Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  9 (1884–85), 452–66.

Pullman: A Social Study

Richard T Ely


Essay, Travelogue


Industry, Socialism, Mechanics, Status, Mathematics, Architecture, Libraries, Periodicals, Popularization, Sanitation, Natural Economy, Scientism, Government

    Describes the new industrial town of Pullman, Illinois, which was founded in 1881 for the employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company by George M Pullman. Located some ten miles south of Chicago, this 'social experimentation on a vast scale' (453) has been planned so that 'clergymen, officers of the company, and mechanics live in adjoining dwellings'. These simple, purpose-built dwellings, however, have nevertheless 'avoided the frightful monotony of New York'. After all, a 'slight knowledge of mathematics shows how infinite [is] the variety of possible combinations of a few elements, and a better appreciation of this fact than that exhibited by the architecture of Pullman it would be difficult to find'. (457) Observes that the town's luxurious 'library [...] contains [...] numerous periodicals, among which were noticed several likely to be of special importance to mechanics, such as the Railway Age, the Iron Age, Scientific American, and Popular Science Monthly' (458), although the 'annual charge' of 'three dollars [is] rather high for workmen in these days of free libraries' (459). Suggests that the building of Pullman was 'probably the first time a single architect [Solon S Beman] has ever constructed a whole town systematically upon scientific principles' (460). The town is also notable for the 'pure air and perfect sanitary conditions of the houses' (463), and enjoys 'a perfect system of sewerage, similar to that which has been found so successful in Berlin, Germany. The sewerage is all collected in a great tank under the "water tower", and then pumped on to a large garden farm of one hundred and seventy acres, called the "Pullman Farm"' (462). Concludes, however, that the control exercised by the Pullman Company and the absence of freedom for ordinary citizens, the 'fatal weakness of many systems of reform and well-intentioned projects of benevolence', mean that the new manufacturing town on the shores of Lake Calumet is 'un-American' and 'not the American ideal' (465).

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