Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men in Chicago, Photographically Illustrated by John Carbutt, 1868, Pages 471-476
Chicago may well be proud of her commanding position on this continent, inasmuch as, though a city of recent growth, she not only is the centre of the energies of the Northwest, but has established herself as the place of origin of many improvements. She has shown the world how to elevate grain in her immense warehouses, how to lift huge blocks of brick and stone buildings many feet above the original level, and how to make of railroad travel a positive luxury, instead of a discomforting annoyance. She has done much to bring the world up to grade, and not more by supplying the alimentary necessities of an ever increasing population, tlian by stimulating to improvement in labor processes, and the enjoyment of hours of leisure.
Not the least among the benefits which have been conferred upon the world from Chicago as the fountain of good, is the introduction of improved modes of traveling by railroad. Until less than ten years ago, the voijagcur rode painfully along, in poorly ventilated cars, halting by the wayside at spasmodic intervals for badly cooked food in unsatis- factory supply, and stopping at night to recuperate his energies by sleep. Now, how changed the scene! No time need be lost in travel. The man of business, or the delicate lady, is carried rapidly from one side of the continent to the other, without a greater feeling of fatigue than would be experienced at home, and without stop. The same train which bears the passengers swiftly along towards their destination, also carries a cuisine worthy of a Blot, and couches whose elegance, convenience, comfort and privacy, are not surpassed by those of the best family circle. All is agreeable, pleasant—the palace car provides the comfort of the home mansion, and traveling has elbowed out the claim of dancing to be called the poetry of motion.
So much of this grand improvement is chargeable to the credit of one man, that he merits a high place in the regards of the public, as a benefactor of the race. That man is George M. Pullman, Esq., the well and widely known prince of the palace sleeping-car system. He is known by other works, but it is in this department of effort that he has made himself famous, and from his biding place in Chicago taught the world an important lesson, not learned before, how to enjoy life on the road.
Mr. Pullman was born March 3, 1831, in Chatauqua County, New York, the third son of James Lewis and Emily Caroline Pullman. His father was a hard-working mechanic, who supported his family comfortably by the labor of his hands, but did not acquire property. George, after the usual schooling and changes of youth, finally commenced business life in a furniture establishment in Albion, New York, early developing traits of enterprise and industry. Soon after this, owing to the death of his father, he found himself called upon to assume new responsibilities in the care and support of the family, which induced him to look for a wider and more profitable field of enterprise. He made contracts with the State of New York for raising buildings on the line of the enlargement of the Erie Canal, which occupied about four years in their completion. At the end of that time, in 1859, he removed to Chicago, and almost immediately entered upon the work, then just begun, of bringing our city up to grade, by the raising of many of our most prominent brick and marble structures, including the Matteson and Tremont Houses, together with many of our heaviest South Water street blocks. He was one of the contractors for raising, by one operation, the massive buildings of the entire Lake street front of the block between Clark and LaSalle streets, including the Marine Bank and several of our largest stores, the business of all these continuing almost unimpeded during the process—a feat, in its class, probably without a parallel in the world.
His connection with the sleeping-car interest dates almost from the time of his entrance into the city. In the spring of 1859, his attention was attracted to the subject of providing better sleeping accommodations for the public while journeying on the rail. He made a contract Avith Governor Matteson to fit up with berths two old cars, for use on the Chicago and Alton Railroad. The cars were introduced to the public in August of that year, and the wonderful improvement was amply described in full column articles of the papers of that primeval era. There was no comparison, however, between those two cars and the magnificent palaces on wheels which now constitute the Pullman lines; but they were a long step ahead, and were widely appreciated for the increased comfort afforded by them over any similar institutions then in use.
The advantage was not, however, at that time followed up, partially because the railroad companies were slower then than now to adopt improvements, and partly because Mr. Pullman’s energies were called off in another direction—to the great mineral regions of Colorado, whither he went in 1860, and remained until the spring of 1863, at which time he returned to Chicago. Meanwhile, he had built several cars for the Chicago and Alton, and the old Galena roads, and, becoming satisfied tlvat there was a Avide field for improvement in sleeping-cars, he sold out his Colorado interests and concluded to apply his whole time and caipital to the new enterprise.
To will was to do. He improvised a shop on the Chicago and Alton Railroad, and built two palace cars, at a cost of about eighteen thousand dollars each, to run on that road. They were regarded by very many as specimens of foolish extravagance, but the people soon found out that he knew better than they what they wanted. The cars were visited by a great many prominent gentlemen, all of whom took considerable interest in examining them, even while decrying them. One of the first to appreciate their value was John W. Brooks, Esq., then President of the Michigan Central Road, who desired Mr. Pullman to go to Boston and arrange for placing similar ones on his road. Mr. Pullman did so, and there effected an exclusive contract to run his sleeping-cars on the Michigan Central Railroad for the term of ten years. This was soon followed by similar contracts for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and the Great Western of Canada. Since then the sleeping-cars of Mr. Pullman become into very general use. They are now running on eighteen lines of railroad, and are increasing in number as rapidly as the extensive workshops with which he is connected can produce them, while each new car exhibits a marked improvement over its predecessors. Indeed, this is the great secret of Mr. Pullman’s success; he does not rest satisfied with past achievements, but is constantly aiming to produce something better. Obtaining liberal contracts, he has endeavored from the first to meet the most rigid requirements, by building cars more superb than ever. We cannot tell what will be in the future, but we predict that the next ten years will witness as marked an advance as has been achieved in the past decade.
The earnest of this is now before us, in the magnificent hotel cars just brought out, which effect a complete revolution in railroad travel, by obviating the necessity fur stoppages, enabling passengers not only to sleep, but to eat on the train; thus furnishing them with all the comforts of a first-class hotel, while whirling them along towards their destination. Mr. Pullman has already received applications from the managers of several roads to introduce his palace dining cars. He has completed arrangements of this character with the Union Pacific Railroad, and the great improvement will, no doubt, ere long be generally adopted.
The whole of this vast enterprise has been accomplished without any aid except that commanded by Mr. Pullman in his business relations. He had no influential friends, except as he made them by showing that he was working for the benefit of society, and that it would be to their advantage to assist in the labor. In this he has been eminently successful, as the extent of his connection shows. Two years ago he organized the Southern “Pullman, Kimball & Ramsey Sleeping Car Company,” with headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia. In August last he organized the “Pullman Palace Car Company,” at Chicago, with a capital of one million dollars, which now covers the leading Western and Southern railroads centering in Chicago, as well as the great central route East; and has since organized the ” Pullman Pacific Car Company,” to run on the Pacific Railroad and branches.
Although Mr. Pullman was not the first inventor of sleeping-cars, yet he is the inventor and patentee of the improvements which have made his cars so popular with the public, and he may justly claim to have been the first to seize the idea of making sleepers comfortable while in transitu. He has prosecuted that idea from the commencement with an energy and pertinacity which insured and deserved the success that has crowned his efforts. The original sleeping-car was a mere arrangement of bunks, without sheets, and still less provided with the luxurious appliances which now invite the wayfarer to a grateful repose. Mr. Pullman’s starting point in his palace-car system was a full confidence in the disposition of the traveler to pay for luxurious accommodations by rail. On this he made his stake and won. The palace-car is the needed Ihik between the sumptuous hotels that meet the traveler in all our great cities. It is a land adaptation of the luxuries of the stateroom and cuisine of the superb lake luul river steamer. It roiiiuls tlie list and completes the trinity—hotel, steamer, railway car. Mr. Pullman’s first essay was on a scale that startled with its magnificence the old dreamers that perfection by rail had been already won; and their astonishment has given way to admiration at witnessing how, through successive stages of progress, the result has been reached that makes a train without a Pullman palace-car something less than the perfection this age has given to the art of traveling. Nor is this all. The liberality and enterprise of Mr. Pullman has excited a spirit of rivalry in all leading lines, until the palace-car system is rapidly spreading throughout the whole country.
The location of Chicago as the leading railroad centre of the United States, with long lines and routes of travel terminating here, made this city, of all others in the country, favorable to, and teeming with, the suggestions of the necessity and profit of a higher scale of accommodations for the comfort and luxury of travelers. This early attracted Mr. Pullman’s attention, as above stated, and the result is known to the whole traveling world. It found him trained and skillful in handling great enterprises, and opened to him a career as prosperous for himself as it has been a fortunate one to all travelers by rail.
Mr. Pullman was married, June 13, 1867, to Miss Hattie Sanger, of this city, a daughter of the late J. Y. Sanger, Esq. He is a man of genial countenance and pleasant address, tireless in action, and speaks methodically, because he thinks clearly. He is a worshipper in the Universalist Church, but not a member of the society, and has two brothers in the ministry of that denomination.
Controlling, as he does, a large amount of capital, we feel that we should not have discharged our duty as a biographer, were we not to allude to the use he makes of it. Mr. Pullman is extensively engaged in manufacturing interests, and is thus enabled to furnish employment to hundreds of hands that otherwise might remain idle. One of the largest manufactories of its class in the country, the Eagleton Wire Works, of New York, employing over one thousand men, of which Mr. Pullman is the principal owner, together with his interests in car manufactories, employing about the same number of men, afford illustrations of the manner in which his capital is employed. In pursuing this course, we consider that he gives to the world a practical example of the duty of Christians to “feed the hungry and clothe the naked.” Thousands of hearts are thus made glad. In fact, there is no better way of helping others than by furnishing them the means to help themselves. Those who do this are truly benefactors of the race, inasmuch as they enable their fellow mortals to eat the “bread of industry,” which is much sweeter than the “bread of idleness.”
As a city, we owe our present world-wide fame to the tireless exertions of those men who have originated and developed enterprises which have commanded the attention of those around us, far and near. Realizing the benefits we derive from the presence of such men in our midst, we heartily express our desire for a long life of activity for Mr. Pullman, and all those who have contributed to our prosperity. Yet a young man, he has many years of active life before him, during which, no doubt, he will evolve other ideas, or reduce to practical shape some hitherto unutilized thought to benefit the world, while increasing his own resources, and extending his fame.
Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1859
Messrs. Pullman & Fields’ New Sleeping Car—Excursion to the Summit.—A short time since we noticed the fact that the St. Louis Alton & Chicago Railroad Company were about to introduce Sleeping Cars on that line. These cars have come to be an indispensable part of the equipment of a first class road and have long since passed all necessity of argument in their behalf. To enjoy a night’s rest on the cars, proceed on your journey with all the speed of flying wheels, the while you recline on a comfortable couch, is a desideratum the forsce of which none deny.
The difficulty has been how best to secure this end. How to secure the best requisitions for a car for night travel and yet in the least degree interfere with its comfort and commodiousness for ordinary day use, since such must be more or less be expected of each car.
We believe from our own personal knowledge of the matter, strongly confirmed by those whose opinion is of more weight than our own that each and every requisition for day and night use combined, have been secured in the Sleeping Car just invented and perfected by Messrs. Pullman & Fields, and that to a degree we have never seen excelled if equalled by any of the numerous varieties in use.
The road above referred to have just adopted these admirable cars, and we are the more proud of them in that they are an Illinois institution throughout, having been turned out of the Bloomington car shop, and entirely too from wheel to roof a credit to the builders. The plan is not unlike others with which our readers may be familiar, in the feature of making a lower double berth out of two seats, lowering from above them a wide berth slung closely to the ceilingof the car when not in use, but both operations are much simplified. The two seats with very little change become an admirable bed.
The great advantage of the upper berth as here arranged is the leaving the area of the car free from unsightly and inconvenient standards and compartments; all is a clear space within, the roof being strongly trussed without to give the needed accession to its strength.
The car is fitted elegantly, and has at either end various saloons and closets that would do credit to a steamboat, and are a novelty on the rail. Externally the car is elegant in appearance, and in operation we have cause to know it to be a perfect success if the verdict of travelers be any criterion. Much better success in ventilation has been secured and the occupant of an upper berth has especially a free access to pure air.
Yesterday afternoon Messrs. Pullman & Field with some of the officers and invited guests members of the city press and others went out on this road for a twelve mile run to the Summit the “make up” of one of the lower berths was given to “Edward” from John Wright’s, with the most perfect success, in a neat little collation. The whole affair passed off pleasantly.
The railroad men will do well to consider the claims of the Pullman & Field style of Sleeping Car. It can be cheaply and easily adapted to the ordinary day car, and when the berths are all stowed is every way as serviceable in day trains, quite a desirable feature and lacking in most sleeping cars.
Pullman Sleeper No. 9
First ran from Bloomington, Illinois to Chicago on September 1, 1859.