National Archives at Kansas City

Press Release: April 16, 2013

National Archives at Kansas City

Fred Harvey Returns to Kansas City at the National Archives

For More Information Contact:
Dee Harris, 816-268-8086

Kansas City, (MO)…The National Archives at Kansas City will open a new exhibit titled, Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. The exhibit traces the development of Fred Harvey’s food service partnership with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad—an endeavor that branded Fred Harvey eating houses and hotels as a company with uncompromising standards, excellent food, and impeccable service by the Harvey Girls.

Train travel as we know it today was very different in the nineteenth century. At stops along the way, weary travelers stepped off the train to the sight of rough and tumble shanty towns set up by railroad men and miners. The prospect of a fresh meal or clean bed was almost non-existent. In 1876 Fred Harvey formed a partnership with the Santa Fe Railroad and set out to create a high quality hospitality experience for train travelers.

Fred Harvey was a visionary business man who changed the nature of railroad meals. His "Harvey Houses" were a string of eating establishments along the Santa Fe Railroad. The first restaurant, opened in Topeka, Kansas, in 1876, was considered a progressive new venture. As the company expanded into the hotel and tourism business, they began opening lunch rooms, dining rooms, and hotels every hundred miles along the railroad line, even expanding into resort facilities at the Grand Canyon. Kansas City’s Union Station became one of their busiest locations, featuring a lunch room, dining room (Westport Room), retail shops, and the company’s corporate headquarters.

In the Southwest, Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad implemented a marketing strategy that significantly altered the face of vacationing in America, successfully promoting the Southwest as a tourism destination. They enticed middle-class Americans into exploring the Native cultures of the Southwest, introducing travelers to Native American people, their arts, and rituals. Together, the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey became powerful agents of hospitality and tourism in the American West, defining the Southwest tourist experience and changing the way Americans ate and spent their leisure time.

By the 1930s, Fred Harvey’s hospitality empire spanned from Ohio to California. Dotted with everything from eating houses and grand resort hotels to curio shops and specialty tourist activities, Fred Harvey created a standard of excellence in hospitality that the traveling public grew to appreciate and expect. So much that Fred Harvey inspired poems and books about his famous hospitality, and even a Hollywood movie featuring the Harvey Girls.

Visitors to the exhibit will see original materials from the Harvey Girls movie, as well as documents, furniture, menus, silver service, dishware, retail items, photographs, and postcards that illustrate the history of the Fred Harvey company. For a bit of fun, visitors can try their hand at becoming a Harvey Girl, or try to beat the train in our railroad game.

On Thursday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m., a Curators Talk and Tour will be hosted by Dee Harris, the exhibition curator. Harris will discuss how the exhibit is presented in six major themes: Fred Harvey Changed the Way Americans Eat; How Fred Fed America; Meals by Fred Harvey; Branding Fred Harvey; Selling the Southwest; and the Legacy of Fred Harvey. To make a reservation for this free event email or call 816-268-8010.

Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West will be available for viewing, Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00am-4:00pm from May 7, 2013 to January 4, 2014. To schedule a group tour call 816-268-8013 or email

The National Archives at Kansas City is one of 13 facilities nationwide where the public has access to Federal archival records. It is home to more than 50,000 cubic feet of historical records dating from the 1820s to the 1990s created or received by nearly 100 Federal agencies. Serving the Central Plains Region, the archives holds records from the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The facility is located at 400 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108. It is open to the public Tuesday - Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for research, with the exhibits open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 816-268-8000 or visit us online.

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