Fred Harvey Postcards

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A "Hopi House" Fred Harvey postcard from the Grand Canyon.

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A focal point of the David and Carol Farmer archive, the Farmers’ collection of several hundred vintage Fred Harvey postcards offers insight into both the Southwestern tourism industry in the early-to-mid twentieth century as well as the development of the Fred Harvey Company and its innovations in New Mexico. Born in London on June 27, 1835, Frederick Henry Harvey immigrated to the United States with his Scottish and English parents in 1850. Once in the U.S., he worked as a busboy while moving around the country. Eventually, in St. Louis, Harvey met his future wife, Barbara Sarah Mattas, and the couple would have six children together.[1] During the Civil War, the business partner with whom Harvey invested in a profitable café stole their entire savings and joined the Confederacy. In response, Harvey started working for the railroad before moving to what would become his lifelong home, Leavenworth, Kansas. Because of his work for the railroad, Harvey became acutely aware of the inferior quality of railroad food. [2]


In 1876, Harvey and Charles Morse underwent a “handshake deal,” one that’s considered “one of the most profitable partnerships in the early American West.” The superintendent of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Santa Fe Railroad, Morse struck a deal with Harvey that enabled him to “open restaurants along the railroad rent-free.” At its peak, the Harvey Company ran eighty-four Harvey House restaurants; scholars often credit Harvey with manufacturing the “first chain restaurants in the United States” and is believed to be a “forerunner of tourism in the Southwest.”[3] From consistently high quality food to polite and attractive waitresses known as Harvey Girls, Harvey Houses quickly gained a favorable reputation with the American public.


Following Harvey’s passing in 1901, Ford and Byron Harvey, his sons, began running the family business and increased its profitability with ventures such as Harvey Cars, which took “tourists from their hotels on ‘Indian Detours’ that were meant to provide visitors with an authentic Native American experience.”[4] Considered a family of marketing geniuses, the Harvey family hired attractive women as guides and attractive men as drivers for their “Indian Detours,” which would often include displays of “ritual dances” that the Harveys staged. Additionally, as the Farmer archive reflects, the Harvey Company became a prolific publisher of postcards, which they believed were an influential medium for promoting their hotels and restaurants.[5] Besides publishing their own images, the Harvey Company also relied on the Detroit Publishing Company, begun in 1931, to print their postcards.[6] One of the main American publishers of early twentieth-century postcards and “photographic views,” the Detroit Publishing Company used primarily the “color Photocrom” and “Phostint” processes to produce their images. As seen in many of the Farmer Harvey postcards, the images often included detailed scenes from Harvey Houses to promote their lodgings, which were designed by architects such as Mary Jane Colter to reflect often “their natural settings and the Native American architecture of the area.”[7] As a whole, selected Fred Harvey Postcards from the David and Carol Farmer archive illustrate not only the Harvey Company’s prowess in the Southwestern tourism industry, but also slices of regional history unique to Arizona and New Mexico.

[1] “Fred Harvey collection, 1881-2005,” Arizona Archives Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Detroit Publishing Company Postcards,” The New York Public Library Digital Collections, accessed June 30, 2022,

[7] “Fred Harvey collection, 1881-2005,” Arizona Archives Online.