So what is The Fred Harvey Line?
A few years ago, I began walking the railroad tracks near my home looking for rusty old stuff to add to an ongoing sculpture in my back yard. Though scarce, occasionally I would find small bits of pottery with a red and black motif; others had a lovely California poppy. One day I hit pay dirt: part of a gorgeous red fish with black zigzag trim and a Mimbres bird with no legs. Voilà! Another “Fred Head” was born.
I create small wearable sculptures using these scarce, sweat-earned remnants of an amazing British-American visionary: Fred Harvey. In 1902, Mr. Harvey hired designer and architect Mary Colter to create among many other things, the Mimbreño china pattern which was used exclusively in the dining car of the Santa Fe Chief. This pattern made its debut in 1937. The train dining cars were staffed with Harvey Girls: proper young women working as waitresses on the trains and in Fred Harvey’s hotels and restaurants across the southwest. I was told that if a dish chipped or broke on the train, out the window it would go resulting in the potshards I find today.
Mimbreño is my favorite pattern but I make Jewelry using any Fred Harvey potshards I can find. I cut, grind, drill, polish and set into sterling silver these wonderful relics.
The Harvey Girls were brave, hardworking young women; some still alive today. They were perhaps also litter bugs… in this case, a very good thing!
If you want to learn more about Fred Harvey, Appetite for America by Stephen Fried and Katrina Parks’ documentary Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound are both great. The New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe just opened a permanent exhibit. Also, Rough Riders Antiques in Las Vegas, NM has a large collection of all things Fred Harvey that makes all “Fred Heads” very happy.
Other links to check out are:
www.castanedahotel.org– Newly purchased Fred Harvey Hotel; the Castaneda, Las Vegas, NM
www.laposada.org– Fred Harvey Hotel; La Posada, Winslow, Arizona