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Fred Harvey was born in London in 1835. At 17 he emigrated from England to America. Harvey made his way from New York City to St. Louis, Mo. He worked in the hospitality industry for several years, and even owned his own restaurant for a period. After his restaurant failed, he began working in the railroad industry. He was employed as an advertising sales agent and as a government postal clerk; these roles that often required Harvey to travel by train.
The inconsistent and unpredictable quality of food service along railroads inspired Fred Harvey to action. In 1876 he opened the first Harvey House in Topeka, Kans., in partnership with the Santa Fe Railway. Due in part to the great success of this establishment, he was able to open additional houses where railway passengers could get consistent, quality meals and service. The Fred Harvey Company was established.
Harvey and his wife, Sally Mattas, had four children, all of whom were involved in the family company as they grew older. Fred Harvey passed away in 1901, but he left a strong and viable business model for his family and business partners to follow. His attention to detail and high expectations guided the company’s success for many years after his passing.