Fred Harvey --- both the man and the hospitality industry that bore his name for over 70 years --- invented the chain restaurant business, the chain hotel business, and the chain bookstore business. He became a multi-millionaire, even by monetary standards of the day, by demonstrating how those chains not only could connect a nation but also help hold it together through two world wars, two major stock market crashes and the Great Depression.
If history books had read like APPETITE FOR AMERICA when I was in school, I would have spent a lot more time with my nose in the book instead of staring out the window or watching the clock. Stephen Fried has brought to life in High Definition the Golden Era of American expansion from pre-Civil War to post-World War II. The book is thoroughly researched and vividly narrated in what the author calls the “emerging genre of ‘history buffed,’’’ a style that “dares journalists to bring their investigative and story-telling skills to tales once told only by academics."
The rags-to-riches story of a gentlemanly immigrant who left England in 1853 at age 17 might have been lifted straight from the pages of a Horatio Alger novel, except that it is fact, not fiction. He snared a job in a coffee shop upon his arrival in New York, learning the restaurant business from dishwasher to line cook. He married and moved his wife and young son west to St. Louis to open his own restaurant just as the Civil War broke out. His early prospects were quickly dashed when a deadly civil uprising in St. Louis destroyed his restaurant, and he found himself penniless at age 26. He struck out across what is now Missouri to Leavenworth o