Harvey Girls
Picture courtesy of the
Model Railroad Museum

When Fred Harvey came upon the idea of hiring educated young women of character who looked attractive and dressed neatly to serve customers at his trackside restaurants across the Southwest, the idea was pretty close to heresy.  Such jobs were traditionally held by men - or, in the less-classy establishments, by women of ill repute.  But Harvey persisted, and the first Harvey Girls started serving train-traveling tourists at Raton, New Mexico, in 1883.  Their wholesome good looks, impeccable neatness, courteous manners, and articulate speech won over their customers in short order, and soon Harvey Girls hired on at Harvey Houses all over the West, including the El Tovar Hotel and the original Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon.

Harvey Girls signed one-year contracts that dictated appropriate behavior on and off the job.  The women could not marry while their contracts were in effect, and fraternization with the opposite sex was not allowed, although the latter rule was laxly enforced at the Grand Canyon's remote location.  But the Fred Harvey Company paid well, a huge attraction for young, single women at the turn of the twentieth century, and with free room and board, free laundry services, and other perks, the company attracted more than one hundred thousand Harvey Girls over the life of the program.

Source material for this story: 2006 Grand Canyon National Park Calendar printed by the Grand Canyon Association.


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