Fred Harvey and the Harvey girls: The management innovator who civilized dining in the Wild West

Robert C. Ford, David Van Fleet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the management innovations developed and implemented by the Harvey House restaurants with specific attention to those human resource policies and procedures that were created to use what many believe to be the first large-scale use of single women working away from home, the famous Harvey Girls. A second purpose of this paper is to use bricolage theory to frame the innovations that Harvey pioneered to illustrate how the theory pertains to this entrepreneur who civilized dining in the “Wild West.” Design/methodology/approach: This paper relies on secondary and archival sources to inform its points and rationale. Findings: Fred Harvey applied his experience-gained knowledge to invent a system that would provide meals to railroad travelers along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad that were not only consistently excellent and reasonably priced but also could be served within the tight time limits of train stops for fuel and water. The precision of his service standards was innovative and required trained and disciplined servers. To deliver the quality of service for which his company became known across the “Wild West.” Harvey invented his famous Harvey Girls. Originality/value: Fred Harvey’s invention of the Harvey Girls represents the first large-scale employment of women and required the invention of human resource management policies, procedures and processes. This is the story of how this management innovator successfully applied entrepreneurial bricolage to bring civilized dining to the “Wild West.”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Management History
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Bricolage
  • Fred Harvey
  • Harvey Girls
  • Human resource management
  • Multi-unit restaurants
  • Service standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Fred Harvey and the Harvey girls: The management innovator who civilized dining in the Wild West'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this