Illinois During the Gilded Age
Pullman. — A Social and Industrial Study.
The town of Pullman, nine miles south of Chicago, on the shore of a beautiful sheet of water known as Lake Calumet, is one of the most gigantic practical experiments in the direction of proving the possible harmonious relations between capital and labor, or rather between capitalists and laborers, that this country or any other has ever seen.
A few years ago an editorial writer on the London Times said, that one of the most significant facts in the social and industrial development of the day was the fraternization of thinkers and working men. "If you wish," he asserted, "to hear the writings of Mill and Spencer and Bentham and Huxley intelligently and earnestly discussed, go among a company of working men who are agitating among themselves the question how they may better their condition."
The observation made by this writer as to the fraternization of thinkers and working men in England is true also in this country; indeed it obtains to a far greater extent here, and it is a most encouraging sign of the times. Good theories must always precede good practice. Principles must be clearly understood and enunciated before they can successfully be introduced as factors in the social order. But next to the good and wise theorist; next to the man who "has a clear vision of the ethical code necessary for the prosperity of the people," comes "the man of affairs who has the gift of discerning in exact detail the conditions necessary to form vast combinations of man with man, and thing with thing, so as to produce great results for the nation and the race."
The first class of leaders and teachers and helpers of the world comprise the statesmen and philosophers who formulate and emphasize the great underlying principles upon which only a permanent and healthful and uplifting social order can be built. These emphasize the necessity of universal freedom; of universal education, of suffrage, of equal rights and equal opportunities for all; of the framing of wise laws and the devising of efficient means for the administration of justice. These leaders and teachers of the people may be impracticable and one-sided in detail; they may be and often are men who cannot manage their own business affairs successfully; nevertheless the world recognizes and honors them for what they are — a noble and useful class of thinkers and world benefactors.
But after society has accepted and acted upon these great fundamental principles; after it has inaugurated a governmental order based upon them, a new class of problems arises which as imperatively as any preceding problems require solution. These are connected with the industrial development of society; with the aggregation of people in cities; with the organization and division of labor and the supplanting of manual labor by the introduction of machinery. All of these problems may be classified under one general head, the problem of capital and labor. It is not too sweeping an assertion that nearly all our modern social problems may be referred to the inharmonious and abnormal relation between these, or rather between capitalists and laborers; between employers and employed. Nearly all the sorest ills under which society groans may be traced to the wages question and to the conditions of life among the laboring classes. Ignorance that is inevitable because the children of wage-workers must even in childhood enter into the struggle for the means of existence, their parents not being able to give enough both to support and school them; vice and disease that
15are the result of the squalor and misery which infest the homes of a large proportion of laborers in cities and manufacturing centres; pauperism, crime — these society cannot be rid of until the problem is solved: How can the laboring classes be enabled to secure, as the result of their labor, comfortable homes, decent surroundings and means wherewith to afford the opportunities of fair education to their children? For the solution of this problem are required, as has been remarked, men of affairs, practical men — men who can strike the golden mean between the purely scientific reconstructionists who would not oft a finger to soften the working of the inexorable law of competition upon which the industrial development of society is at present based, and who are willing to accept for humanity the cruel ultimatum of unfeeling nature, the survival of the fittest. Reason and the moral sentiment alike teach us that there is, there must be a way of reconciling and uniting the interests of capital and labor, of employers and employed; but many have been the failures in attempting to demonstrate practically how it can be done; and very heartfelt and sore have been the discouragements experienced by those who have been seeking to bring about an adjustment — discouragements experienced alike by those who represent and are identified with capital, and those whose lot has been among and who represent labor.
Capital, however, has made far fewer experiments and risked far less than have the wage-workers. There is something infinitely pathetic in the risks taken, the losses incurred, the privations endured by laborers in their efforts to force a solution of the labor problem and a bettering of their condition, and which in the end have proven only that they were mistaken in their methods. Capital can experiment with far greater prospect of success, as it always has upon its side the added advantage of intelligence and education. The most serious disadvantage of the laboring classes in all their struggles and experiments is their lack of intelligence, lack of knowledge of fundamental, social and economical principles; of the history and mistakes of the past, which they go on blindly repeating. Just in proportion as education and intelligence are disseminated among them do they apprehend and adopt better and wiser and more successful methods.
Not to mention in detail now several very successful experiments in Europe, and a few in this country, made by capitalists in the direction of elevating the condition and prospects of labor, some account of the plan and scope of the city of Pullman will be of interest to every student of social science and to every one interested in the progress and welfare of humanity.
Of course every one, both in this country and in Europe, who hears the name, will infer that the chief industry of Pullman is building sleeping, dining and palace cars. This is, as yet, the chief industry; but, as will be shown before this article is completed, it is the design of the founder of the city to include ultimately a great diversity of manufacturing interests. When Mr. Pullman determined to build a city here his first move was to secure the conditions of health. The first thing provided was a system of sewerage costing over $300,000 and draining the entire tract of land on which the city was to be built The skill of the landscape engineer and architect were combined in the location and grouping of the great buildings designed for manufacturing purposes and public uses. The city was laid out in broad avenues which were planted with trees; cottages and flats were erected for homes for the laborers which were all carefully planned by a competent architect so as to afford plenty of ventilation and light. There are no alleys, no dark sink-holes, no garbage receptacles in the whole city. The workshops, of immense size, are all airy, light and scientifically ventilated, All the buildings, the cottages, the flats, the workshops, the great water tower, the hotel, the depot, the Arcade, under which are collected the principal stores and the offices of the superintendents and clerical assistants, as well as other things to be hereinafter described, are planned with reference to a beautiful and harmonious architectural effect. It is indeed a wonderful and delightful picture that is presented to the eye of the visitor who gets off the train at Pullman. The first feature that strikes the eye is the beautiful and effective landscape gardening which presents to view smooth and gravelled roads winding hither and thither away from the picturesque little depot past great patches of green sod bordered with a splendid array of bright flowers and foliage plants, past a miniature lake, also bordered with many hued flowers, and then running into the wide, smooth avenues along which are planted thrifty young trees. Around the root of every tree is a bed of flowers; here it is pansies, there petunias, there geraniums, there scarlet phlox, there the blue-belled flax. We wonder if there are any children in the town, for we see no traces of the vandalism and destructiveness of the common type of school children. Strolling along the avenues we discover that there are hundreds of children — in fact more children to the square yard than we over saw before; seemingly from three to five on every grass plot before the doors of the neat two-story cottages, playing on the grass plots and the sidewalks, but never touching the flowers. Not one neglected or uncomfortable or unhealthy looking child was noticed among the scores on scores that we saw. All were well clothed, as clean as healthy children ought to be, and seemed to be happily at play. What a contrast to the children of the gutters and the alleys we had left at such a short distance behind us in Chicago!
Three different days were spent in visiting Pullman, and it seemed as if three weeks would not suffice to enable us to see all that was to be seen of interest and learn the details of this wonderful enterprise. It was, however, as a study of social industrial organization that we were chiefly interested in it, and as such we observed its buildings and population. It is of course interesting to capitalists and statisticians to know that nearly $6,000,000 have been expended here within two years, and that it is but a few months over two years since this now busy and beautiful city was bare, flat prairie. Now there is a resident population of over 6,000, and as 550 new cottages will be completed by January 1st, 1883, there is every prospect of the number being increased to 10,000 within the coming year. One of the largest foundries in the country is located here and is in full blast, its workmen being accommodated with homes in great rows of flats near the foundry. The Allen Paper Car Wheel Works, with a capital of $1,000,000, are in full operation here. Here are immense brick yards. All these, besides the car shops proper, which cover acres of ground, and where hundreds of Pullman cars are built yearly. The great Corliss engine of the Centennial exposition is here; the immense water tower that is the central architectural figure of the town is a mechanical and engineering wonder, holding in its lofty tank 500,000 of gallons of water at such an altitude that in case of fire any building in Pullman could easily be flooded. Beneath this tower is a vast reservoir into which all the sewerage of the city, except the surface find roof sewerage, is conducted, and from which it is raised by immense pumps, and sent through a conduit three miles long to a sewage farm. There is a play and ball ground of twelve acres reserved for and accessible to all the young folks of the place; there is a boating place on the lake, and an island is being cast up by dredging, for the use of the Pullman Athletic Club, upon which there will be a grand stand. A school house, costing $50,000, built after the latest and most approved models, is nearly completed. A library of many thousand volumes is now being selected, and will be located in the Arcade, a building covering an acre of ground, with stone-paved passage ways and roof of glass. This building has, as one of its principal features, a theatre which will seat fifteen hundred persons. The interior arrangement, finish and decorations of this theatre are unsurpassed for beauty and refined taste by any theatre in Chicago. Speaking of the fact that he had employed one of the best scenic artists from New York to paint the scenery, Mr. Pullman said: "I want the people who work at Pullman to have the advantages of seeing the best; I want no cheap, crude, inartistic work in any department. I have faith in the educational and refining influences of beauty and beautiful and harmonious surroundings, and hesitate at no reasonable expenditure to secure them."
And what of the people who live and work in Pullman? Of course they have been there so short a time that they have as yet scarcely begun to take root and are not yet a homogeneous society. Doubtless it is true that to a great many the neat and commodious and beautiful appointments of the place are a painful restraint. They feel at first as strange and unfamiliar and uncomfortable as they would if suddenly transported to heaven. There are no saloons, for Pullman is a prohibition town, and many are lonesome and homesick for places where they can drink and rowdy after working hours. But it is cheering to learn that already the improving and educating influences of such surroundings are beginning to be apparent. The laborers at Pullman were gathered at hap hazard from the great city of Chicago and other places, and of course included all sorts and classes. Speaking of their advent there Mr. Pullman said: "At first when I saw the poorer and more improvident families moving their old, shabby and untidy household effects into those nice new flats, I felt rather sick at heart. But after six months as I had occasion to go through these flats I was greatly encouraged and delighted to see how they had improved in general appearance and mode of life. Evidently they were striving to make their homes correspond to their surroundings, and if able to do nothing more to beautify them, they at least kept them cleaner and planted flowers in their windows." The resident superintendent of the place told us how frequently he had observed that families who on first coming there seemed to have no regard for appearances whatever, would shortly show a great change in this particular. Where once the man would lounge around his doorstep in the evening, unkempt, unshaven, in his shirt sleeves and stocking feet, smoking his pipe, his untidy wife and children around him, might now be seen an entire change for the better, both in appearance and demeanor.
Referring to the fact that it seemed to be a well established principle that in order to the best development of virtue and patriotism laborers must own their homes; that they must get firmly planted in the soil before the best side of human nature could be developed, we learned that though at present the exigencies of providing so many domiciles for laborers require that they shall all be renters or tenants of the domiciles already prepared, yet adjoining the town site at present built up and occupied, are great tracts of land owned by the Pullman Land Association, which are laid out in lots and designed to be offered for sale to laborers on long time and easy payments. Plans are being matured by which houses can be built for those who purchase these lots and sold to them on the installment plan.
Here, indeed, seems to be the coming paradise of labor. If here are not all the conditions for a healthful and mutually beneficial relation between the great and powerful corporation that furnishes capital and employment, and those who seek and find employment, the best and most approved social theories are at fault. It is gratifying to know that the financial aspect is encouraging. Already a fair per cent is earned upon the capital invested, and considering the costly and gigantic proportions of the plant and the permanent and valuable character of the buildings for dwellings, a stability is evident which gives excellent promise of security for those who are investors. Canvassing this aspect of the enterprise Mr. Pullman said: "What I expect to prove by this enterprise is that these favorable and healthful conditions, comfortable homes and widening opportunities, can be secured for laborers at the same time that a reasonable per cent. and permanency of investment is secured for investors. Capital will not invest in sentiment nor for sentimental considerations for the laboring classes. But let it once be proved that enterprises of this kind are safe and profitable and we shall see great manufacturing corporations developing similar enterprises, and thus a new era will be introduced in the history of labor."