Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : George Pullman and His Town
George Pullman and His Town

George Pullman and His Town

George Pullman established himself in Chicago in March 1859, as a building raiser and mover. He soon began converting railroad chair cars into luxurious sleeping vehicles. His first major sleeper, The Pioneer, appeared in May 1865, followed in February 1867 by the chartering of Pullman's Palace Car Company. For the next two and a half decades, Pullman expanded his operations and overcame his competitors until he controlled the industry. As a leading industrialist, he assisted in rebuilding Chicago after the 1871 fire, and helped found and support many of its social and cultural organizations. He also erected the Pullman Building in downtown Chicago and a home on Prairie Avenue.

After 1881, when Pullman opened the town of Pullman, Illinois, to house his construction plant and his workers, he was hailed as an enlightened employer who considered the best interests of his employees. This image was destroyed following the 1886 Haymarket Riot, and during a strike at the Pullman works between May and July 1894 which publicized his antilabor stance. Pullman's peers censured him for refusing to deal with strikers during the stoppage, while a subsequent government investigation revealed his unsympathetic treatment of employees.