Collection consists of approximately 13,500 images (original photographs, copy prints, and film and glass plate negatives) for freight, passenger, private, and street and rapid transit cars manufactured by the Pullman Palace Car Company. The collection contains primarily early railroad Americana, including interior and exterior views of private and business cars as well as passenger and street cars. The collection is an important part of the historical record of the railroad car-building industry as well as the history of architecture and interior design.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of approximately 13,500 images (original photographs, copy prints, and film and glass plate negatives) for freight, passenger, private, and street and rapid transit cars manufactured by the Pullman Palace Car Company. The collection contains primarily interior and exterior views of private and business cars as well as passenger and street cars. The collection is an important part of the historical record of the railroad car-building industry as well as the history of architecture and interior design. Historians, designers, railroad enthusiasts, model railroad hobbyists, scholars, and others will find this collection useful.
The glass plate negatives in this collection were produced using the wet collodion process, which was introduced to the United States in 1855 and used into the 1880s. The plates were coated with chemicals, sensitized, exposed and developed, all while the plate was wet. Later, Pullman photographers used the dry collodion process. This process involved using glass plates with a photographic emulsion of silver halides suspended in gelatin. This process had shorter exposure times.
George Pullman assembled a variety of photographers to document his company's work. The photography was primarily used as a record of work, especially for the Operating Department and Manufacturing Department at Pullman, as well as for prospective corporate customers.
Before establishing an in-plant photographic department in 1888, Pullman relied on local photographers. Some of the photographers included John Jex Bardwell, Wylie Dennison, Henry R. Koopman, J. W. Taylor, Thomas S. Johnson, Wylie Dennison, John P. Van Vorst, Clayton Ford Smith, Joseph McAllister, Melvin C. Horn, Ernie Stutkus, and Donald J. O'Barski. Many of the photographers signed the glass plates using their initials. For example, John P. Van Vorst signed his J.P.V.V.
Photography of Pullman activities began in the Detroit Shops (property of the Detroit Car & Manufacturing Co. which was purchased by Pullman in 1873 and operated as the Detroit Shops of Pullman) in the 1870s and expanded to include photographing the town of Pullman, steel car construction, shop accidents, workers, panoramic views, and in some instances, for company publications. In-plant photography was started with Wylie Dennison in 1888. Dennison was the first full-time Pullman photographer, and he created the Pullman Photographic Department. Dennison instituted the practice of recording each photograph, noting the negative number, description of the car, the type of view (typically one interior view and one exterior view) and lot number. All of Dennison's photography was done outside in the daylight.
The negative numbers assigned to the glass plates were identified with a "lot" number. The lot number identified the production order, and in later years, the plan number was added, designating the layout of the car. Photographing one car out of each new lot was the intital practice, but over-time, the Photographic Department began taking six or more views of the interior and exterior as well as end views.
Lot numbers include:
Lots 1 - 500 (Pullman Car Works - Chicago)
Lots 1 - 500 (Detroit Car Works)
Lots 500 plus (can be freight and passenger mixed)
Lots 1000 to 4999 (Pullman passenger equipment)
Lots 5000 to 5999 (Pullman freight equipment)
Lots 5000 + Haskell and Barker (Pullman overlap)
Lots 6000 to 7000+ (Pullman and P-S passenger)
Lots 8000 to 9999 (Pullman freight equipment)
Lots 10000+ (Pullman freight equipment)
Series 1, Original prints, circa 1880-1949, are arranged numerically by Pullman numbers. The original prints begin with number 7343 and end with number 33091. The photographs document Pullman cars, including freight, passenger, private, and street railway/rapid transit. Many of the images depict interior views of the cars, and there are some views of porters and passengers. There is some documentation of the workmen constructing the cars. The prints are primarily 8" by 10" black-and-white and were originally bound into books and backed on linen. The prints were unbound at some time. Many of the original prints bear an embossed stamp "Built by Pullman Car and Manufacturing Corporation Chicago." Some photographs are sepia-tone and there are no negatives for these prints.
Series 2, Copy prints, 1885-1955, consists of prints made from the glass plate negatives by the Smithsonian photographic services office. The copy prints were originally stored in loose binders but were re-housed into folders and arranged numerically according to the original Pullman Company number. The number is typically found in the lower right corner of the image. The copy prints are black-and-white and are either 5" x 7" or 8" x 10".
Series 3, Film negatives, 1917-1955, consists of film negatives (4" x 5" and 8" x 10") that are arranged numerically by Pullman numbers. In some instances, information on the enclosure includes the type of car (e.g. sleeper, freight), the name of the car if applicable, name of railroad company, geographical information, and date(s). In some instances, "repro," or "broken glass" are recorded. For negatives that did not conform to the Pullman numbering system, the container list provides additional information. For example, Haskell and Barker Car Company (Haskell and Barker merged with the Pullman Company in 1922) machine shop views, or Pullman cars in St. Paul, Minnesota are recorded in the collection inventory listing.
Series 4, Glass plate negatives, [circa 1882-1948], is divided into two subseries, Subseries 1, 6" x 8" negatives and Subseries 2, 8" x 10" negatives. The series consists of approximately 13,500 glass plate negatives arranged by Pullman Company negative number. The negatives document primarily Pullman cars, including freight, passenger, private and street railway/rapid transit. Many of the images depict interior and exterior views of the cars and some views of porters and passengers. The interior views include details such as seating, window treatments, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures, wood paneling, marquetry work, fabrics, floor treatments, and other furnishings. There is some documentation of the construction of the cars by workmen in the factory.
The negative numbers and lot numbers are etched on the glass plates. Overall the series is in good condition, although there are some broken plates which have been separated. The negatives are not inclusive and some plates are missing, or there are two copies. If plates are missing or additional copies exist, this is noted in the collection inventory. In some instances, plates are labeled 3937 and then 3937-A. This numbering distinguished two different views/angles of the same car.
Many of the envelope enclosures contain the negative number, sometimes preceed by the letter "P" (e.g. P9597), lot number (L4700), and in some instances, text describing the negative. Text typically includes the type of car (sleeper, freight), the name of the car if applicable, name of railroad company, geographical information, and date(s). If a copy print was created from the negative plate, the enclosure is stamped "printed." However, this practice was not consistent. Plates that were not printed are occasionally noted, but not with any consistency.
The 6" by 8" glass plates numbered 82-4130 to 82-4167, represent numbers assigned by the Office of Photographic Services, Smithsonian Institution. Previously labeled "Pullman" on the enclosures, the plates primarily document engines and passenger cars for the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad, 1870-1890 and undated. The plates do not have Pullman negative numbers etched in the lower left or right corners and it is unclear if these plates belong to this collection.
Series 5, Indices, 1990 and undated include bound, typescript indices to the Pullman negatives. Created by the National Museum of American History, Division of Transportation (now known as the Division of Work and Industry), the indices include listings by railroad, private cars, freight cars, street cars and rapid transit, and Pullman negatives. The indices provide the name of the railroad/railway (e.g. Chicago & Alton), type of car (e.g. coal car or box car), number, lot, remarks (e.g. baggage area), year, type of view (e.g. exterior or interior) and frame number (for the laser disc).
One index is a supplemental guide listing sepia tone prints for which no negative exists in our collection. The indices for the negative listings on laser discs one and two are available. However, the actual lasers discs are missing.
Horn, Don. "The Pullman Photographers," Railroad Heritage, No. 7, 2003, pp. 5-13.
Arnold, Rus. "This Negative File was a Sleeper." Technical Photography. May 1970, pp. 21-XX.
Pullman State Historic Site, http://www.pullman-museum.org/theCompany/timeline.html (last accessed April 18, 2011)
The collection is arranged into five series.
Series 1, Original prints, 1904-1949
Series 2, Copy prints, 1885-1955
Series 3, Film negatives, undated
Series 4, Glass plate negatives, circa 1882-1948
Series 5, Indices, 1990 and undated
Biographical / Historical:
Recognizing a market for luxurious rail travel, George M. Pullman, who had earlier
experimented with sleeping car construction and was wealthy from the provisioning and transporting of Colorado miners in the early 1860s, incorporated the Pullman's Palace Car Company in 1867. By the 1870s his operations were already national and included the operation of sleeping cars under contract with the nation's railroads, the manufacture of cars at the Detroit Works, and the creation of subsidiary firms serving Great Britain and Europe. In the three decades before the turn of the century, the prosperous company grew enormously and included a much heralded model company town adjacent to the new car works at Pullman, Illinois. Acclaim turned to condemnation following the nationwide strike that originated at the Pullman Car Works in 1894. Pullman died in 1897, two years before his company absorbed its last major competitor, the Wagner Palace Car Company, which had been financed by the Vanderbilts.
The Pullman's Palace Car Company entered the twentieth century with a new name, the
Pullman Company, and a new president, Robert Todd Lincoln. An extremely profitable
virtual monopoly, the Pullman Company began replacing its wood cars with safer all steel bodied models (heavyweights) in its newly segregated manufacturing department and at the same time (1906) came under the regulation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. From 1918 to 1920, the United States Railroad Administration, citing the war emergency, assumed control of the operating arm of the firm, renamed the Pullman Car Lines for the duration of federal control.
The Pullman Company reached its peak during the 1920s, manufacturing new heavyweight
cars at a rapid pace. Seeking to expand its freight car production, Pullman merged with the Haskell and Barker Car Company in 1922. Edward F. Carry and his Haskell and Barker associates assumed the presidency and other executive positions in the enlarged Pullman Company. More reorganization took place in 1924, when the Pullman Company Manufacturing Department became a distinct firm, the Pullman Car and Manufacturing Corporation, and in 1927, when a parent or holding company, Pullman Incorporated, was created to oversee the two subsidiary firms. In 1929, following Carry's death, President David A. Crawford engineered the merger of the Pullman Car and Manufacturing Corporation with the Standard Steel Car Company, forming the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company.
During the first three decades of the twentieth century Pullman sought to impede the
unionization of its workers by offering new benefits, including a pension plan in 1914, a death benefit plan in 1922, and a plan of group insurance in 1929. F. L. Simmons' Industrial Relations Department, created in 1920, also directed the formation of company-sponsored occupationally-based unions under the plan of employee representation. A. Philip Randolph's Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and other unions would not successfully organize company workers until the New Deal Railway Labor Act of 1934 forbade corporate interference in union matters.
The Depression marked the end of Pullman prosperity. Both the number of car orders and sleeping car passengers declined precipitously. The firm laid off car plant and service workers, reduced fares, and introduced such innovations as the single occupancy section in an effort to fill its cars. During this decade the firm built fewer new cars, but it added air conditioning to its existing heavyweights and remodeled many into compartment sleepers.
In 1940, just as orders for lightweight cars were increasing and sleeping car traffic was growing, the United States Department of Justice filed an anti-trust complaint against Pullman Incorporated in the U. S. District Court at Philadelphia (Civil Action No. 994). The government sought to separate the company's sleeping car operations from its manufacturing activities. In 1944 the court concurred, ordering Pullman Incorporated to divest itself of either the Pullman Company (operating) or the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (manufacturing). After three years of negotiations, the Pullman Company was sold to a consortium of fifty-seven railroads for around forty million dollars. Carroll R. Harding was named president of this new Pullman Company. The new Pullman Company started out optimistically in 1947 with good passenger traffic figures, but the years following brought steady and marked decline. Regularly scheduled lines were cancelled; all shops except St. Louis and Chicago were closed; employees were furloughed, and major railroad owners such as the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad totally or partially withdrew from service. On January 1, 1969, at the age of 102, the Pullman Company ceased operation, though it maintained a small central office staff to wind up affairs and handle an equal pay-for-equal-work lawsuit (Denver Case) that continued in the courts until 1981.
John H. White (1933-), historian and curator, collected the Pullman photographs in 1969. White was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated with a bachelors of arts in history from Miami University Ohio in 1958. Shortly after receiving his degree, He joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution as Assistant Curator of the Division of Transportation, Department of Science and Technology, Museum of History and Technology. White later became Associate Curator of the Division, 1961-1966, Curator, 1967-1985, and Senior Historian, 1986-1989. White specialized in land transportation, particularly the history of railroads.
White worked closely with Arthur Detmers Dubin (1923-) to acquire the Pullman photographs for the museum. Dubin was an avid train enthusiast and collector, and he frequently used the Pullman "archives" for his own research on railroads. Dubin was born in Chicago, Illinois and began his architectural education at the University of Michigan in 1941 but his education was interrupted by World War II, and he served with distinction in the United States Army until 1946. After completing his studies in 1949, Dubin joined his father's and uncle's architectural firm, Dubin and Dubin, as a second--eneration architect. The leadership of the firm soon passed to Arthur and his brother, Martin David, and in 1965 they were joined by John Black and in 1966 by John Moutoussamy. Arthur's life--ong interest in trains and transportation and their implications for architecture is evident in transit stations commissions and service on transportation--elated advisory boards (Dubin was a member of the Illinois Railroad Commission), as well as in his writings and personal collections.
In July, 1966, Dubin contacted then Vice President of Public Relations at Pullman-Standard E. Preston Calvert about the history and future of the photographic negative plates. Dubin appealed to Calvert to preserve these materials. Dubin and White were also in contact by correspondence and in June, 1967, White contacted Calvert also, stating that the Chicago Historical Society or Illinois State Historical Society should be offered the plates as a first option. Failing a local Illinois repository accepting the materials, White indicated that the Smithsonian would accept the negatives.
During the spring of 1968, White, working with Dubin and Nora Wilson, editor of the company's publications, coordinated a visit by White to Chicago to examine the photographic negatives at the Pullman Car Works factory in south Chicago. In April 1968, White examined the vast collection of glass plate negatives (approximately 20,000). From April, 1968 to August, 1969, Pullman-Standard and the Smithsonian negotiated acquisition details, including shipping and related costs. In August, 1969, White returned to complete the task of sorting the glass plates, discarding broken plates, and weeding repetitive views. He selected approximately 13,500 glass plates. Views of Pullman towns were donated to the Chicago Historical Society. Dubin appraised the photographic plates and film negatives, presumably on behalf of Pullman-Standard, and estimated the plates to be worth between $54,000 and $67,500 dollars.
Historical note courtesy Martha T. Briggs and Cynthia H. Peters, Guide to Pullman Company Archives, The Newberry Library, Chicago, 1995.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Area Architects Oral History Project
http://www.artic.edu/aic/resources/resource/734?search_id=1 (last accessed on February 23, 2011)
John H. White papers, 1959-1989, Record Unit 007384, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C.
Telephone conversation of Alison Oswald, archivist, with John H. White, April 14, 2011.
Materials in the Archives Center
Pullman Palace Car Company Materials, 1867-1979 (AC0181)
John H. White, Jr. Railroad Reference Collection, 1880s-1990 (AC0523)
Materials in Other Organizations
•Art Institute of Chicago
•California State Railroad Museum
•Chicago History Museum
•Arthur Dubin Collection at Lake Forest College
•Illinois Railway Museum
•Indiana University Northwest's Calumet Regional Archives
Pullman-Standard Railroad Car Manufacturing Company Personnel Records—Personnel Record Series CRA 314
This index of employee names was created from the original personnel cards housed at Indiana University Northwest's Calumet Regional Archives from the Indiana locations. Although the records are not complete from the Michigan City plant for the entire period from 1912 to the 1970's, there may be information that will assist researchers with finding key details of a family member. The Hammond Pullman plant was merged with the Haskell Barker Company of Michigan City in 1922.
•Newberry Library, Chicago
The Pullman Company archives at the Newberry Library consists of 2,500 cubic feet of records from the Pullman Company and Pullman heirs. The collection is comprised of business archives of the Pullman Palace Car Company from 1867 and includes records of the entire firm up to the 1924 split into operating (sleeping car operation, service, and repair) and manufacturing companies. From 1924 to 1981 the records chronicle the activities of the operating company only.
•Pennsylvania State Archives
•Pullman State Historic Site
•Pullman Technology (Harvey, Illinois)
•Smithsonian Institution Archives
•South Suburban Genealogical & Historical Society (South Holland, Illinois)
The collection was donated by Pullman-Standard Company, through Nora Wilson, editor of employee publications for the Department of Public Relations and Advertising, on October 8, 1969.
The collection is open for research.
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives. Special arrangements required to view original glass plate and film negatives due to cold storage. Using negatives requires a three hour waiting period. Contact the Archives Center at 202-633-3270. Unrestricted access to photographic prints and other portions of the collection.