Skip to main content

Pullman Porters: Topics in Chronicling America

Pullman Porters began as former slaves hired to work on the railroads as porters on sleeping cars. This guide provides access to materials related to “Pullman Porters” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Best Way to Buffalo: 1904 advertisement for Pullman Sleeping Cars." July 1, 1904. The Sun (New York, NY), Image 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The Pullman Company established its sleeper cars as a unique and luxurious way to travel, complete with the carefully trained African-American men, typically former slaves, hired to be porters. Pullman Porters quickly became a staple of the Pullman Sleeping Car experience, often fighting to maintain a balance between good relations with the Pullman company and protesting for better conditions and wages. Pullman Porters are often attributed to helping create a black middle class in the United States, with their employees forming the first all-black union, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

1867 George Pullman establishes the Pullman Palace Car Company.
1895 Railroad workers react to wage cuts by going on strike; joining the American Railway Union led by Eugene V. Debs.
1898 The Illinois Supreme Court forces the Pullman Company to divest ownership in company town, which is annexed to Chicago.
1898 Following Pullman's death, Abraham Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln becomes company president.
1900 The company reorganizes as the Pullman Company.
1925 Pullman Porters form the first all-black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.