Tuesday, January 08, 2019

George Pullman's Worker's Paradise

The model town of Pullman, located on the far south side of Chicago, was built in the 1880s on land controlled by the Pullman Palace Car Company (think railroads and the luxurious Pullman cars).  The town was the brainchild of George W. Pullman, who thought he could avoid strikes, attract the most skilled labor, and achieve greater productivity by providing workers with a superior living environment. 

The residents weren’t as enthusiastic, and complained that rents, and prices in the company owned stores, were too high.  With the Depression of 1892, wages dropped, but rents and food prices stayed the same.  The bloody nationwide Pullman strike of 1894 resulted.  During the course of the strike, 30 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded before the strike was broken.

In 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the company’s charter did not include the right to run a town.  Pullman became just another residential neighborhood until the area was granted landmark status, and the Historic Pullman Foundation set to work restoring it in the 1970s.

The Pullman Arcade Building, seen here in 1894 during the strike,  is being guarded by the Illinois National Guard.  The Arcade Building contained a 500-seat theatre, a post office, library, the Pullman Trust and Savings Bank, the town management offices as well as office and storefront spaces that were rented to private businesses.  

Video: The Gilded Age and Revolution

We think we know the Victorians, but do we? The same passions, strengths and weaknesses that exist now, existed then, but people organized themselves very differently.

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