By Sean Evans, Cline Library archivist
The most used manuscript collection at the Cline Library Special Collections and Archives is The Fred Harvey Company Collection, which Cline Library is highlighting this fall.
In working with the collection over time, researchers have made some pretty interesting discoveries.
There are some things one might expect to find in such a collection, like the guest registers from the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon. One contains commentary from western novelist Zane Grey and his wife Dolly from their honeymoon in 1906.
Most people are familiar with the Fred Harvey Company basics, including the classic “Harvey Houses” at a variety of National Parks, or spread out along the Santa Fe Railway, but many people don’t realize the empire at one point extended from Ohio to Hawaii. It survived the railway era by moving into airport and interstate highway food service. Well known, too, are the legions of menus—most with unique and sometimes spectacular cover art—from different time periods demonstrating a wide array of cuisines.
Along the way, the Fred Harvey Company operated some very interesting and unexpected enterprises: a dinner puppet opera in Chicago; Grand Canyon Caverns on Route 66 in Arizona; and the Victory Circle Club at Ontario Motor Speedway in Los Angeles.
Probably among the coolest things in the collection, however, are the seven watercolor paintings by western artist W. Dean Fausett entitled the “Seven Stages of Drunkenness” that were commissioned by Mary Jane Colter for the El Tovar bar in the early 1940s. The paintings were later mass produced as cover art for bar menus across the Harvey system.
Ultimately, the Fred Harvey Company merged with Amfac in 1968, but the trade name lives on today—most notably at the Grand Canyon under the Xanterra banner.
The life of this iconic man will be the subject of a Fred Harvey Company talk by author Stephen Fried, Allan Affeldt, Wanda Costen and Allen Naille at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4, in the Cline Library Auditorium. The presentation will be followed by an evening in the archives viewing the “Fred Harvey: Branding the Southwest” exhibit with the library and archives staff and exhibit intern, Ofelia Zepeda.