This little china waitress figurine is labeled EARLY HARVEY GIRL in dark gold across the front of her base. She is one of the Made-in-Japan souvenir statuettes sold at Harvey House hotels, restaurants and train operations. Her red JAPAN marking dates from Mid-Century, about the 1940s-1950s.
Prim and proper in her waitress uniform, she is a sweet depiction of one of the young women carefully chosen to serve patrons in dining establishments operated by the famous railroad restaurateur Fred Harvey. A floor length pinafore apron is tied in the back with a large bow, and she is carrying a tray. Her blonde hair is carefully coiffed. Her blue eyes, eyebrows and red mouth curled in a smile are all hand painted. Beside her on a stand is a tea service.
Vintage movie fans and avid Fred Harvey collectors will be familiar with the 1936 motion picture titled “The Harvey Girls,” starring Judy Garland, adapted from Samuel Hopkins Adams' novel, "The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West." Their story is fascinating -- please read the brief Background below.
SIZE is approximately 3 inches tall.
CONDITION is lovely with NO cracks, chips, flakes or repairs. Attractively detailed, with strong bright colors, you can clearly see her facial figures. A sweet addition to any Fred Harvey or Santa Fe Railroad collection.
BACKGROUND: During the 1880s and 1890s, an enterprising man named Fred Harvey opened and operated eating houses along the route of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in the southwest United States. As railroading expanded during the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th, the role played by Harvey’s operations along the route of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, along with operating onboard dining car services, earned him a niche in history as an important contributor to American railway passenger travel.
As head of the Fred Harvey Company, his goal was to build the finest eating establishments in the industry by serving rail passengers the best possible food in the best conditions. As rail travel grew, he expanded into over-the-rails dining car operations aboard the Santa Fe, and then further expanded into building hotels called Harvey Houses at strategic locations along the AT&SF route. At its heyday, there were 84 Harvey Houses, all of which catered to wealthy and middle-class visitors alike. The business continued to be operated by Harvey's sons and grandsons until 1968 when it was sold to a Hawaiian-based company.
As part of that effort, he began advertising in the 1880s for the best service personnel, including waitresses who would be called “Harvey Girls.” The “Harvey Girls” were chosen from among ladies who answered Harvey’s advertisement for “young women of good character, attractive and intelligent.” Between the ages of 18 and 30, they not only had to undergi intensive training for the job, they were required to promise to work for at least a year without marrying, while living under the supervision of a matron. The success of Fred Harvey Houses depended greatly on these young women, whose total numbers were in the thousands.
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