George Mortimer Pullman

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

George Mortimer Pullman

George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897) was an American industrial innovator who developed the railroad sleeping car and built a big business with it. He was one of the last industrialists to operate a company town.

George Pullman was born on March 3, 1831, in Brocton, N.Y., but his parents soon moved to Portland, N.Y. His upbringing in the Universalist Church greatly affected his later philosophy of labor. His formal education ended at the age of 14, and in 1845 he started work in a general store. After his father died, Pullman agreed to finish his father's contracts to move some homes in the path of an Erie Canal widening. Upon completion of that work in 1855 he moved to Chicago, where he entered the business of raising buildings onto higher foundations to avoid flooding because much of Chicago's land area was only a few feet above the level of Lake Michigan.

The idea of a sleeping car for railroads was not new, and various efforts had been made to construct and operate such cars before Pullman joined the field. He formed a partnership with Benjamin Field, who had the rights to operate sleepers on the Chicago and Alton and the Galena and Union railroads. Pullman remodeled two passenger cars into sleepers, using the principle of an upper berth hinged to the side of the car and supported by two jointed arms. Business grew slowly but steadily until the Civil War. In 1862 he went to the Colorado goldfields, where he operated a trading store and in his spare time continued to develop his sleeping car.

Returning to Chicago, Pullman and Field constructed the "Pioneer" sleeping car, which became a classic in rail history. Its initial trip conveyed Abraham Lincoln's widow from Washington to Springfield, Ill. Other railroads began to use the Pullman car. In 1867, the year of Pullman's marriage, the Illinois legislature chartered the Pullman Palace Car Company, which eventually became the world's largest such building concern. Initially, Pullman contracted for his cars; in 1870 he began construction in Detroit, although the headquarters remained in Chicago. The Pullman company always leased sleeping cars; it never sold them.

By 1880 Pullman had acquired land in the Calumet region of Chicago, where he constructed a new factory and a company town. Deeply disturbed by depressing urban conditions, he envisioned his town as a model of efficiency and healthfulness, though it was planned to return a 6 percent profit. The town cost over $5 million. A serious strike in 1894 marked the beginning of the separation of factory and town. Pullman died in Chicago on Oct. 19, 1897.

Further Reading

Pullman's life and work are discussed in Joseph Husband, The Story of the Pullman Car (1917); Stewart H. Holbrook, The Story of American Railroads (1947); August Mencken, The Railroad Passenger Car (1957); and Stanley Buder, Pullman: An Experiment in Industrial Order and Community Planning, 1880-1930 (1967). □

views updated

Pullman, George Mortimer (1831–97). American industrial designer and philanthropist. He settled in Chicago, IL, in 1855, where he established a thriving business constructing roads and elevating buildings above the water level of Lake Michigan. In 1858 he established his company to manufacture railway sleeping-cars, and he can be credited with the introduction of comfort, and even luxury, to railway travel. From 1869 he began to develop land south of Chicago, and, taking his cue from experiments in England by, e.g. Lever and Salt, determined to build a Company town for the workforce in his factories, and employed Barrett as his landscape-architect, and Beman as his architect to achieve this. Pullman, IL, was built 1880–95, and was regarded as an exceptionally well-designed model industrial town.


Jane Turner (1996)

views updated

George Mortimer Pullman, 1831–97, American industrialist and developer of the railroad sleeping car, b. Brocton, N.Y. As a young man he became a cabinetmaker, and after he moved (1858) to Chicago he began converting (1859) old railroad coaches in order to facilitate long-distance traveling. Some five years later he built the Pioneer, the first modern sleeping car. Gaining great wealth from his invention, he founded (1867) the Pullman Palace Car Company. The town of Pullman, now part of Chicago, was built (1880) for the company and its workers. One of the most famous of all U.S. strikes was that at Pullman in 1894.

views updated

Pullman, George Mortimer (1831–97) US industrialist and developer of the railway sleeping-carriage. The first modern sleeping-car went into service in 1865.