Harvey Girls and Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (1869–1958)
(SIDE 1) In 1883, the Fred Harvey Company hired women to serve in its diners and hotels along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Thousands of respectable, intelligent women were recruited from the Midwest and East Coast to come west. Known as Harvey Girls, many of these women stayed and became founding members of their adopted communities, forever changing the cultural landscape of the Wild West.
(SIDE 2) In 1902, the Fred Harvey Company hired Mary Colter as interior designer of the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque. She was an architect for the company when few women worked in the field. She designed many famous resorts and inns, including the hotel interiors of La Fonda in Santa Fe. In 1987, four of her buildings in Grand Canyon National Park were designated a National Historic Landmark.
We have several videos related to the Harvey Girls and Mary Colter in our Fred Harvey Company video playlist on YouTube.
Roadside Marker Location: Bernalillo County, Albuquerque, 1st St and Gold Ave
You can view a county by county list of the Historic Women Mile Markers in this pdf.
The more one sees of the world…the more he respects Fred Harvey. He is the Great American Caterer.
—William Allen White, 1897
Will Rogers noted that Fred Harvey “kept the West in food—and wives.” But the company’s Harvey Girls are by no means its only legacy. From the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s 1879 arrival in New Mexico to the 1970 demolition of Albuquerque’s Alvarado Hotel, the Fred Harvey name and its company’s influence have been felt across New Mexico, not to mention the American West. The company and its New Mexico establishments served as the stage on which people such as Mary Colter fashioned an “authentic” tourist experience through architecture and interior design, while Herman Schweizer helped drive the direction of Native American arts as an industry.
Setting the Standard: The Fred Harvey Company and its Legacy, a new section that joins the New Mexico History Museum’s main exhibit, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now, tells those stories and more. Opening Sunday, Dec. 7, Setting the Standard uses rarely seen artifacts from the museum’s collection, images from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives and loans from other museums and private collectors. Focusing on the rise of the Fred Harvey Company as a family business and events that transpired specifically in the Land of Enchantment, the tale will leave visitors with an understanding of how the Harvey experience resonates in our Southwest today. Continue reading →