Monday, September 9, 2013

George Pullman Monument



George Pullman Monument, 1897
Solon Beman
Graceland Cemetery
South of the lake and near the Schoenhofen monument
4001 North Clark Street

            This monument to the inventor of the Pullman sleeping car features a single fluted Corinthian column and a raised exedra (a semi-circular area with seats intended for rest, contemplation or discussions). Designed by Solon Beman, the stately above-ground features belie the unusual aspects of this burial site.
            Pullman transformed railroad travel with his luxury and sleeping cars, one of which was used to transport Abraham Lincoln back to Illinois following his assassination. With his fortune Pullman hired Solon Beman to design the “utopian” town of Pullman south of Chicago. The town was intended to house his workers in a safe and healthy environment. It was also tightly controlled (no alcohol) and was intended to make a profit for investors, with rent, water and gas rates controlled by Pullman. When profits in his business fell in 1893, Pullman slashed wages by more than 25% but did not adjust other rates. Many families were left with a few cents to feed their families after rent and utilities were deducted from their paychecks. On May 12, 1894, with the help of Eugene Victor Debs of the American Railway Union, the workers went on strike. Rather than negotiate, Pullman closed his business, locked up his home and left town.
            Although the strike was eventually broken when President Cleveland sent in federal troops at the request of U.S. Attorney Richard Olney on the grounds that the strike was holding up mail delivery, most of the resentment remained focused upon Pullman. When he died in October of 1897, his family feared that his corpse would be desecrated. Thus, his lead-lined casket was covered in tarpaper and asphalt, sunk into a room-sized concrete block that was overlaid with railroad ties and additional concrete. 

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