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george m pullmanEnlarge George M. Pullman (1831-1897)

In the 1850s, George Pullman became acutely aware of the primitive sleeping arrangements offered on trains as he traveled between Chicago, where he was a building contractor, and the New York town where his family lived. Convinced that there must be a better way to accommodate sleepy long-distance passengers, he was soon trying to devise a sleeping car that offered comfort and convenience. By the early 1860s he had succeeded, and in the wake of the car's immense popularity, he was soon founding the Pullman Palace Car Company, which gradually expanded into making other dining and parlor cars as well. By the 1890s the Pullman Company was the biggest car manufacturer in the world.

Pullman's name was synonymous with railroad luxury and comfort, but it also became identified with one of the most dramatic chapters in American labor strife, when his workers went out on strike in 1894 over reduced wages. With the American Railway Union refusing to operate any trains hauling Pullman cars, the walkout tied up the whole nation, and in the interest of keeping the U.S. mail moving, President Grover Cleveland called on federal troops to intervene.

George Kendall Warren (1834-1884)
Albumen silver print, circa 1870
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution