National Archives at Kansas City

Press Release: December 19, 2013

National Archives at Kansas City

Dee Harris to Dicuss Beyond the Myths: The Harvey Girls in Fact and Fiction

For More Information Contact:
Kimberlee Ried, 816-268-8072

Kansas City, (MO)… On Tuesday, January 14 at 6:30 p.m., the National Archives at Kansas City will host Dee Harris, curator of Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West, for a lecture titled Beyond the Myths: The Harvey Girls in Fact and Fiction. A 6:00 p.m. reception will precede the lecture. This program is presented in conjunction with the exhibit Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the America West.

Almost any mention of the Harvey Girls brings to mind Judy Garland as a black-and-white clad waitress in the 1945 MGM movie The Harvey Girls. But the real women who worked in Harvey eating houses were more than just waitresses - they were Harvey Girls - an efficient, well-trained, well-groomed corps of waitresses who played an invaluable role in railroad, restaurant, and women’s history. Harris will discuss how a romanticized image of the Harvey Girls grew throughout the 20th century, comparing it with the collective experiences of the thousands of women who worked for Fred Harvey. In addition, Harris will contrast popular images and myths in film, newspapers, and magazines with real life experiences gathered through research and interviews with dozens of former Harvey Girls.

Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West will be available for viewing, Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00am-4:00pm through January 24, 2014. To make a reservation for this free program call 816-268-8010 or email kansascity.educate@nara.gov.

About Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West Exhibit

Fred Harvey was a visionary businessman who changed the nature of railroad meal stops in the 1870s. His string of eating establishments, called Harvey Houses, followed the route of the Santa Fe Railroad. Prior to Fred Harvey, there were no fast-food restaurants or chain hotels guaranteeing a quality travel experience in the American West. He espoused the principles of excellent food, impeccable service, reasonable prices, and standardized service in all his restaurants.

Fred Harvey’s hospitality empire eventually 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.

About the speaker

Dee Harris is the exhibits specialist for the National Archives at Kansas City. She has been researching and studying the Harvey Girls for over 20 years, and holds bachelor and master degrees in history from Wichita State University. Harris has served as the museum director at Smoky Hill Museum, an adjunct instructor for Butler Community College, and as director of visual arts and humanities for Mid-America Arts Alliance. She has been with the National Archives at Kansas City since 2009.

The National Archives at Kansas City is one of 15 facilities nationwide where the public has access to Federal archival records. It is home to historical records dating from the 1820s to the 1990s created or received by Federal agencies in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. For more information, call 816-268-8000 or visit us online.

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