Harvey's Last Words

"Until Fred Harvey came along in the 1880s, service in the railroad industry was even worse than it is today on Amtrak. When the train stopped to get water for the steam engine, passengers would dash into a shack next to the tracks for a 20-minute meal of greasy, stale, often rancid food. Harvey, a freight agent on the Burlington Railroad, couldn't interest his own railroad in better meals, so he took his vision of a fast-food chain to the Santa Fe, which was then desperate to attract riders. After he took over restaurants along the Santa Fe's route, the railroad prospered with a new advertising slogan, 'Meals by Fred Harvey'...

"Harvey became renowned for paying his employees well while also terrifying them with surprise inspections. When he died in 1901, his last words to his sons were reported to be, 'Don't cut the ham too thin.'"

[At a time when it was said there were 'no ladies west of Dodge City and no women west of Albuquerque,' Harvey recruited waitresses of 'good character' (called Harvey Girls) and housed them in supervised dormitories. Dressed in starched aprons and collars, they became icons of domestic virtue, inspiring a Judy Garland movie ('The Harvey Girls,' with its Oscar-winning train song, 'On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe') and a classic Will Rogers line: 'They have kept the West supplied with food and wives.']

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