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George Pullman's travels

Ice jams on Lake Michigan
Ice jams on Lake Michigan
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

George M. Pullman’s road to success led him to locations throughout the nation. The West and the Far West provided him with opportunities to make the dream forming in his head to come true. He first had more to learn from his father Lewis.

In 1848, Pullman returned to Albion from Brocton and his great uncle’s general store to learn cabinetmaking from his father. His brothers Henry and Albert also returned to work in the family cabinetry business. Five years later, Lewis died, and George managed the business at the age of 22. George contracted with the state of New York to move twenty buildings away from the Erie Canal. He realized that this contract would end so he needed to find more work.

George Pullman saw an advertisement in a local newspaper that Chicago needed contractors to lift entire blocks and buildings to make way for a modern sewage system. It seems Chicagoans were tired of the mud, floods and cholera that plagued their city. Since Pullman was experienced with this kind of work, he moved to Chicago in 1857. He initially worked with a man named Moore, and eventually all the contractors decided to work together.

Bostonian James Brown and Chicago engineer James Hollingsworth and the company of Pullman, Moore, Ely and Smith raised up the entire block of Lake Street, between Clark and La Salle Streets, six feet for $17,000. They lifted hotels during the daytime with guests in residence and many other buildings and blocks. They used massive timbers and screwjacks. Sewer pipes were laid and covered with landfill. The entire project was a huge success.

After Chicago was lifted, George Pullman was off to the Colorado Gold Rush.

To be continued…

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