Harvey Girls pose in a row in this undated photograph.

“Will Rogers said: Fred Harvey kept the West supplied with food and wives.”

Conditions of hash houses along railroad lines before dining cars and Harvey Houses was deplorable. Service and food was bad, kickbacks to conductors.

Early 1870’s Englishman-traveler Fred Harvey approached Santa Fe with a plan to establish good eating establishments along the railroad from Kansas to California. Since Food services was one of the most serious problems for railroads and the Santa Fe officials were eager to listen to his proposal. They agreed to supply the buildings, transport food, furnishings, and employees free of charge.

In addition, Harvey was to receive all proceeds from the profits.

The first Harvey house opened in the Spring of 1876 (Custer’s Last Stand was June 25. The West was still pretty wild.

The restaurant was an immediate success. He hired French chefs away from fine eastern restaurants and paid them handsome salaries. One was making more than the president of the local bank.

Before Harvey brought women to wait tables they used to say there were no “ladies west of Dodge City and no women west of Albuquerque.”

Recruited women between ages 18-30. Good character, attractive, intelligent.

The cowboys called them “Biscuit Shooters.” It was said Harvey tried to hire plain-looking girls because they were more likely to fulfill their contracts. Also according to one, “the plain ones seemed to get in less trouble.

One year contracts, but few remained single for very long. Pretty ones took about a day, ugly ones 3 days at most. This prompted Will Rogers to say, “Fred Harvey kept the West in food and wives.”

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