George M. Pullman developed the railroad passenger sleeping car business into a nineteenth century industrial enterprise which eventually overtook its competition. Pullman cars maintained a high standard of comfort for an extra charge. Initially, Pullman transformed existing railroad cars, beginning September, 1858 on the Chicago and Alton Railroad. The first car built to Pullman's specifications was the "Pioneer" (1865). In 1867 "hotel cars", sleeping cars equipped with kitchen-dining facilities, were introduced.
In 1868 Pullman built the "DELMONICA" for restaurant purposes. In 1880 Pullman built the Pullman Palace Car manufacturing plant near Chicago, along the Illinois Central Railroad. Designed as a model manufacturing town, it had the usual company town problems and was the site of the Pullman Strike of 1894. Upon Pullman's death, Robert T. Lincoln served as president from 1897-1911. Later innovative developments included the introduction of the lightweight articulated cars of alloy steel (1936), the roomette car with eighteen private rooms (1937), and the observation dome sleeper (1956).
After an anti-trust suit in 1940, the company was forced to separate its car-building enterprises from car operating. In 1947 the company sold its sleeping car service, transferring its operating unit to a group of fifty-nine U.S. railways. Pullman service is still available, but provided by individual railroads. Pullman introduced two distinctive practices to the railway industry: (1) he leased sleeping cars to the railroads and provided complete services, supplying porters, conductors, dining staff, food, and linens; and (2) he gave names to each sleeping and dining car, rather than numbers.
Photographs of Pullman cars: freight, passenger, private and street railway/rapid transit cars. The collection contains approximately 13,000 original black-and-white negatives, as well as a group of vintage prints from the negatives, and loose-leaf binders containing prints from the negatives made by the Smithsonian photographic services office. Additional Pullman archival records and research materials are also part of the holdings.
Pullman Company Photographs, ca. 1882- 1955, Archives Center, National Museum of American History