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 Girl waitresses, 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.