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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The problem I face in writing this review is that I don't have all the time and space it would take to do this incredibly well done, truly magnificent history the justice it deserves. Stephen Fried has written at least three histories in this single volume.

The nominal subject is a gentleman named Fred Harvey, a name that is little known among the general public today.

But Fred Harvey was very influential in shaping the development of the American West, the railroad industry (or at least part of it), creating branding and merchandising as we now know it , creating the then new habit of restaurant eating, expanding employment opportunities for women, preserving Native American culture and still more. His son carried on long after Fred Harvey died, but the Harvey empire crumbled with the modern era.

Which is really a pity. I grew up in the twilight of the Fred Harvey era. I still vaguely recall how special eating at the Fred Harvey restaurant at a local railroad terminal was and think I rode on one of the last trains where Fred Harvey's company provided the dining car service.

"Appetite for America" covers Fred Harvey's history. His first big day was the opening of a "eating house" for the Santa Fe, Atchison and Topeka Rail Road in Topeka, Kansas. Eating out, so to speak, was not an experience to be sought after. Places offering food were suspect for many good reasons and the victuals offered were usually mediocre on the best of days. But Fred Harvey changed that: eating at one of Fred Harvey's eating houses was virtually guaranteed a pleasant experience with tasty and nourishing food at reasonable prices. The nation was on the move with the spread of railroads - and Fred Harvey reached a deal with the Santa Fe rail road to feed its ever increasing number of passengers. A shrewd entrepreneur, Harvey realized that creating satisfied customers was the key to success.

He innovated endlessly from his creation of the "Harvey Girls", well dressed, well trained servers which was very much a departure from the norm in those days, to the creation of Fred Harvey hotels and newsstands. Harvey created a vast empire of businesses, the first chain stores in fact, covering the western part of the United States. Part of it lives on in the legendary hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Friedl covers everything: from Fred Harvey's childhood to the dissolution of the company in the mid 20th Century.

There is so much to tell about that time and the man, his company and family, the railroads, the growth of the nation. Remarkably, Stephen Friedl in what can be fairly described as a triumph of research and good writing tells them all in great detail and interestingly. In fact, this book richly deserves more than a single reading.

I could go on and on about this remarkable multiple history. Friedl even includes recipes from Fred Harvey restaurants that were renowned in their day and still read as if they would be tasty. He recounts the train trip he and his wife took along the path of the old Santa Fe rail road, stopping to hunt for remnants of the Harvey empire. Train lovers, "trainiacs" as Friedl calls them, will love his history of railroading, particularly in the west. Students of business and American history will find much of interest in the detailed descriptions of how Harvey and his successors built and managed their far-flung, multi-faceted empire.

In all, this is an incredibly interesting book, made so by Friedls intensive research and excellent writing style. Very much worth reading more than once.

Jerry
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book offers many different flavors to many different readers. It's a splendid business history of Fred Harvey - the firm of that name, not just the man who founded it, though his story is well-told here. The Fred Harvey hotel and restaurant chain, the reader will find, was the first such business model that Howard Johnson and other chains would follow - and Fred Harvey affected American cuisine as well, so readers interested in culinary history will also find this book of interest. There's more: Fred Harvey also affected American architecture and decor (e.g., the "Santa Fe" style), the growth and preservation of Grand Canyon, American attitudes on native American culture and people, and American popular culture in general. We learn how Fred Harvey would influence cinema and entertainment, from Walt Disney to the Judy Garland "Harvey Girls" film of 1945. We even learn how Fred Harvey adapted from railroad hotels to the Route 66 phenomenon and early commercial aviation as the motorcar and the airliner first appeared.

And, of course, the book has plenty for fans of railroad history. The Fred Harvey chain grew with, and helped grow, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The railroad's expansion, and decline in mid-20th Century America, shaped the Fred Harvey story as well. Its challenges from natural disasters, two world wars, flu epidemics, the demands of military mobilization -- even the Manhattan Project puts in an appearance -- show how the firm, the railroad, and American life affected each other.

The book is also a splendid family saga. The generations that followed Mr. Harvey would make for lively reading, both in Fred Harvey boardrooms and in their private lives. We see early feminism in both the Harvey Girls phenomenon, Western pioneers indeed, and the pioneering women in the Fred Harvey management and family. Mr. Fried's storytelling skills are vivid and the book is an unexpected pleasure as it follows this family and this firm through over a century of tumultuous American history.

Even the appendices are entertaining. Mr. Fried's personal tour, researching this book, is fun reading, his bibliographical notes are informative - there's even a few Fred Harvey recipes. (Tip to the publisher and author: given the growing number of illustrated books on railroad cuisine - the B&O, the Empire Builder, etc. - there might be a splendid coffee-table/recipe book here).

Highest recommendation, to a wide range of readers.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Even though I grew up in the Southwest and had seen references to Fred Harvey since childhood, I never gave him or his company much thought until this book appeared on the "Vine" list here on amazon. Since I love the Southwest and the title seemed inviting, I decided to give it a shot. Am I ever glad I did. Appetite For America is a dynamic and splendid history, one of those inspirational rags to riches stories that has spurred millions through the years to make the best of opportunities given them. And though Fred Harvey is somewhat obscure today, in his own time he was the toast of the nation.
The book's storyline has already been recounted time and again in other reviews, so I will just make a few other comments. What's that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well, Fred Harvey was a very far-sighted and deliberate man and though he may have in his own mind set the groundwork for a hospitality empire that would serve Americans for the foreseeable future, eventually times changed and circumstances intervened. By the time the dashing but spoiled Freddy took the reins of the company, slacking ambition and internecine squabbles had blurred the single-minded vision with which Harvey and his son Ford had led the company to success after success. The Fred Harvey company faltered, rivals moved in, and Harvey empire's remnants were sold off with the company consigned to the dustbin of history. Harvey's business empire had lasted for just under a century, but what a ride it was! The reader may note that one of those rivals that came on strong during the Depression (Howard Johnson's) is now pretty much history itself.
What you'll come away with besides a treasure trove of interesting historical tidbits is a picture of an energetic man who truly understood the benefits of synergy in business and the value of a trusted team of like-minded insiders. Fred Harvey and his son Ford both had an uncanny ability to convince others who did business with them that what was good for the Harvey company would also be very good for them as well. Harvey's business innovations were many and his acumen seems at least to have imbued his son Ford who continued nimbly to keep the company a step ahead of rivals.
One aspect of the book I really like is how author Stephen Fried uses chapter titles as a succinct summary of what is shortly to come. His short chapters make the book very easy to read and Fried does not often get bogged down in digressions not germane to the story. While at times it seems that he does, the reader soon learns how an apparent digression is actually very pertinent to what the author is later to relate. A part that I find indispensable is the first appendix that gives the reader a grand tour of Fred Harvey's America as it is today. On my next trip, I plan on visiting many of the same places the author tells about. You may also enjoy the second appendix with its listing of Fred Harvey recipes. They sound delicious!
If you like American history and are looking for something unusual and uplifting to read, I highly recommend Appetite For America. You will see our westward expansion in a whole new light. And though there were a few minor errors of scale in my pre-publication copy of the book, they do not really detract from the reader's delight and I must assume they have been corrected.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Fred Harvey --- both the man and the hospitality industry that bore his name for over 70 years --- invented the chain restaurant business, the chain hotel business, and the chain bookstore business. He became a multi-millionaire, even by monetary standards of the day, by demonstrating how those chains not only could connect a nation but also help hold it together through two world wars, two major stock market crashes and the Great Depression.

If history books had read like APPETITE FOR AMERICA when I was in school, I would have spent a lot more time with my nose in the book instead of staring out the window or watching the clock. Stephen Fried has brought to life in High Definition the Golden Era of American expansion from pre-Civil War to post-World War II. The book is thoroughly researched and vividly narrated in what the author calls the "emerging genre of `history buffed,''' a style that "dares journalists to bring their investigative and story-telling skills to tales once told only by academics."

The rags-to-riches story of a gentlemanly immigrant who left England in 1853 at age 17 might have been lifted straight from the pages of a Horatio Alger novel, except that it is fact, not fiction. He snared a job in a coffee shop upon his arrival in New York, learning the restaurant business from dishwasher to line cook. He married and moved his wife and young son west to St. Louis to open his own restaurant just as the Civil War broke out. His early prospects were quickly dashed when a deadly civil uprising in St. Louis destroyed his restaurant, and he found himself penniless at age 26. He struck out across what is now Missouri to Leavenworth on the Missouri River just as the railroad business, including the fledgling Santa Fe Railway, was starting to expand.

Harvey sold advertising for a newspaper distributed at train stations and restaurants. The job entailed frequent train travel that he found either a hot or a frigid affair, depending on the season. It was dirty, spine-pounding, cinder-laden and altogether a miserable way to cross the plains. But with nothing more than the wagon ruts of the famous Santa Fe Trail as an alternative and guide, travelers and shippers had no choice. The only food available to travelers west of St. Louis was grabbed from local shacks next to the tracks during the half hour it took to load on coal and water for the next leg of the trip. It consisted of the catch of the day --- fish if near a river or the meat du jour supplied by local cowboys, hunters and Indians, frequently buffalo or deer, prairie chickens or rabbits --- either boiled or fried in fat.

As railroad passenger lists expanded, Harvey's background in the restaurant business gave him an idea. Why not serve decent, edible meals in clean restaurants, cooked by trained chefs and served on white tablecloths with linen napkins, china and silver by polite and helpful waiters at the fuel stops. He soon discovered that the rough cowboys and hunters who lived beyond the more cosmopolitan cities were uncomfortable being served by black waiters. So he recruited girls from wholesome families and schools who were thoroughly trained in interpersonal skills, manners and food service, immaculately attired in starched white blouses and skirts, and housed in dormitories under strict rules of stern house mothers. "The Harvey Girls" became a branding of the Fred Harvey enterprise and were among the first young women to be gainfully employed in respectable careers.

There began the saga that would provide a fortune for him, his sons and grandsons, and introduce a whole new series of enterprises to the American economy. A movie by that name, starring Judy Garland, spawned the hit song "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" right after World War II.

Harvey's most famous hotels, the El Tovar and Bright Angel Lodge at Grand Canyon and the La Fonda Inn in Santa Fe, are still in operation. Tourists who wish to stay at the Grand Canyon El Tovar these days must make reservations more than a year in advance. Vast collections of American Indian pottery, jewelry, rugs and furniture once adorned the walls and rooms of many of the lavish hotels designed throughout the west by his protégé, Mary Colter. These treasures are housed in museums from Chicago to Los Angeles, the largest in the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Colter invented the "Santa Fe Style," which has influenced Southwestern living for decades.

The epilogue, appendices, 17 pages of recipes and menus from the famous restaurants, plus a diary of a current trip along the Santa Fe Trail by Fried and his wife, kept me going straight to the end. For historians, a complete bibliography and author's notes at the end is provided without the interruptions of footnotes and references in the text. Fried also includes a handy comparison of prices then and now, which I found particularly interesting.

Once in a while, you pick up a book that prompts you to make a list of people you simply must recommend it to. APPETITE FOR AMERICA is one of those books, and the invitation is wholeheartedly extended to our readers at [...].
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
What I loved most about Appetite for America was the blending the history of railroading in this country and the birth of the commissary based restaurant chain with the colorful characters of the time. This non-fiction work read like a novel. I quickly bonded with to the real-life characters who were presented in a most tangible way. I admired the drive of Fred Harvey and his devotion to quality service and customer satisfaction. I particularly liked his "rules of engagement" for his employees and Harvey Girls as to how they were to deal with "cranky" customers. Tactfully going out of their way to satisfy their complaints. I chuckled when Groucho Marx was identified as a "needy" customer. I can only imagine his complaints about everything. Fried's writing brought tears to my eyes when he recounted the kindnesses of Fred Harvey employess and the company policy during the "Great Depression" of never turning anyone away because they could not pay. Particularly, the story of the resturant's treatment of a young penniless mother with two children who could not feed her herself or children and was treated like a Vanderbilt as a "guest of Fred Harvey." The book brought back memories of going to Florida as a child on the train and eating in the dining car and sleeping in the pullman. This was a great read. Kudos to the author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon February 12, 2013
As a young lad in the 1950s my parents and I frequently had reason to go to Union Station in Chicago to see off or meet a relative taking a train to or from some distant destination. Two things stand out in my mind from those days--the many passenger trains, their observation cars snuggled close to the bumper posts just beyond the gates, and the Fred Harvey sign at one end of the station's massive waiting room.

When on a trip to the Grand Canyon nearly three years ago I came across the book "Appetite for America" in the gift shop I knew I had to have it. My wife graciously ordered it and gave it to me for Christmas.

"Appetite for America" more than satisfied my hunger for trains in particular and for history in general. Stephen Fried does an excellent job of telling the story of how the Fred Harvey restaurants were built up through the efforts of Fred and his son, Ford, and also how, under Freddie, the third generation Harvey, these restaurants were no longer able to keep up with the changing times of the mid to late twentieth century.

More than just a book about a business or a railroad (the Fred Harvey name being intimately tied to the Santa Fe Railroad), it is also a work that looks in detail at the personal lives and temperaments of these men (and to a lesser extent those who came alongside them) as they sought to provide truly outstanding food and excellent service to the American traveler. The story that Fried tells is always fascinating and gripping. A thoroughly researched book, "Appetite for America" provides the reader with everything he or she will want to know about the empire that the Harveys created by recognizing a need and carving out a niche market.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 23, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is more than a story of a restaurant business (the Harvey Houses) or a man (Fred and later Ford Harvey) or a family (the Harveys); in many ways this is the story of America itself. For while it tells us about the man and a business that literally invented hotels and fine dining (restaurants with varied menus did not exist in the United States when Fred Harvey, a British immigrant, arrived in the US). Have you ever wondered how and why American time was standardized? This book will tell you. Have you ever wondered how and where the original Las Vegas was located? This book will tell you.

For as Harvey's business was created (and then grew up) so did America itself. So this is a very rich book--a book about a family that was classy enough to take Oklahoma's Corporation Commission all the way to the Supreme Court over the Harvey requirement that men wear jackets in the dining room yet compassionate enough never to turn away a person who wanted to eat at a Harvey House during the Great Depression--whether or not the person could pay.

But the very ethics that made the Harveys so successful were also, in the end, their downfall. For theirs were the ethics of the age of the railroad. And as the world changed--as more and more people began to travel by car and by airplane, the Harveys could not adapt. And so they are no more.

But their legacies remain: every time you pass by a hotel or a motel; every time you eat out; every time you vacation in the Grand Canyon or anywhere in the National Park System .. and so much more you should thank Fred Harvey. A historian of the 1950s once said that "more than any single organization, the Fred Harvey System introduced America to Americans." This book is about how that happened.

I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Naturally, if your only knowledge of Fred Harvey enterprises is MGM's "The Harvey Girls," there is much more to this epic than just that. In a way, today's theme parks and themed shopping, dining and resort environments owe a great debt to the groundwork layed long before most of us might imagine.

My wife remembered shopping at a Grand Canyon gift shop many years ago and coming away with a Fred Harvey logo shopping bag. "The Harvey Girls" movie was also previously her only exposure to the influence of Fred Harvey but was really absorbed in this book, particularly the interesting chapter about the movie which reveals that, in addition to showing only a small part of the overall Harvey world, the book itself was a novelization of the movie -- but the first time around, MGM stopped production, the book was published anyway and became a best seller. The success of the book and the musical "Oklahoma" inspired MGM to make "The Harvey Girls" as a musical.

We had no idea of the history of this company and how much influence it had on the westward expansion of America and cannot imagine the years of research that must have gone into this book. While this is certainly an exhaustive biography of Fred Harvey and the company and family he founded, it is so much more.

If you love American history, especially of the Southwest, you should read this book. If you are a train buff, you should read this book. There's even a tie in with Walt Disney! If you are interested in the beginnings of the service industry in America (and how far we have come from those original ideals) you should read this book. It is fascinating, detailed and if you are familiar with the old game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, it is a lot like that. It is amazing how interconnected many of these pioneering businesses and families were and how one thing lead to another.

Once you start reading, you may not be able to put it down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I first fell under the Harvey Girls' spell while watching The Harvey Girls (the 1946 musical starring Judy Garland). I was entranced by the premise that the west was tamed by Harvey girls as they brought civility and good food to the Wild West. Stephen Ford's Appetite for America Fred Harvey Civilizing the West- One Meal at a Time reveals the man behind that myth. And like many great myths, there is more than an element of truth. Fred Harvey, a British immigrant, was a visionary who saw an opening for a new type business and worked hard to fill the need.

Seizing on the burgeoning popularity of rail travel, Harvey opened eateries at railway stations. Prior to his diners, the food at stations was nonexistent or not worth consumption. He felt that if a consumer could stop, eat a good meal in a relaxing setting with good and friendly service, the trip would be enhanced. As the railroads expanded so did Fred Harvey's. Soon his eateries were in many key rail stops all with the same high quality food, quick, friendly service in a clean and refined setting. He hired good people and gave them authority to act in his behalf as long as they did it the Harvey way. He imported young women, Harvey Girls to work at these establishments, making sure they were trained and boarded them in dormitories. A Harvey Girl was often one of the few women in the town and he demanded she keep certain reputation. Working as a Harvey Girl was a sought after and respectable profession. Fred Harvey's demands for consistency and good food were the precursor for the chain restraints today. He wanted the traveler to know what to expect along with some local fare to distinguish his menus. He often tried to incorporate local materials and design into his restaurants. He and his staff were some of the first to recognize the Native American artwork and crafts and eventually his company amassed a huge collection that now grace museums and universities. Harvey and his successors were men who looked for ways to expand; he built hotels and lodges not only for rail travelers but for the emerging auto traveler. He was one of the first to recognize the possibilities of tourism and the not yet set aside Grand Canyon. . He incorporated the gift shop and book store into the restaurant, making Harvey's a pleasant and highly anticipated part of travel. The Harvey family continued to carry out his ideals and work and to expand the business after his death. So determined was Harvey, to have Fred Harvey as a brand, he did not want his son's name (Ford) used after his death. He wanted the consumer to feel they were still Fred Harvey's guests.

This is a comprehensive look at a boom time in American expansion as well as the birth of modern American dining out industry. I was struck time and time again at the many practices Harvey introduced that are still in use industry wide today. It is also a fascinating look at a family held and run company. Fred Harvey and his successors not only built an empire, they surrounded themselves with capable, imaginative and loyal staff. Family was expected to follow in the Harvey footsteps. Stephen Fried has managed to capture not only Fred Harvey but his family and their attempts to carry on his name. This is a very readable look at the early days of something we now take for granted....dining out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who enjoys business history knows the thrill of learning how commerce has helped society.

Sometimes the tidbits are complete surprises, other times they confirm, or denigrate, urban lengends. I was unfamiliar with Fred Harvey before reading this, but I have always wondered how the West was refined. This story provides a lot of insights! And clearly Fred Harvey had a driving force that was unusually powerful.

Like so many other industrial/post-industrial business people--Thomas J. Lipton and JP Morgan among them--Harvey was a student of business methods. The composite picture that Stephen Fried paints is one of great ability and, for some time, happiness for the Harvey's. This book is a very enjoyable reminder of the possibilities in an idea powered by personal commitment, and of the challenge in passing that vision to the next generation.

Just as the Harvey Girls provide a glimpse of the country's moral compass, Fred Harvey's legacy and story represent the entrepreneurial urge magnificently fulfilled in ways that shape our society still.
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