Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Etiquette and Taming the Wild West

Humorist Will Rogers once said the Harvey Girls, "kept the West in food and wives." In fact, one estimate put the number of Harvey Girls who wound up as brides of western cowboys and railroadmen at 20,000
How the Famous Harvey Girls Helped Civilize and Tame the West– 

After Fred Harvey came up with his idea in the 1870s of a chain of restaurants along the rail lines to feed hungry railroad passengers, by the late 1880's, there was a Harvey establishment every one hundred miles along the Santa Fe line. But the now famous entrepreneur Fred Harvey's biggest challenge, was not delivering fresh food to his far-flung Harvey House outposts of the Southwest, but finding much needed reliable help for them. At the time, there were racial problems between the cowboys who ate at the Harvey Houses, many of whom were former Confederate soldiers, and his all-male, black staff. The situation was eventually so bad that the black waiters lived in fear, worried that they might have to defend themselves.

At the suggestion of one company managers, in 1883 Harvey decided to replace the waiters with young white women, hoping to improve civility in his eating places. He sought out educated, single ladies, who were also well-mannered. He placed ads in newspapers throughout the Midwest, and along the East Coast for “Young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive, and intelligent.” The responding women became the famed "Harvey Girl waitresses," were always respectable and underwent extensive training in serving food and the rules of etiquette. They were also given matching black-and-white uniforms which befit nuns. Mrs. Harvey met each girl at the time she was hired.

Each was paid the sum of $17.50 a month, and at the time, it was actually a dream job for many of the young women who were unable to cope with burgeoning populations of big cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Harvey signed-up each of the women to a six-month, renewable contract. New hires agreed not to marry during the initial contract period, and they were given a rail pass to get to their place of employment.

Efficient service was required to feed railroad passengers because the trains stopped for only a short amount of time. As an example of a speedy service technique, as a Harvey Girl moved to serve each customer, she let the beverage filler following her know what each diner’s drink preference was, simply by the way she placed the coffee cup in front of him.

So many Harvey Girls became wives to Harvey House customers, that one railroad baron is quoted as saying, "The Harvey House was not only a good place to eat; it was the Cupid of the Rails." It's estimated that more than 100,000 girls worked for Harvey House restaurants and hotels and of those, 20,000 girls married their regular customers. –Sources "Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West," florenceks.com, and ringbrothershistory.com

 As a Harvey Girl moved to serve each customer, she let the beverage filler following her know what each diner’s drink preference was, simply by the way she placed the coffee cup in front of him. 
                               
"Arizona Etiquette"

"Arizona is getting hep to the society stuff,” a salesman who travels in that state tells us. "I was at a hotel last month” he said, “and an old chap was sitting at a table with his son. Somebody called the son a liar. The kid didn’t pull a gun, the way they do in picture shows. He just grabbed a table knife and started after his detractor. "There was no tragedy, though. That boy’s dad grabbed him by the collar and forced him into a seat in less time than it takes to tell it. " ‘Ain't ye got no manners?' hissed his pa. ‘What have I learned ye?' “ ‘He called me a liar!” yelled the struggling son. ‘“What if he did? They’s strangers from the east in this room. You shame me! Drop that knife an’ use yer fork, like ettiket says!’ “Don’t tell me they’re not up on manners out there!" – Los Angeles Herald, 1915


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber is the Site Moderator and Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia