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Harvey Girls

Restauranteur Fred Harvey's biggest challenge was not delivering fresh food to his far-flung outposts but finding reliable help, so he placed advertisements in the East and the Midwest for single "young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent."

These women became the famed Harvey Girls, trained in rules of etiquette and given black-and-white uniforms befitting a nun. Humorist Will Rogers once said Harvey and his young servers "kept the West in food and wives." Indeed, one estimate put the number of Harvey Girls who wound up as brides of western cowboys and railroadmen at 20,000.

Mrs. Harvey met each girl as she was hired. Paid $17.50 a month, this was a dream job for many who were unable to cope with the burgeoning populations of big cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia. So many Harvey Girls, always respectable, became the wife to a customer.

One railroad baron said "The Harvey House was not only a good place to eat; it was the Cupid of the Rails". It is estimated that more than 100,000 girls worked for Harvey House restaurants and hotels and of those, 20,000 married their regular customers.

 

Courtesy, Kansas State Historical Society. Accessed February 19, 2014