United States and American History: 1858 & George Mortimer Pullman

About the history of the United States in 1858, George Mortimer Pullman and his Pullman cars for trains, his biography and investment in the railroad.

--George Mortimer Pullman, a 27-year-old cabinetmaker, began work on his idea to provide better sleeping accommodations on trains. The 1st 2 sleeping cars, with upper berths hinged at the side and supported by 2 jointed arms, were built in Chicago. Unable to sell these models, Pullman became a shopkeeper in a Colorado mining town. In 1863, Pullman returned to Chicago and invested his entire $20,000 savings in a 3rd model of his sleeping car, which he built with the help of a friend. This was a super luxury model called the Pioneer. When it was ready to test, it seemed to be a white elephant. Too large to pass under bridges or through stations, the Pioneer was put to rest on a siding.

Two years later, after President Lincoln's assassination, every State offered its finest railroad cars to join his funeral train. The State of Illinois, where the dead President had practiced law and entered politics, wished to be represented by the best car possible. Then someone remembered George Pullman's oversized Pioneer sleeping car. It was brought into service, as railroad stations were quickly torn down and bridges raised to accommodate it.

Attached to the funeral train, the Pioneer and its comforts were praised by General Grant and other dignitaries. At once, other railroad lines began rebuilding their stations and bridges to make way for it. George Pullman's moment had come. He formed the Pullman Palace Car Co. in partnership with millionaire Andrew Carnegie, and soon was a millionaire himself. In 3 decades, Pullman's gouging tactics--which included forcing his employees to live in a city called Pullman--and his antilabor practices earned him the reputation of being one of the most heartless capitalists of his century.

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