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Pullman's plan

George M. Pullman developed an idea for his company. His idea, based on a lifetime of experience, seemed correct in an era bursting with fashionable ideas. Social Darwinism, industrialism, imperialism, left visions and right views of society permeated the culture of the late 1800s. All these ideas lived in an atmosphere of leftover attitudes from the enlightenment.

Aerial view of Chicago
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pullman’s plan included developing a town for the workers in his Pullman Palace Car Company. This town would be a safe, secure and restful place. His employees would be free of the problems of life-threatening poverty, deadly crime, labor unrest and fanatical ideas. They wouldn’t have long commutes after a twelve-hour workday. Everything necessary for his workers’ happiness would be available to them—housing, shopping, parks, a lake, a library, theaters, churches, and a hotel. Best of all, he planned it carefully so he earned a profit from the enterprise.

With his plan complete, Pullman set the project into motion. In 1880, he purchased four thousand acres fourteen miles from Chicago near Lake Calumet for $800,000. He named the town Pullman. He hired Solon Spencer Beman to design the factory, 1300 buildings, an administration building and a man-made lake. When the town’s hotel was built, he named it Hotel Florence for his daughter.

Pullman controlled his employees and his property in a variety of ways. In order to shield his workers from worldly influences, he banned independent newspapers, public speeches, town meetings and open discussions. He watched over the property he leased to workers by inspecting the homes for cleanliness. If a renter failed to live up to Pullman’s standards, he evicted the family with a 10-day notice. He allowed only approved churches that paid the church leases to hold religious services, and he banned private charitable organizations. To be continued…

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