George Pullman: Social Reformer
Like many other industrialists during the late-nineteenth century, Pullman developed a strong interest in social reform. Cities like Chicago were growing rapidly, attracting foreign immigrants and native migrants with their promise of abundant work and good wages. The enormous population boom meant opportunity for some and squalor for others. The city's working class typically lived in overcrowded, unsanitary, unappealing parts of town. Some middle- and upper-class men and women attempted to improve the lives of the working and poor classes, but often did so with an air of condescension.
Chicago's working class neighborhoods differed dramatically from the clean, landscaped town of Pullman. Pictured above is an aerial view of 112th Street in Pullman. (CHS G1982.157 #P63316)
Pullman, like his upper-class colleagues, distrusted labor unions, so when the Chicago rail worker strike of 1877 ended violently with 12 deaths, he sought a solution to the "labor problem." Pullman hoped to improve the relationship between capital and labor by creating a safe, clean, culturally enriching environment for his workers, who would pay him back with loyalty, honesty, and commitment to hard work. He believed a company town would discourage strikes as it increased workers' efficiency and improved residents' moral character.
Pullman built houses like the one shown above (c. 1906) to attract and retain loyal workers. The Pullman company designed and maintained each home. (CHS ICHi-21906)
Al Capone - Chicago Black Sox - A Century of Progress - Chicago Fire
The World's Columbian Exposition - Parades, Protests and Politics
The Pullman Era - The Stockyards
Fort Dearborn (Coming Soon!)
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