Tamers of the Wild West:  Fred Harvey, Mary Colter, and the Santa Fe Railway

A Study Tour

September 28-October 6, 2013

This tour will study sweeping social history in the land of canyons and cowboys, sunrises and sunsets, set against the magical horizons of the great American Southwest.  We will learn from our expert guides how one man, Fred Harvey, tamed this land for the comfort of the American traveler.

Fred Harvey was the founding father of the American service industry and a pioneer in personnel management, advertising and marketing.  In the late 1880s, he created the first national chain hotels and restaurants, operating all the restaurants, hotels, bookstores and newsstands along the Santa Fe Railroad route and then along Route 66, and in most major cities from Rosenberg, Texas to Chicago; from Needles, California to San Francisco.  As one of our trip leaders, Stephen Fried, wrote, “Fred Harvey was Ray Kroc before McDonald’s – Howard Johnson before HoJo’s.” 

Before the Harvey era, travel to the American west was unpredictable, uncomfortable and inhospitable. Travelers could not count on getting a good meal or a good night’s sleep.

Harvey understood the iconic appeal of the cowboy and Indian myths of American culture and his entrepreneurial empire was built on a blend of romanticism and commercialism.  For example, he appreciated and preserved Native American art, yet much of the turquoise jewelry sold in his gift shops was commissioned, and sometimes designed, by him. Many of the best known paintings, photographs, songs and writings about the Southwest were commissioned by Fred Harvey, and used to enhance the hotels and restaurants we will visit.

The legendary “Harvey Girls” – subject of an Oscar-winning film starring Judy Garland – were the first major female workforce in America, allowing single women to travel independently, earn a decent living and eventually participate in settling the American West.  The pioneer female architect, Pennsylvanian Mary Colter, became Fred Harvey’s company architect in 1910, completing 21 projects, many of which we will visit.  Her signature “Pueblo Revival” style was the precursor of what we all now know as “Santa Fe Style.”

On this trip we will spend nine days exploring treasures of the American Southwest; enjoy historic accommodations; drive in comfort along iconic Route 66 and into the crown jewels of our National Park System; hop aboard the historic Grand Canyon Railway; expand our appreciation of Native and Spanish American-inspired design in the art, architecture and decorative workmanship we will see everywhere we travel; and participate in several behind-the-scenes tours and private receptions along the way.

Our understanding and appreciation of this era and this land will be enriched by our expert guides and tour leaders, John Ninneman, naturalist, professor and dean at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and Stephen Fried, investigative journalist and adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  Fried, author of Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West – One Meal at a Time, (Bantam Books, 2010), will join us in Santa Fe.



Registration for fall 2018 is ongoing. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


If you are interested in traveling to Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy. 


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern on Wednesday, November 14 is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. A second session has been added and will meet Monday, November 12 from 2:00-3:30 P.M. Registrations are being accepted for November 12. You may register online, or by phone.


Who Gets to Vote: Challenges for the 2020 Elections?
Speaker: Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voter Rights Project
Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Location to be announced


Register today!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.