In a House Divided, 1850-1890

United States Strike Commission: PULLMAN'S PALACE CAR COMPANY

This is a corporation organized in 1867, with a capital of $1,000,000. It has grown until its present paid-up capital is $36,000,000. Its prosperity has enabled the company for over twenty lay up a surplus of nearly $25,000,000 of undivided profits. From 1867 to 1871 dividends ranging from 9 1/2 to 12 per cent per annum were paid. For the year ending July 31, 1893, the dividends were $2,520,000, and the wages $7,223,719.51. For the year ending July 31, 1894, the dividends were $2,880,000, and the wages $4,471,701.39.

The business of the company is -
  1. The operation of its cars upon about 125,000 miles of railroad, being about three fourths of the railway mileage of the country...
  2. The manufacture and repair of such cars.
  3. The manufacture of cars of all kinds for the general market.
  4. The care and management, as owner and landlord, of the town of Pullman.

In 1880 the company bought 500 acres of land, and upon 300 acres of it built its plant and also a hotel, arcade, churches, athletic grounds, and brick tenements suitable for the use of its employees. The town is well laid out and has a complete sewerage and water system. It is beautified by well-kept open spaces and stretches, flower beds, and lakes... The main object was the establishment of a great manufacturing business upon a substantial money making basis. Efficient workmen were regarded as essential to its success, and it was believed that they could be secured, held in contentment, and improved as such for their own sakes and for the benefit of the company by the accommodations and surroundings that were provided...

The company provides and pays a physician and surgeon by the year to furnish to injured employees necessary treatment and drugs. It is, however, also a part of his employment to secure from the injured party a written statement as to the causes of injury, and it is his custom to urge the acceptance of any offered settlement. If suit follows, the doctor is usually a witness for the company. We have no evidence that the doctor has ever abused his confidential relation toward the injured employees; but the system is admirably conceived from a business standpoint to secure speedy settlement of claims for damages upon terms offered by the company and to protect the company from litigation and its results.

Prior to June, 1893, all went well and as designed; the corporation was very prosperous, paid ample and satisfactory wages, as a rule, and charged rents which caused no complaint. During this period those defects in the system which have recently come to the surface and intensified differences, such, for instance refusal to permit the employees to buy land in Pullman and build homes there caused no disturbance.

As the result of the Pullman system and its growth, when the depression of 1893 came...we find on the one side a very wealthy unyielding corporation, and upon the other a multitude of employees of comparatively excellent character and skill, but without local attachments or any interested responsibility in the town, its business, tenements, or surroundings.

The conditions created at Pullman enable the management at all times to assert with great vigor its assumed right to fix wages and rents absolutely, and to repress that sort of independence which leads to labor organizations attempts at mediation, arbitration, strikes, etc.

U.S. Strike Commission Report, Senate Executive Document No. 7, 53d Congress, 3d session, pp. xxi-xxiii.

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© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96