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Pullman: Reasons For Formation And Failure (Essay On Stanley Buder's "Pullman: An Experiment In Industrial Order And Community Planning, 1880 1930."

1118 words - 4 pages

Like many other industrialists during the late-nineteenth century, Pullman developed a strong interest in social reform. Cities like Chicago were growing rapidly, attracting foreign immigrants and native migrants with their promise of abundant work and good wages. The enormous population boom meant opportunity for some and poverty for others. The city's working class typically lived in overcrowded, unsanitary, unappealing parts of town. Some middle- and upper-class men and women attempted to improve the lives of the working and poor classes, but often did so with self-interest.In 1880, George Pullman began to build a model company town eight miles south of Chicago. "Seeing nothing wrong in a society oriented toward the profit motive, his intention was only to apply principles of business efficiency to meet the needs of his own workers. Pullman wanted to perfect, not alter, free enterprise." (Buder 37)Pullman hoped to improve the relationship between capital and labor by creating a safe, clean, culturally enriching environment for his workers, who would pay him back with loyalty, honesty, and commitment to hard work. He believed a company town would discourage strikes as it increased workers' efficiency and improved residents' moral character. He wanted a large and efficient plant located in an area where land prices were cheap and where the evil influences of city conditions would not affect his workers. He needed a large number of highly skilled workmen. He hoped to attract skilled and reliable workers and to further improve their moral character by creating housing immediately adjacent to the plant that would be conducive to self respect, orderly living, and contentment. Pullman believed a model company town could prevent worker unrest in his factories. (Buder, 44)George Pullman also created his model town as a showplace. He expected and encouraged press interest and visitors. He envisioned the town as a model for labor relations in other companies. "Pullman wished to demonstrate that American industry could plan and construct a town, which would solve the social problems of the time by providing adequate housing for workers and thus encourage their development of proper middle-class standards." "He hoped to show that industrialization need not lead to social disintegration and that the chaotic concentration of men and machinery in unmanageable urban neighborhoods could be reversed by the planned order of an industrial community." (Buder, xi) Moreover, Pullman wanted to show that man could be improved by "proper surroundings and that American industry could provide this without sacrificing profit." (Buder, 92)The Pullman model worked to some degree because the company maintained absolute control and ownership of everything in town, just as it did with Pullman cars and on-board services. But that monopoly became its greatest criticism: the model town built to handle the "labor problem" in a democratic America was run like an Old World...

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