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Fred Harvey

Harvey, Fred (Frederick Henry Harvey), 1835–1901, Anglo-American entrepreneur and restauranteur, the father of America's hospitality industry, b. London. He sailed to New York City in 1850, worked in restaurants there, in New Orleans, and St. Louis, and was a railroad freight agent in Kansas. Noticing that train passengers had no convenient way to get meals, Harvey, in cooperation with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe RR, began opening restaurants at major train stations, the first (1876) at Topeka, Kans. Called the Harvey Houses, they offered good food at reasonable prices in clean and pleasant settings and were staffed by young women dubbed the Harvey Girls. The popular eateries were eventually located from Kansas to California and from America's northern to southern border. Harvey also added to his empire a number of hotels and railroad dining cars. While its heyday was in the 1920s, the Harvey Company thrived until World War II. The lessening of train travel marked its decline, and it was finally bought by a conglomerate in the 1960s.

See R. Melzer, Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest (2008); P. and K. Nickens, Touring the West: With the Fred Harvey Co. and the Santa Fe Railway (2008); S. Fried, Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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