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Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West Discount.

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West Discount.

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Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West Description:

The legendary life and entrepreneurial vision of Fred Harvey helped shape American culture and history for three generations—from the 1880s all the way through World War II—and still influence our lives today in surprising and fascinating ways. Now award-winning journalist Stephen Fried re-creates the life of this unlikely American hero, the founding father of the nation’s service industry, whose remarkable family business civilized the West and introduced America to Americans.

Appetite for America is the incredible real-life story of Fred Harvey—told in depth for the first time ever—as well as the story of this country’s expansion into the Wild West of Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid, of the great days of the railroad, of a time when a deal could still be made with a handshake and the United States was still uniting. As a young immigrant, Fred Harvey worked his way up from dishwasher to household name: He was Ray Kroc before McDonald’s, J. Willard Marriott before Marriott Hotels, Howard Schultz before Starbucks. His eating houses and hotels along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad (including historic lodges still in use at the Grand Canyon) were patronized by princes, presidents, and countless ordinary travelers looking for the best cup of coffee in the country. Harvey’s staff of carefully screened single young women—the celebrated Harvey Girls—were the country’s first female workforce and became genuine Americana, even inspiring an MGM musical starring Judy Garland.

With the verve and passion of Fred Harvey himself, Stephen Fried tells the story of how this visionary built his business from a single lunch counter into a family empire whose marketing and innovations we still encounter in myriad ways. Inspiring, instructive, and hugely entertaining, Appetite for America is historical biography that is as richly rewarding as a slice of fresh apple pie—and every bit as satisfying.

*With two photo inserts featuring over 75 images, and an appendix with over fifty Fred Harvey recipes, most of them never-before-published.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #335 in Books
  • Published on: 2010-03-23
  • Released on: 2010-03-23
  • Format: Deckle Edge
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 544 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780553804379
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

Customer Reviews:

Operates on several levels and is beautifully executed on each.5
The problem I face in writing this review is that I don’t have all the time and space it would take to do this incredibly well done, truly magnificent history the justice it deserves. Stephen Fried has written at least three histories in this single volume.

The nominal subject is a gentleman named Fred Harvey, a name that is little known among the general public today.

But Fred Harvey was very influential in shaping the development of the American West, the railroad industry (or at least part of it), creating branding and merchandising as we now know it , creating the then new habit of restaurant eating, expanding employment opportunities for women, preserving Native American culture and still more. His son carried on long after Fred Harvey died, but the Harvey empire crumbled with the modern era.

Which is really a pity. I grew up in the twilight of the Fred Harvey era. I still vaguely recall how special eating at the Fred Harvey restaurant at a local railroad terminal was and think I rode on one of the last trains where Fred Harvey’s company provided the dining car service.

“Appetite for America” covers Fred Harvey’s history. His first big day was the opening of a “eating house” for the Santa Fe, Atchison and Topeka Rail Road in Topeka, Kansas. Eating out, so to speak, was not an experience to be sought after. Places offering food were suspect for many good reasons and the victuals offered were usually mediocre on the best of days. But Fred Harvey changed that: eating at one of Fred Harvey’s eating houses was virtually guaranteed a pleasant experience with tasty and nourishing food at reasonable prices. The nation was on the move with the spread of railroads - and Fred Harvey reached a deal with the Santa Fe rail road to feed its ever increasing number of passengers. A shrewd entrepreneur, Harvey realized that creating satisfied customers was the key to success.

He innovated endlessly from his creation of the “Harvey Girls”, well dressed, well trained servers which was very much a departure from the norm in those days, to the creation of Fred Harvey hotels and newsstands. Harvey created a vast empire of businesses, the first chain stores in fact, covering the western part of the United States. Part of it lives on in the legendary hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Friedl covers everything: from Fred Harvey’s childhood to the dissolution of the company in the mid 20th Century.

There is so much to tell about that time and the man, his company and family, the railroads, the growth of the nation. Remarkably, Stephen Friedl in what can be fairly described as a triumph of research and good writing tells them all in great detail and interestingly. In fact, this book richly deserves more than a single reading.

I could go on and on about this remarkable multiple history. Friedl even includes recipes from Fred Harvey restaurants that were renowned in their day and still read as if they would be tasty. He recounts the train trip he and his wife took along the path of the old Santa Fe rail road, stopping to hunt for remnants of the Harvey empire. Train lovers, “trainiacs” as Friedl calls them, will love his history of railroading, particularly in the west. Students of business and American history will find much of interest in the detailed descriptions of how Harvey and his successors built and managed their far-flung, multi-faceted empire.

In all, this is an incredibly interesting book, made so by Friedls intensive research and excellent writing style. Very much worth reading more than once.


A Dynamic and Splendid History5
Even though I grew up in the Southwest and had seen references to Fred Harvey since childhood, I never gave him or his company much thought until this book appeared on the “Vine” list here on amazon. Since I love the Southwest and the title seemed inviting, I decided to give it a shot. Am I ever glad I did. Appetite For America is a dynamic and splendid history, one of those inspirational rags to riches stories that has spurred millions through the years to make the best of opportunities given them. And though Fred Harvey is somewhat obscure today, in his own time he was the toast of the nation.
The book’s storyline has already been recounted time and again in other reviews, so I will just make a few other comments. What’s that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well, Fred Harvey was a very far-sighted and deliberate man and though he may have in his own mind set the groundwork for a hospitality empire that would serve Americans for the foreseeable future, eventually times changed and circumstances intervened. By the time the dashing but spoiled Freddy took the reins of the company, slacking ambition and internecine squabbles had blurred the single-minded vision with which Harvey and his son Ford had led the company to success after success. The Fred Harvey company faltered, rivals moved in, and Harvey empire’s remnants were sold off with the company consigned to the dustbin of history. Harvey’s business empire had lasted for just under a century, but what a ride it was! The reader may note that one of those rivals that came on strong during the Depression (Howard Johnson’s) is now pretty much history itself.
What you’ll come away with besides a treasure trove of interesting historical tidbits is a picture of an energetic man who truly understood the benefits of synergy in business and the value of a trusted team of like-minded insiders. Fred Harvey and his son Ford both had an uncanny ability to convince others who did business with them that what was good for the Harvey company would also be very good for them as well. Harvey’s business innovations were many and his acumen seems at least to have imbued his son Ford who continued nimbly to keep the company a step ahead of rivals.
One aspect of the book I really like is how author Stephen Fried uses chapter titles as a succinct summary of what is shortly to come. His short chapters make the book very easy to read and Fried does not often get bogged down in digressions not germane to the story. While at times it seems that he does, the reader soon learns how an apparent digression is actually very pertinent to what the author is later to relate. A part that I find indispensable is the first appendix that gives the reader a grand tour of Fred Harvey’s America as it is today. On my next trip, I plan on visiting many of the same places the author tells about. You may also enjoy the second appendix with its listing of Fred Harvey recipes. They sound delicious!
If you like American history and are looking for something unusual and uplifting to read, I highly recommend Appetite For America. You will see our westward expansion in a whole new light. And though there were a few minor errors of scale in my pre-publication copy of the book, they do not really detract from the reader’s delight and I must assume they have been corrected.

A tasty feast of American history and Americana5
This book offers many different flavors to many different readers. It’s a splendid business history of Fred Harvey - the firm of that name, not just the man who founded it, though his story is well-told here. The Fred Harvey hotel and restaurant chain, the reader will find, was the first such business model that Howard Johnson and other chains would follow - and Fred Harvey affected American cuisine as well, so readers interested in culinary history will also find this book of interest. There’s more: Fred Harvey also affected American architecture and decor (e.g., the “Santa Fe” style), the growth and preservation of Grand Canyon, American attitudes on native American culture and people, and American popular culture in general. We learn how Fred Harvey would influence cinema and entertainment, from Walt Disney to the Judy Garland “Harvey Girls” film of 1945. We even learn how Fred Harvey adapted from railroad hotels to the Route 66 phenomenon and early commercial aviation as the motorcar and the airliner first appeared.

And, of course, the book has plenty for fans of railroad history. The Fred Harvey chain grew with, and helped grow, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The railroad’s expansion, and decline in mid-20th Century America, shaped the Fred Harvey story as well. Its challenges from natural disasters, two world wars, flu epidemics, the demands of military mobilization — even the Manhattan Project puts in an appearance — show how the firm, the railroad, and American life affected each other.

The book is also a splendid family saga. The generations that followed Mr. Harvey would make for lively reading, both in Fred Harvey boardrooms and in their private lives. We see early feminism in both the Harvey Girls phenomenon, Western pioneers indeed, and the pioneering women in the Fred Harvey management and family. Mr. Fried’s storytelling skills are vivid and the book is an unexpected pleasure as it follows this family and this firm through over a century of tumultuous American history.

Even the appendices are entertaining. Mr. Fried’s personal tour, researching this book, is fun reading, his bibliographical notes are informative - there’s even a few Fred Harvey recipes. (Tip to the publisher and author: given the growing number of illustrated books on railroad cuisine - the B&O, the Empire Builder, etc. - there might be a splendid coffee-table/recipe book here).

Highest recommendation, to a wide range of readers. Review
A Note from Stephen Fried on Appetite for America

I first encountered Fred Harvey seventeen years ago in the lobby of El Tovar, the historic hotel just a few steps from the edge of the Grand Canyon. His moody portrait was hanging there, his anxious eyes seemingly scrutinizing everything, and I wondered who the hell he was.

A pamphlet in our room offered some insight, explaining that his company had been running the hotels, the restaurants, the gift shops at the canyon–even training the mules–since 1905. It also mentioned the amazing impact of his entrepreneurial vision. From the 1870s through the 1940s, Fred’s revolutionary family business–which included restaurants, hotels, dining cars and stores from Chicago to Los Angeles along the Santa Fe railroad, and later along Rt. 66–had forever changed the way Americans ate, drank, cooked, traveled, and spent their leisure time.

Hotel pamphlets don’t often change my life, but I was immediately struck by what sounded like a great American saga that needed to be told in more depth, perhaps in a magazine article. So I started searching for information about Fred, picking up the few academic books that mentioned him, his company, and his legendary waitresses, the Harvey Girls.

I learned that the Fred Harvey name had once been ubiquitous in America, as the company built the nation’s first chain of restaurants, lunchrooms, hotels, bookstores–in fact, the first national chain of anything–and was heralded for its unusually high standards of customer service and employee loyalty. By the 1940s, Fred and the Harvey Girls were such a well-established part of Americana that they inspired both a best-selling novel and an Oscar-winning movie musical with Judy Garland. And they went on to inspire everything from the Howard Johnson’s chain to McDonald’s and Starbucks, and all the major national hotels (along with a robust community of Harvey memorabilia collectors.)

As I continued my research, I found myself caught up in the little-known Harvey family drama. I realized that much of what was attributed to Fred himself had actually been done by his equally brilliant but unsung son, Ford–who memorialized his father by turning him into a brand-name. I am a sucker for stories about father-son family businesses, having grown up in one myself (furniture).

Somehow I never got around to writing that article. But ten years later, I was having lunch with my editor at Bantam, and we started talking about the new breed of history books–like Seabiscuit and Devil in the White City–being written by contemporary journalists. I suddenly found myself regaling her with my fascination with Fred Harvey, insisting that the saga of his multigenerational family business had all the excitement, intrigue and narrative richness of this new genre of “history buffed” books. Writing it would also give me a window into an entire 75-year stretch of American history.

By the end of the lunch, we agreed I write a book on Fred. It was the best decision I ever made in my career; this has been the most challenging and rewarding book I’ve ever written.

The more I’ve learned about Fred, his family, his Harvey Girls, his business and his world, the more I understand about America. And, by reliving through them two Depressions and several major recessions, two world wars, two flu pandemics, the rise of trains, autos and planes, electric lights, telephones, radio and television, I am constantly reminded of this nation’s courage and resiliency.

The very first person (besides my editors) to read the manuscript of this book told me Fred’s story made him feel better about America. And I know exactly what he means.

May Fred be with you.

From Publishers Weekly
The British-born Fred Harvey and his name stood for American hospitality for many years. In an impressive, comprehensively researched tome, Fried tells the intertwined stories of the man, his family, his company, and America. After Harvey’s mid-19th-century immigration, he tried various jobs in the Midwest before business instincts and ambitions merged with the Santa Fe Railroad’s founding. As the railroad’s growth aided rapid westward expansion, Harvey established the first chain restaurants, called Harvey House. Through Gilded Age economic bust and recovery and into the new century, his company’s fortunes attached to such novel American developments as the automobile and national parks, especially the Grand Canyon. Meanwhile, through innovations such as progressive employment practices, merchandising, and marketing, the company stayed strong beyond its founder’s death. His family ensured that it remained private and profitable through the railroad’s decline and into the Depression. From the battle of the Little Bighorn to the Manhattan Project, Fried makes such lively use of the many remarkable intersections between major American and company history that this volume, though hefty, meticulously detailed, and slightly hagiographic, has unusually broad potential. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Few Americans today remember Fred Harvey, but in the era of transcontinental train travel, the Fred Harvey name stood for excellence in food, service, and accommodation. English by birth, Harvey arrived in America just before the outbreak of the Civil War. With a head for business, refined taste, and an open mind about the American frontier, Harvey migrated eventually to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he involved himself in the railroads’ explosive growth. In those early days, train passengers had to endure quick stops at depot eateries noted for foul food, surly service, and outright defrauding of their clientele. Recruiting European chefs, Harvey began building restaurants and hotels at important train junctions. These centers of social decorum, superb food, and efficient service jump-started civilization on the rough, gunslinging frontier. Harvey gained further fame for recruiting single young women as servers in his dining rooms, a business innovation ultimately inspiring an iconic American movie musical. Fried compellingly relates this endlessly surprising tale of a true American entrepreneur, illuminating how Harvey’s business practices anticipated the success of both McDonald’s and Starbucks until technological progress and social change unraveled his empire. –Mark Knoblauch