New York City, 1850- Fifteen-year-old Frederick Henry Harvey stepped off the boat from England in New York City. The son of Scotch and English parents was already a youth of confidence and ambition; he had decided to make his fortunes in America, starting with the ten dollars he possessed to his name. He found a job near the Hudson River at a good cafe, then journeyed to New Orleans. He found employment at a fine eating establishment in the Crescent City where he learned the culinary business from the ground up. During the Civil War, Harvey worked as a mobile mail clerk for the railroad, where he observed first-hand the literal hunger of the rail traveler for decent food and service. The idea for a business venture was born.
In 1873, the young Fred Harvey went into business with partner Jeff Rice, setting up railroad eating establishments along the Kansas Pacific Railroad in Hugo, CO, Lawrence, KS, and in the Wallace Hotel. Here, from the beginning, Fred Harvey set his exacting and now famous standards. The food was to be fresh, the tables and linens spotless, the utensils and porcelain of the highest possible quality. He strove to take full advantage of the Trans-Continental Railroad, bringing daily fresh ingredients from points east and west. Harvey’s manager at the Wallace Hotel was Mrs. Barry, who headed a team of women servers. Mrs. Barry was reputed to be an efficient manager. (Her daughter, Alice b. 1865, would marry Mr. Peter Roubidoux in 1885.)
Harvey would soon find that Mr. Rice did not share his “quality at all costs” philosophy. By 1875, their partnership had dissolved and Fred Harvey began shopping his business idea to the Santa Fe Railroad. The Wallace Hotel would continue in business for a number of years under different management.