New Mexico (where my new series of western romances is set) was the 47th state to be brought into the Union. The battle to earn that status took decades and was not achieved until 1912. What took so long?
Racism and prejudice reared their ugly heads time and again. Washington politicians and powerful voices on the Eastern seaboard believed the citizens of New Mexico were lazy, illiterate and most of all far too ‘foreign’ (the population being predominantly of Mexican or Native American heritage). During the Civil War calls for statehood were defeated by those in Congress afraid of shifting the balance of power in the war. Following that war and in spite of a strong ranching and railroad industry and the advancement of tourism (thanks in part to the efforts of the Fred Harvey Company), bill after bill calling for statehood was rejected by the Congress. It wasn’t until President William Howard Taft visited the territory in the early 1900’s that New Mexico (and their neighbor,Arizona) finally saw serious movement in their fight to become the 47th star on the flag.
For a full history of the road to statehood, click here: https://www.canyonroadarts.com/new-mexicos-journey-from-colony-to-statehood/
- The first Harvey House opened in 1876 in Topeka, Kansas.
- At the height of his empire, Harvey had established 23 hotels and 54 dining rooms.
- At first, men served as waiters. But after a midnight brawl in New Mexico in 1883, Fred Harvey followed his manager’s advice to hire women because they’d be less likely “to get liquored up.”
- Although the ads didn’t specify, he meant white women of good character. Harvey Houses never hired blacks and seldom hired Hispanics or Indians to be Harvey Girls.
- A reporter for the Leavenworth Times in 1905 wrote, “The girls at a Fred Harvey place never look dowdy, frowsy, tired, slipshod or overworked. They are expecting you—clean collars, clean aprons, hands and faces washed, nails manicured— “
- According to Lesley Poling-Kempes, author of The Harvey Girls, from 1883 until the late 1950s, when train travel lost out to the private automobile and airlines, and most Harvey Houses closed, some 100,000 young women had signed contracts to become Harvey Girls.
- Harvey Girls often worked 12-hour days—usually split shifts scheduled around train schedules—six or seven days a week.
Before Fred Harvey–and his famous staff of Harvey Girl waitresses–came along (in 1876), patronizing a roadhouse that was near a water stop for the train was a traveler’s only food choice. Travelers often paid for the meal as part of their ticket, but when they arrived found the food not yet ready and pressure to re-board the train before they could eat. According to Wikipedia, such a meal “typically consisted of nothing more than rancid meat, cold beans, and week-old coffee.”
Harvey offered good food in large portions served on fine china and Irish linens that gave the customer good value. and became the ‘gold standard’ for fine dining while traveling. He also developed a system that allowed passengers to enjoy the food without feeling the pressure to re-board the train. They were given timely updates on when the train would leave the station. Travel became a pleasure–rather than a challenge!!
NOTE FROM ANNA: Starting in 2019, I will be introducing a new Western series centered around the Harvey Girls–young women from the East and Midwest who answered an ad for waitressing on the frontier, and left home and family to follow their hearts.
In the late 1800’s a young freight agent working for the railroad spotted an opportunity to change the service side of travel. As more travelers headed West, Fred Harvey saw the need for making the experience more enjoyable and less tedious. He established a chain of “eating houses” along the Santa Fe Trail route, serving good food at reasonable prices in comfortable surroundings. Perhaps his most innovative idea was to hire and train a core of young, single, intelligent women who were also of “good character,” and, sought the adventure that came with traveling to frontier towns where they would live in company housing and staff Harvey’s popular lunch counters and dining rooms.
The Harvey Girls not only contributed to the success of Fred Harvey (and later his son and grandson), but they are generally credited with bringing a new civility to the West. In these early days, aside from mothers, sisters and saloon hall girls of questionable reputation, the Harvey Girls were young, attractive and lived under the strict rule of the Harvey Company’s rules for conduct. Many a cowboy or railway worker frequented the local Harvey house as much for a chance to see a pretty smile as to eat a good meal.
These were THOSE HARVEY GIRLS!!!
Stay tuned for monthly updates as you learn more about Anna’s new series! In the meantime, the last story in her LAST CHANCE COWBOYS is available now — THE RANCHER has received top reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Romantic Times!