Pullman created what he considered to be a model town for his workers in the 1880s.The neighborhood was certainly better than most laborers’ neighborhoods. It had a library, shops, a hotel, playgrounds, and well-built houses for the workers. It was highly praised in the press.
But over time, it also had its share of controversy. Pullman built it and Pullman ran it. He wanted no town meetings, no unions, and no home ownership. The town’s hotel bar was off-limit to residents. Pullman even refused to reduce rents after he cut workers’ pay during a financial downturn.
Nevertheless, the area is considered a viable neighborhood today with many longtime residents. This designation will have a positive impact.
George Pullman revolutionized rail travel, instituted sleeping cars and dining cars, and changed the way well-to-do Americans traveled. His impact on rail travel was so distinctive that his name entered the popular lexicon. Efficiency kitchens in urban apartments were once dubbed Pullmans. During the Depression, men who were down on their luck hopped rides on railroad box cars they called “side-door Pullmans.” We make loaves of bread called Pullmans because their flat tops allow them to be stacked efficiently. Compact suitcases, designed to fit under a train car seat, are still known as Pullmans.
And what child wouldn’t love to have one of these Pullman cars for her teddy bear to travel in.
Photograph by Charlotte Holt