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New Mexico Digital Collections

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Belén Harvey House Museum Photograph Archives

 

Fred Harvey (1835 - 1901) was born in England and came to America at the age of fifteen. As soon as Harvey arrived he got a job in a restaurant and started as a dishwasher. He learned the business from the ground up and in 1878 began a partnership with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. He was given exclusive rights to operate the lunchrooms, eating houses and hotels along the railway's routes. His attention to detail, quality and customer service changed the country's rail travel industry.

 

The iconic Harvey Girls were famous for high standards and good customer service. Single women were hired and sent to Vaughn, New Mexico for a one month training class. After training the women were sent to their assignments. In most cases they lived in dorm rooms above the restaurants where they worked. Harvey Girls were closely chaperoned and dating was discouraged.

 

A day in the life of a Harvey Girl included working split shifts, making fresh coffee, cleaning and setting the silver service on fine linen table cloths. At the start of each shift, the women had daily inspections to insure they were not wearing make up and that their uniforms were spotless before starting the work day. The average salary was around $17.50 a month, with free room & board, clean uniforms and tips.

 

Learn more about the Belén Harvey House Museum at https://www.harveyhousemuseum.org.

 
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