Restaurant and hotel pioneer Fred Harvey has been named as one of 25 Notable Kansans as part of the celebration of 150 years of statehood, announced by Gov. Sam Brownback on Aug. 25.
Harvey is notable for creating the first restaurant chain in the U.S., known as Harvey Houses. The Clifton Hotel in Florence was the first restaurant he opened after making an agreement with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to have restaurants along the length of the railroad. The Clifton Hotel is now the Harvey House Museum in Florence.
The Clifton Hotel was popular with railroad passengers, as well as hunters who enjoyed the plentiful game surrounding Florence.
Harvey’s restaurants were well-known for their service staff, known as “Harvey girls.” He set strict uniform and behavior standards for the Harvey girls, who were universally single white women between the ages of 18 and 30.
Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote a novel, “The Harvey Girls,” based on the Harvey House restaurants. The novel was later adapted into a movie musical of the same name, starring Judy Garland. The movie even won an Oscar for Best Original Song, “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.”
Brownback is announcing the selections of notable Kansans in five groups of five. The others announced with Harvey were Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, abolitionist John Brown, Topeka co-founder and railroad president Cyrus K. Holliday, and basketball creator James Naismith. The honorees were selected by a panel of historians appointed by Brownback.
Other honorees announced so far include automaker Walter P. Chrysler, artist John Steuart Curry, politician Alf Landon, photographer and author Gordon Parks, paleontologist George F. Sternberg, airplane manufacturer Clyde Cessna, public health reformer Samuel J. Crumbine, cattle trail pioneer Jospeph McCoy, immigration agent credited with encouraging Mennonites to settle Kansas C.B. Schmidt;
Aviator Amelia Earhart, politician and newspaper publisher Arthur Capper, Vice President Charles Curtis, psychiatrist Karl Menninger, Kiowa Chief Satanta, and the pastor first known to have posed the question, “What would Jesus do?,” the Rev. Charles M. Sheldon;
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, presidential candidate and Sen. Bob Dole, inventor Jack Kilby, temperance movement leader Carrie Nation, and influential newspaper publisher William Allen White.
The Harvey House Museum in Florence is open for tours and dinners by appointment. Call the city at (620) 878-4296.