Harvey Girls

Harvey Girl
Harvey Girl outside the Painted Desert Inn lunch room


Can you remember how you felt when you left home for the first time? A sense of adventure? The thrill of freedom? In the early 1900s Fred Harvey offered many women such exciting opportunities through work in his growing hotel/restaurant chain.

Fred Harvey was a restauranter turned railroad man based in the Midwest. He frequently traveled by rail for his work and was dissatisfied with the service he found along the way. He began a restaurant and hospitality chain to change this pattern. Harvey envisioned his restaurants as the most refined restaurants in the American West. The rowdiness of his male wait staff created a problem. To help him succeed, he hired independent, hard-working young women instead. Newspaper ads offered well-bred ladies a fair wage, steady work, uniform, a place to live, and a ticket to ride! The thousands that answered came to be known as "Harvey Girls" and could be found at the many Harvey Houses along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.

Young woman in long black coat stands outside lunch room door under sign reading Painted Desert Inn
Harvey Girl Nora, 1950


In 1947, the Fred Harvey Company took over management of Painted Desert Inn and brought the legendary Harvey Girls to Petrified Forest. The Harey Girls carried out the "Harvey Way" serving complete meals in the dining room on spotless china, with a heavy concentration on customer service. They were a sight for sore eyes at the lunch counter, where a hot and tired traveler could order cool drinks, shakes, or even a banana split for a hefty 30 cents.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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