Though located more than fifteen miles from Chicago's "Loop," the neighborhood of Pullman in many ways stands at the center of American history. For over a hundred years, Pullman has embodied and reflected many of the social and economic developments that have shaped America. Built in 1880 by the Pullman Palace Car Company to house its factory workers, the community became the site of one of the largest labor conflicts in American history in 1894. Throughout the twentieth century, Pullman was one of the largest employers of African Americans in the country. The company, however, only hired African Americans to do menial service work on its trains as porters and maids, thereby segregating them from the town and its factories. It was not until the 1960s that significant numbers of African American would reside in Pullman at a time when the company, like many northern industries, was in decline. Indeed, Pullman’s status today as an historic landmark exemplifies America’s deindustrialization, commemorating an industry that no longer exists.

This website tells the story of Pullman in all of its complexity, from the company town from which it began to the vibrant inner-city neighborhood it remains today. It situates Pullman within a broad narrative, exploring how the neighborhood illuminates the centrality of labor, race, and urban development in the history of industrial America. In each of the sections, you will find a variety of primary sources that chart Pullman’s history. Through photographs, illustrations, published texts, and manuscript sources, you will be able to explore the urban conditions that led to Pullman’s creation; company founder George M. Pullman’s vision for the community; working people’s response to the company’s vision; and the ongoing efforts by Pullman’s current residents to preserve their community. Every exhibit page provides a brief introduction to the materials, but the website is intended to be interactive. We encourage you to explore the documents as a researcher and arrive at your own history of Pullman. For as we hope this site suggests, Pullman has many histories, many stories.

For further reading and research on the Pullman Company and the Pullman community, see our additional Resources. To learn more about this site, please see its Credits. See also our information on Copyrights.

This website is powered by Omeka and was built with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Landmarks in American History and Culture Grant. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here, however, do not necessarily reflect those of the NEH.

This project and other ongoing projects of the Newberry’s Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture are also supported by the Dr. Scholl Foundation.