful, it just makes you want to cry because so little of that is left...”
--Melissa Block, NPR’s All Things Considered
“A magnificent tale of America coming of age, told with mastery and a lively sense of humor ... Hollywood ... could have done a slew of movies about the extraordinary life of Fred Harvey. ”
--David Bain, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Compelling .... Fried spins a spellbinding yarn ... [I’ve] hardly been able to put the thing down”
--Tony Ortega, editor, Village Voice
“This year is only some three months old, but I want to recommend Stephen Fried's 'Appetite for America' in the category of best biography of 2010.”
“Splendid ... remarkable ... the affectionate and entertaining story of a man who saw the American West for what it could be, and made it a reality.”
“Enthralling. .. a lively and detailed portrait of a fascinating character who changed the way Americans eat, drink, sleep, travel, and play. Stephen Fried is a gifted researcher and storyteller.”
--Karen Abbott, best-selling author of Sin in the Second City
"Engrossing ... part biography and part corporate history, Fried weaves a sprawling story of one of the country's first self-made millionaire families. ...."
--Kevin Keefe, publisher, Trains magazine
“What a ride! ... A marvelous look at a family and institution that was synonymous with the West for nearly a century ... The Fred Harvey story is told here with all its majesty, dirty laundry, triumphs and failures in plain sight. It is well told and will capture readers as [well] as any fictional thriller. Except this is all reality."
--Lincoln Journal Star