“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the only great sight which every American … should see.” (Teddy Roosevelt)
It was the home of a group of people that some call the Anasazi, a Navajo word for ‘Ancient Ones.’ About 2,000 years ago, the Pueblo people learned to survive in extremely harsh conditions and for more than 1,000 years thrived there. Then, they simply disappeared. (Shields)
The Hopi, Yavapai, Navajo, Apache, Zuni, Paiute (Kaibab,) Havasupai and Hualapai are among the tribes that call the canyon home, each with their own language, customs and beliefs. (NPS)
The Colorado River began carving a course to create the Grand Canyon, 4 to 6-million years ago. The nearly 300-river-miles long Colorado cut the 1-mile deep, 10-miles wide canyon, exposing rock and sediment formations that are nearly 2-billion years old. (Stampoulos)
In 1540, a Spanish Nobleman, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, led the first expedition of Europeans into the southwest, in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola that were reputed to contain great riches.
Spanish explorer Don Pedro de Tovar accompanied Coronado and led an expedition to Hopi country. Tovar is credited with as being the first European to learn of the existence of the Grand Canyon. But the Spanish left, unable to cross its impassable void.
Later, more foreigners came.
In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran and his nine companions became the first to record the 1,000-miles of the Green and Colorado River from Wyoming through the Grand Canyon. Powell was the first American to consistently use and publish the name, ‘Grand Canyon.’ (NPS)
Miners discovered valuable mineral resources in the Grand Canyon in the late-1800s; but extraction was dangerous and expensive. Mining claims waned and tourism increased.
In the early days, reaching the Grand Canyon was difficult. Initially, horses, mules, river rafts and stagecoaches brought people to the canyon. The 73-mile trip from Flagstaff to the canyon rim took 10 to 12-hours. (Stampoulos)
In 1876, the Santa Fe railroad was one of the fastest expanding railroads in the country. In 1889, Fred Harvey had a contract for exclusive rights to manage and operate the eating houses and lunch stands with the Santa Fe, west of the Missouri River.
Passengers on the Santa Fe ate well because of Harvey’s special refrigerated boxcar that supplied fresh California fruits and vegetables. He had ‘Harvey Girls’ (“young (unmarried) women between 18 and 30-years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent”) as waitresses and salesgirls.
The Fred Harvey Company operated all of the hotels and restaurants along the Santa Fe railroad lines, as well as many dining cars. (Stampoulos)
Soon, the Santa Fe Railway (and others railways) reached the South Rim of the canyon. In 1901, Harvey died, and his son Ford Harvey took over the company. After Fred’s death, the company’s good reputation for fine food and service grew even more. (Armstrong)
Newspapers across the country heralded the passenger trains carrying visitors to the Grand Canyon; the story stirred public interest, instigating what would later become a ‘boom’ of visitors to the canyon – more than half of them arrived by train at the Santa Fe Station. (Shields)
The company decided to go ahead with plans for a first-class hotel at the Grand Canyon. Ford was in charge of what became the company’s crown jewel, the El Tovar Hotel (named after the early Spanish explorer) – the Charles Whittlesey-designed log structure opened its doors on the canyon rim (and at the rail station) on January 14, 1905.
The hotel soon became the mecca for travelers from all over the world. In order to serve the large number of visitors. The Fred Harvey Company had to maintain a fairly large staff. To accommodate them, men and women’s dormitories were built near the hotel.
The Harvey Company continued its growth well into the 20th century.
So, what’s the Hawai‘i connection? … In 1968, Amfac (one of Hawai‘i’s ‘Big Five’ companies) bought the Fred Harvey Company (and with it, the concession for El Tovar and other hotels, shops and activities at the Grand Canyon.)
Amfac had its beginning in the Islands when, on September 26, 1849, German sea captain Heinrich (Henry) Hackfeld arrived in Honolulu with his wife, Marie, her 16-year-old brother Johann Carl Pflueger and a nephew BF Ehlers.
Hackfeld opened a general merchandise business (dry goods, crockery, hardware and stationery,) wholesale, as well as retail store.
Hackfeld later developed a business of importing machinery and supplies for the spreading sugar plantations and exported raw sugar. H Hackfeld & Co became a prominent factor – business agent and shipper – for the plantations.
A few years later, with the advent of the US involvement in World War I, things changed significantly for the worst for H Hackfeld & Co. In 1918, using the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act and its amendments, the US government seized H Hackfeld & Company and ordered the sale of German-owned shares. (Jung)
The patriotic sounding “American Factors, Ltd,” the newly-formed Hawaiʻi-based corporation (whose largest shareholders included Alexander & Baldwin, C Brewer & Company, Castle & Cooke, HP Baldwin Ltd, Matson Navigation Company and Welch & Company,) bought the H Hackfeld stock. (Jung) At that same time, the BF Ehlers dry goods store also took the patriotic “Liberty House” name.
American Factors shortened its name to “Amfac” in 1966. The next year (1967,) Henry Alexander Walker became president and later Board Chairman of Amfac.
Over the next 15-years, Walker took Amfac from a company that largely depended on sugar production in Hawaiʻi to a broadly diversified conglomerate (which included the acquisition of the Fred Harvey Company in 1968.)
Later, the resort management company became known as Xanterra Parks and Resorts (the present concessionaire and operator of hotels (including El Tovar) and other functions at the Grand Canyon, and elsewhere.)
In 1893, President Benjamin Harrison established it as a forest reserve. On January 11, 1908, President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt placed the Grand Canyon under public protection, declaring it a national monument. Congress updated the Grand Canyon to national park status and doubled the protected area in 1975. It was named a World Heritage Site in 1979.
They say the average length of stay for visitors to the Grand Canyon is 3-hours; take some time to see and experience what some suggest is one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World (Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, Northern Lights, Harbor at Rio de Janeiro, Great Barrier Reef, Paricutin and Victoria Falls) – it is something to behold, that neither words, nor pictures, can adequately describe.