Tuesday Tidbits

News of Interest in 1900

My book “Home for the Heart” takes place in 1900. Daniel and Elise Gilbertson who were the main characters in “Romance Along the Rails” live in Topeka, KS with their family. Liz (Elizabeth) who was four-years-old in 1885 is now nineteen. She is trying to come to grips with her parent’s death and her own future plans. She wants to find out about her natural father’s family.

With the Harvey Houses, many of the original frame buildings were being replaced by large beautiful buildings with hotels.  The Castaneda in Las Vegas, NM was built in 1899; the Arcade in Newton, KS in 1900; the El Vaquero in Dodge City, KS in 1900. Many others were built between 1900 and 1910. The Bisonte in Hutchinson, KS was built as a tribute from his sons to Fred Harvey, who died in 1901. It was built in the English Tudor style and was opened in 1906. Previous to that the Santa Fe Hotel in Hutchinson was the Harvey House. As you read “Home for the Heart” you will recognize some of these historic places. Several are being renovated now and are made into museums.

Santa Fe Hotel, Hutchinson, KS Harvey House before the Bisonte, 1900
The Bisonte Hotel, Hutchinson, KS Harvey House and Hotel

The Automobile was beginning to gain popularity, although there was a lot of resistance. Many thought it was a passing fad, that horses were more dependable. The automobile was not mass produced until around 1913.

1900 was a Presidential election year. Republican William McKinley was running for reelection with Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate. And Williams Jennings Bryan was the Democrat candidate. McKinley was reelected but was assassinated in September 1901. He was succeeded by Roosevelt. 

Wednesday Writer’s News

Home for the Heart

I have been working hard on my next book, “Home For the Heart.” It takes place in 1900. The main character is nineteen-year-old, Liz Gilbertson. If you have read my first book “Romance Along the Rails”, you will recognize Liz as four-year-old, Elizabeth Tilman. Elizabeth was orphaned when her parents were killed in a carriage accident. She now lives with Daniel and Elise Gilbertson, her uncle and aunt who have taken her to be their daughter along with their own children, Adam, Julien, and Rachel. Elise loves her adopted family yearns to learn about her birth father’s family. She has also recently been jilted by her fiance.

Michael Brannon arrives from Boston, to work as Daniel’s accountant at the AT&SF Offices in Topeka. He is attracted to Liz, but she’s not ready for a new relationship.

Liz is restless and decides to become a Harvey Girl to refocus and redefine her future.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read, “Romance Along the Rails. You can order it at  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0791M6LCT   or  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/romance-along-the-rails-joyce-valdois-smith/1127983812?ean=9780999762608

Tuesday Tidbit

Harvey Girls worked along the railroad.

How the Harvey Girls Won the West

Fred Harvey opened the first Harvey House in Topeka, KS in 1876. For the first few years, men worked for him as waiters. The Harvey Girls joined Fred Harvey’s empire along the Santa Fe in 1883. The first waitresses were hired in Raton, New Mexico, when Harvey fired all of his waiters because of poor service. Fred Harvey decided to hire young women to work as waitresses. These waitresses were the first respectable women many of the cowboys had ever seen, aside from their wives or mothers.

Harvey’s new waitresses were so popular in the community and among railroad passengers and employees that he decided to replace all the waitresses on the line. Harvey advertised in midwestern and eastern newspapers and women’s magazines for “young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent,” to go west to work. Skeptics said the kind of women Harvey wanted would not work for him, but they did.

The women who answered his ads did so for many and varied reasons–economic considerations were the most prevalent, but adventure, a change of scene, and life in a new territory were also factors in young women’s decisions to join Harvey in the West. With the regimentation of an army boot camp, Harvey initiated the Harvey Girls into service along the railroad. Harvey had no shortage of applicants–thousands of women applied and were accepted every year from 1883 until the 1950’s.

There were great variations and many exceptions to Harvey’s rules over the years, but the women who were Harvey Girls were consistently good workers who charmed and impressed passengers on the Santa Fe for three-quarters of a century.           —The Harvey Girls-Women Who Opened the West    by Lesley Poling-Kempes

Tuesday’s Tidbits

First Harvey House was opened in the AT&SF depot in Topeka, KS, 1876

Did you know,  Harvey Houses were the first interstate restaurant chain in America. In 1876, Fred Harvey opened the first Harvey House in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe depot at Topeka, KS. In 1878 a Harvey House with a hotel was open for business in Florence, KS. By the late 1880’s, they spread along the ATSF railroad line approximately 100 miles apart; from Chicago to California and to the Gulf of Mexico. 

In the day when eating establishments along the railroad had a less than sterling reputation, Fred Harvey, the owner and president of his company, demanded perfection in the Harvey House dining rooms and lunchrooms. He used fine linen tablecloths, sterling silverware, and imported crystal goblets. Fresh food was transported on the railroad so there would be gourmet meals all along the line. He placed ads in eastern newspapers for “young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent,” to go west to work. The Harvey Girl had to agree to abide by strict employee rules, live in dormitories, accept whatever location was assigned to her and abstain from marriage for the duration of her contract.

The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain along the Interstates today, remind me of the early Harvey Houses. Each one is set up the same, their menus are identical from one Cracker Barrel to the next, and in our experience, we receive efficient, courteous service and delicious food each time we stop.