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 George Mortimer Pullman

George Mortimer Pullman

Birth
Brocton, Chautauqua County, New York, USA
Death 19 Oct 1897 (aged 66)
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Burial Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 843 · View Source
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Engineer, Industrialist, and Inventor. He is remembered for the design and manufacture of the Pullman sleeping railroad car. The third of nine children, his father was originally a farmer who turned to the carpenter trade. At age 14, he dropped out of school and became a clerk at a local general store. In 1845 his parents moved to Albion, New York where his father worked as a carpenter on the Erie Canal and also relocated buildings to make way for widening the Canal. Three years later, he joined his parents and his father's business, taking over after the death of his father in 1853. In 1857 he relocated to Chicago, Illinois and formed the engineering firm of Ely, Smith, and Pullman Company that was instrumental in raising buildings an average of six feet, using massive timbers and screwjacks, in order to accommodate a new sewer system, since the town was originally built on a marsh. In 1859, when gold was discovered near Pike's Peak in Colorado, he moved there and started a freight business and ore crushing mill, along with a "base camp" where miners could bed down and procure supplies and meals. In 1863 he returned to Chicago and established the Pullman Palace Car Company, building his first two sleeping cars, the Springfield and the Pioneer. In 1867 he expanded his company and built the President, a sleeping car with an attached kitchen and dining car, followed in 1868 with the Delmonico. In 1869 he purchased the Detroit Car and Manufacturing Company and consolidated all of his manufacturing into one facility and the following year, he bought out his eastern competitor, the Central Transportation Company. He hired African-American former domestic slaves as porters and became the largest single employer of African-Americans following the American Civil War. They were required to not only perform duties as porters, but as waiters, valets, and entertainers. By 1875 his company had 700 cars in operation. In 1880 he purchased 4,000 acres of land near Lake Calumet, Illinois, near Chicago, and built a new factory, along with a company town named Pullman that included not only housing for his employees, but all the amenities that a typical town would include, such as a church, theaters, parks hotel, and library, but without saloons or any vice districts. As the town "baron" he prohibited typical freedoms, such as town meetings, independent newspapers, public speeches, private charitable organizations, or any open discussion. When manufacturing demand fell off in 1894 due to a recession, he cut jobs, reduced wages, and increased working hours, in order to lower costs and maintain profits. However, he refused to lower rents his employees had to pay because he had guaranteed his investors a six percent return on their investment in the town. In May 1894 his workers went on strike and he refused to meet with them to resolve their demands. When violence broke out, President Grover Cleveland, at his request, sent in federal troops to quell the strike, using harsh methods in the process. The following month, all of his Pullman cars were cut from trains, shutting down entire rail lines that held Chicago hostage. By the end of July the strike was finally over but 34 people had been killed in the process. His reputation was tarnished by the strike and the investigation presidential commission condemned him for his refusal to negotiate and for creating economic hardships on his employees and their families. Three years following the strike, he died of a heart attack at the age of 66. In fear that his enemies might disinter his body, his family took extreme measures in seeing that his remains would not be disturbed, including having his lead-lined coffin sunk in a concrete block and placed in a tomb made of reinforced concrete covered with asphalt and tarpaper, followed by a layer of steel rails bolted at right angles with another layer of concrete poured on top. In 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court forced his Pullman Company to divest ownership in the town, which was then annexed to Chicago.

Bio by: William Bjornstad



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 843
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for George Mortimer Pullman (3 Mar 1831–19 Oct 1897), Find A Grave Memorial no. 843, citing Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .