Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: George M. Pullman

The subject of this sketch we consider one of the greatest of philanthropists. He is a modest man, and for this reason disclaimed all desire to be known as a benefactor. But we cannot now think of any one who is more clearly identified with the great effort which is going on for the benefit of mankind.

Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: George M. Pullman

He is a native of the grand old empire State, being born in the western part of New York, March 3rd, 1831. His father was a mechanic of some note, but died before George was of age, leaving him to help support his mother and younger brothers.

He worked for a time in a furniture establishment, but this kind of employment did not satisfy his active nature, and he went to Chicago, where his enterprise could have sea room. He at first became identified with the work of raising and placing new foundations under several large buildings of that city. He helped raise a whole block several feet high, an enterprise which was accomplished without hardly a break, discontinuing none of the business firms who occupied the building, their business being carried on uninterrupted.

George M. Pullman had a perceptive mind—so have all truly successful men. He perceived that while the railway coaches were far superior to the old stages, yet they were far inferior to what he imagined they ought to be. He at once applied to the Chicago and Alton railway management and laid his plan before them. They furnished him with two old coaches, with which to experiment. These he fitted up with bunks, and while they were not to be compared with the elegant palaces which he has since constructed, still one could lie down and sleep all night, which was so far in advance of anything the people had seen, that they were very highly appreciated.

He now went to Colorado, and engaged in various mining schemes, but here he was out of his sphere, and after a three years’ sojourn, returned to Chicago. His active imagination had thought out many improvements on the cars he had previously constructed; and he had also secured capital with which to carry out his ideas. Fitting up a shop on the Chicago and Alton road, he constructed two coaches, at the then fabulous cost of $18,000 each. The management of the various western roads looked upon such enterprise as visionary. George M. Pullman, however, cared but little about their opinion.

The Union and Pacific was then exciting much attention. He knew that on the completion of such a road, travelers would appreciate a car in which they could enjoy the comforts of home for the entire tedious trip. To say that his hopes were fully realized, would be inadequate. So popular did they become, that his shops at Chicago could not begin to fill the demands made upon it for his parlor, dining, and sleeping cars. Branches were started at Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and various places in Europe.

These establishments, of necessity, could not come under his immediate supervision he, therefore, conceived the idea of concentrating his business into one vast establishment, and gathered about him a force of skilled workmen. He looked upon Chicago and its locality as the coming center of population in the United States; but a site in that city would be far too expensive, if indeed one could have been found sufficient for his purpose. About twelve to fifteen miles from Chicago was a swamp: it was considered worthless, but it was as easy for this natural mechanic to conceive the idea of draining this tract of land, as it was to conceive methods to raise buildings. A very large force of men were put to work draining; gas-pipes were laid; streets were laid out and graded, and an architect employed to draw the plans for the building of a whole city at once. Gigantic work-shops were built, and a water supply brought from Lake Michigan, miles away. Besides all this, over fourteen hundred beautiful homes were built before any man was asked to come to Pullman to enter the shops. A bank was opened, a library, containing thousands of volumes, was provided; all these things were brought about by Mr. Pullman. He has expended several million of dollars in beautifying and providing for the comfort and pleasure of his employes. The buildings are not mushroom affairs, but substantial brick edifices which give this place an appearance which will compare favorably with any city. He built a fine hotel, and erected a beautiful church, placing a rich toned organ in it, which alone cost $3,500. Every honest tradesman can come to Pullman. None but liquor dealers or men who desire to keep low groggeries are excluded. No property is sold, but if a party desires to live there he applies to the Superintendent, and a lease is given, which can be cancelled by either party at ten days’ notice. Nothing but liquor is forbidden. A man can squander his time, can gamble, possibly, but he cannot obtain drink; the result is, there are no policemen. No visible form of government, save Mr. Pullman, and yet this is a city of nearly eight thousand people. The people are not muddled with drink; they are promptly paid; their ‘personal’ rights are not interfered with, save in respect to the selling of liquor; they are contented and happy. Mr. Pullman has been largely identified with the Metropolitan Railway and the Eagleton Wire Works in New York city. But the name of Pullman is destined to long remain a synonym of philanthropy. He has practically demonstrated the benefit of legislation against the sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage. He claims to have done this as a business policy, and disclaims all honor as a philanthropist. We answer, would that we had more men who would follow this kind of a business policy.