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George M. Pullman

Icy shores of Lake Michigan
Icy shores of Lake Michigan
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

George Mortimer Pullman became an engineer, industrialist, manufacturer and architect in the 1800s. He enjoyed the respect and admiration of his colleagues for his innovative, progressive ideas. He was despised by others for his blunders. In his will, he endeavored to correct these mistakes.

Brockton, New York—near the bright, shining shores of Lake Erie and surrounded by deep forests—was the birthplace of George M. Pullman. He was born on March 3, 1831, the third child of Emily Minton Pullman and James Lewis Pullman, who preferred to use his middle name. Lewis Pullman was a farmer, but he realized that his excellent carpentry skills would enable him to earn a more secure future for his family of ten children. The family moved to Albion, New York, on the Erie Canal, because carpentry opportunities were plentiful there. When the canal was being widened, Lewis became an entrepreneur and moved buildings along the canal using screwjacks and his own patented (1841) machine.

George Pullman grew up in Albion and went to school there. When he wasn’t attending school, he became fascinated with the packet boats on the Erie Canal. He was amazed by the comfort they provided their passengers and also by the nearly invisible berths that were attached to the inside walls of the boat.

School lost his interest, and George left after 4th Grade. His parents sent him to Brockton to work for his great uncle John H. Minton and his partner Edwin Buck. They owned a general store and paid their new apprentice George Pullman $40 a month to work and learn the retail business. It was 1845, and George was 14 years old. Three years later, he returned to Albion.

To be continued…

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