From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.

Collected From Other Typewriters


The Taming of the West

Leavenworth Times, May 16, 1957

If it hadn't been for Fred Harvey, Topeka might {not?} have been a city of several million people today.

The closing at Newton of the last Harvey House in Kansas recalls that Fred Harvey, founder of the famous eating system, opened his first Harvey Lunchroom here at Topeka, where the Santa Fe track had begun rolling west in 1868. The year of Harvey's undertaking, which made a business creed of quality and smooth service, was 1876.

Harvey had experimented with a couple of eating houses in the previous year, in a partnership which he ended abruptly. In the building which served Santa Fe as a combined station and office building, in the upper story, he arranged to set up the first Harvey eating house under his sole ownership: Thus began a business friendship and co-existence, so to speak, that made not only culinary and railroad history, but cultural history.

According to one of the best histories of the Santa Fe road, "Steel Trails to Santa Fe," Fred Harvey's food was so delicious, so reasonably priced and so attractively served that early day Topeka was soon standing in line behind the counter stools. The author, L. L. Walters, then of Kansas university, who read all the contemporary accounts, seemed to chuckle as he wrote: "Contemporaries went so far as to express concern for the westward movement. They contended that there was danger that settlers en route to western Kansas would stay The west was not accustomed to such food, such service, and such--Ahhhh!--pretty waitresses, Walters quoted one reporter who wrote:

"Traffic was blocked and it became absolutely necessary for the Santa Fe to open similar houses at other points so that the west might not be settled in just one spot."

So in the next year, 1877, Harvey opened at Florence, and on down the line, to the delight of the Wild West, which Harvey, his brass bell and crisply uniformed young ladies (they were ladies!) did so much to tame.--Topeka State Journal.


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