Guide to the Pullman Palace Car Company Collection

Administrative Information

Repository Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History

P.O. Box 37012
 Suite 1100, MRC 601
 Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
 Phone: 202-633-3270

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantee concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: reproductions fees may apply.

Custodial History note

Collections AC0158 and AC0181 were transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Transportation (now known as the Division of Work and Industry) in 1980 and 1986.

Collection AC0158, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur D. Dubin Pullman Palace Car Company Car Construction and Registration Books, 1875-1911, was integrated into collection AC0181.

Accruals note

A photograph album and llustrations Accompanying the Report of the Engineer-in-chief, H.C. Mais, on Observations on Railways Made During His Tour in 1883 (.066 cubic feet) was added on May 25, 2012.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Collection materials were donated by Arthur D. Dubin in 1980 and on January 30, 1986. Additional materials were donated by Lorrain Douglass, Kiara S. Winans and Kristin Peterson on April 3, 2012.

Processing Information note

Processed by Barbara Kemp and Robert S. Harding, March 1986; revised by Alison Oswald, archivist, January, 2011.

llustrations Accompanying the Report of the Engineer-in-chief, H.C. Mais, on Observations on Railways Made During His Tour in 1883 contains some moldy pages which were separated for scanning. These pages include: the index, pages 1-7; page 58; and pages 98-111.

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Summary Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Pullman Palace Car Co.
Pullman, George M., 1831-1897
Pullman Palace Car Company Collection
Date [bulk]
bulk 1900-1930
Date [inclusive]
7.00 Cubic feet, 7 boxes
Language of Materials note
Some materials in French, German, and Spanish.
Records of the Pullman Company, manufacturers and operators of railroad sleeping cars. Pullman also manufactured hospital and dining cars at its Chicago facilities. Dating from 1867 to 1982 (bulk 1900-1930s), the collection includes background materials, correspondence, financial, personnel and operating records, drawings and photographs.

Preferred Citation note

[Title and date of item], Pullman Palace Car Company Collection, 1867-1982, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXX

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Biographical/Historical note

George M. Pullman (1831-1897) developed the railroad passenger sleeping car service into a major 19th century industry. He created the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1867. George Pullman was succeeded as president of the company by Robert Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s son, who served until 1911. In 1900, after buying competing companies, the firm was reorganized as the Pullman Company.

The idea for specially designed sleeping cars came to Pullman while traveling from Buffalo to Westfield, New York in 1854. He altered existing railroad cars in September, 1858, for service on the Chicago and Alton Railroad. They first sleeping car built to Pullman’s specifications was the “pioneer,” which carried part of the Lincoln funeral party from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois in 1865. In 1867 “hotel cars” were introduced. These sleeping cars, equipped with kitchen and dining facilities, eliminating the need for trains to stop at stations for passengers to buy food. In 1868, Pullman built the “Delmonica,” devoted to restaurant purposes. The Pullman firm also built streetcars and trolleys.

In 1880 George Pullman built the town of Pullman, just south of the city of Chicago along the Illinois Central Railroad line, as the site for his manufacturing plant. Intended as a model manufacturing town, it had 12,000 residents in 1893. It suffered from the usual company town problems and was annexed to Chicago in 1889. In the wake of the depression of 1893 Pullman reduced wages for its workers by 25% or more. The American Railway Union, lead by Eugene V. Debs, sought to bring wage issues to arbitration but Pullman refused. In June, 1894 some 4,000 employees struck the company gaining support from thousands of railroad workers who refused to handle trains with Pullman cars. President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago in July and after a period of sporadic violence the strike was over by the end of the summer.

In later years the Pullman company introduced several innovations. It built lighter, articulated cars of alloy steel beginning in 1936. The following year, it introduced the roomette car with eighteen enclosed private rooms. In 1956 Pullman introduced the dome sleeper car with an upper deck observation level. The United States anti-trust suit against Pullman Manufacturing and Operating Company resulted in a 1944 decision requiring a separation of car building and car operation activities. Pullman sold its sleeping car service, transferring its operating unit to a group of fifty-nine railway firms in 1947.

George Pullman introduced two notable practices. First, rather than operating railroads, his firm leased sleeping cars to the railroads and provided the complete services on them, including supplying porters, conductors, dining staff, and food and linens. Second, Pullman named each of his sleeping and dining cars rather than assigning them numbers. This was intended to enhance the company’s image by creating a personality for the car. Different categories of names signified different categories of cars and geographical names also helped to promote travel to the areas in which they operated.

Arthur Detmers Dubin assembled these Pullman Company materials. Dubin was born in 1923 in Chicago, Illinois. He began his architectural education at the University of Michigan in 1941 but was interrupted by World War II, and he served with distinction in the United States Army until 1946. After completing his studies in 1949, Dubin joined his father's and uncle's architectural firm, Dubin and Dubin, as a second–generation architect. The leadership of the firm soon passed to Arthur and his brother, Martin David, and in 1965 they were joined by John Black and in 1966 by John Moutoussamy. Arthur's life–long interest in trains and transportation and their implications for architecture is evident in transit stations commissions and service on transportation–related advisory boards (Dubin was a member of the Illinois Railroad Commission), as well as in his writings and personal collections. Dubin was an avid train enthusiast and collector.


Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Area Architects Oral History Project

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Scope and Contents note

The collection consists of materials from 1867-1982 (bulk 1900-1930s), and includes background materials, correspondence, financial records, operating records, personnel records, drawings, and photographs. Of note is the documentation of hospital cars and instructions for porters. The collection is not a complete record of the Pullman Palace Car Company's activities.

Series 1, Historical Background, 1867-1982, contains newspaper clippings and articles about the Pullman Palace Car Company and George Pullman. Also included is a 318-page typescript titled  The History of the Sleeping Car 1923, by Charles S. Sweet; documentation on how Pullman cars were named; and other histories of the Pullman Company including its hospital cars and maquetry design.

Series 2, Correspondence, 1912-1960, consists primarily of documentation about the sale of cars and equipment by Pullman Palace Car Company to specific railroad companies. The correspondence details the cost per car and in some instances, leasing costs, operating costs, and other relevant statistical and financial information about the transactions. There is some consolidated data on cars sold to the railroads as well as summary data on the type of car sold, name of car, selling price, purchasers, and the date the sale was approved. The correspondence is organized chronologically within Pullman Company correspondence wrappers which were used to maintain the correspondence in a uniform manner and in consecutive date order.

Correspondence about hospital cars contains information on the rental of Pullman cars to the United States government as well as letters discussing specifications for building hospital unit cars for the United States Army. There is one folder of miscellaneous correspondence with individuals seeking copies of photographs from the company and/or offering their historical writings about the company.

Series 3, Financial Records, 1875-1930, consists primarily of details of cost documentation created by the Pullman Company's Manufacturing Department. The cost sheets are arranged chronologically and represent an itemized financial breakdown of costs by material, labor, extra equipment, sundries, and recapitulation for a variety of Pullman cars. The cover sheet for work orders notes the lot number, plan number, type of Pullman car (e.g. baggage, parlor, private) being manufactured or serviced/repaired, to whom the order belongs, and associated dates. For example, one private, steel car for Mr. D. J. Reid or general service parlor car for Southern Railway.

Series 4, Operating Records, 1875-1972, consists of records used by the company for daily operations, particularly instructions for porters as well as repair logbooks, volumes detailing car building completion, published supplements noting specific changes to cars, correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, and lists of cars built by Pullman and cars withdrawn from service. Also included is the   Illustrations Accompanying the Report of the Engineer-in-chief, H.C. Mais, on Observations on Railways Made During His Tour in 1883. Henry Coathupe Mais (1827-1916) was an English born civil engineer who spent most of his career in Australia. Mais toured railways and other works in Europe and America. His lengthy report with many detailed illustrations was printed in 1884 as a parliamentary paper. Some report pages were moldy and have been separated. These pages include: the index, pages 1-7; page 58; and pages 98-111.

The reports found in the "general file" include Sleeping, Parlor and Lounge Equipment (1945) and  Pullman Passenger Survey A Continuing Study--Part II, (1955). The latter report by McFarland, Aveyard and Company studied attitudes and opinions of Pullman passengers. There is a typescript of a presentation made by George W. Bohannan of the Pullman Company to the American Association of Passenger Traffic Officers (1964).

The records documenting the completion of cars are bound volumes arranged chronologically. The volumes detail lot number, plan numbers, date of order, type of car, account name, date of delivery, destination route, estimate price, cost price, and contract price. In some instances, new information was glued or taped into the volume. The repair books capture the date, name of car, yard, name of porter, and date shipped.

Series 5, Personnel Records, 1873-1979, includes a payroll list for the General Ticket Department, 1876; instructions for passengers with cholera, 1873; reward notices for an 1878 robbery; instructional manuals for Pullman porters; photographs of Pullman Company employees working, and general correspondence, 1896-1979; ancedotes about Pullman porters; an obituary for George Arthur Kelly, an executive vice president for the Pullman Company; articles and newspaper clippings about porters and conductors, particularly the Society for the Prevention of Calling Pullman Car Porters "George." Started in 1916, the Society for the Prevention of Calling Pullman Car Porters "George" was founded by George W. Dulany, Jr., an Iowa lumber merchant. Dulany organized the society for fun after hearing passengers call every porter George. The society became a hobby and there were no meetings, dues, or activities associated with his work. Dulany's campaign was solely to have passengers use a porter's correct name or simply call them "porter."

Series 6, Drawings, 1907-1939 and undated, contains bound volumes arranged chronologically of records of tracings of drawings for Pullman cars. The volumes detail the negative number, date, type of car, job number, and remarks.

Series 7, Photographs, 1932-1950s and undated, consists primarily of black-and-white copy prints (8" x 10") documenting employees, especially porters, passengers, and hospital cars. Many of the hospital cars depict both the exterior and interior, but none with patients. The passenger photographs are almost exclusively interior images of persons dining, sleeping, playing cards, and in general seating areas. The Southern Pacific dining car photographs are original prints and bear the Pullman Car Company embossed stamp and unique number. This range of photographs is (Pullman photograph #32867 to #32873) and the images depict exterior and interior views of the dining cars. There is one album of ninety-nine photographs taken by Ricardo Villalba (active 1860-1880) in Peru. The album was made for W.W. Evans, Esquire in 1875. The images depict landscapes, bridges, train tracks, railroad cars, railroad engines, and buildings, such as the Pano Cathedral.

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Arrangement note

The collection is divided into seven series:

Series 1, Historical Background, 1867-1982

Series 2, Correspondence, 1912-1960

Series 3, Financial Records, 1875-1930

Series 4, Operating Records, 1875-1972

Series 5, Personnel Records, 1873-1979

Series 6, Drawings, 1907-1939 and undated

Series 7, Photographs, 1932-1950s and undated

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Materials in the Archives Center

Pullman Palace Car Company Photographs (AC1175), contains photographs of Pullman cars: freight, passenger, private and street railway/rapid transit cars. The bulk of the collection contains approximately 13,500 original glass plate negatives, film negatives, and copy prints.

Materials In Other Organizations

Art Institute of Chicago

Bombardier Corporation

California State Railroad Museum

Chicago Historical Society

Arthur Dubin Collection at Lakeforest College

Illinois Railway Museum

Newberry Library, Pullman Company Archives

The Pullman Company archives consists of 2,500 cubic feet of records from the Pullman Company and Pullman heirs. The collection is comprised of business archives of the Pullman Palace Car Company from 1867 and include records of the entire firm up to the 1924 split into operating (sleeping car operation, service, and repair) and manufacturiung companies. From 1924 to 1981 the records chronicle the activities of the operating company only.

Pennsylvania State Archives

Pullman State Historic Site

Pullman Technology (Harvey, Illinois)

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Arthur D. Dubin Papers (83-015; 83-076; 83-101)

South Suburban Genealogical & Historical Society (South Holland, illinois)

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Correspondence--1930-1960
  • Drawings
  • Photographs--Black-and-white photoprints--Silver gelatin--1930-1940

Personal Name(s)

  • Lincoln, Robert Todd


  • Dining cars
  • Hospital cars
  • Hotel car
  • Labor relations
  • Railroads--Dining-car service
  • Roomette car
  • Sleeping car
  • Strikes and lockouts

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1: Historical Background Materials, 1867-1982

Box Folder

Articles, 1867-1969

1 1

History of the Sleeping Car by Charles S. Sweet, 1923

1 2-3

Naming Pullman cars, 1938-1955

1 4

Marquetry design for Pullman cars, 1938-1939; 1979

1 5

Bardeania a Tale of her Birthplace and Realization (Pullman car construction), undated

2 6

Pullman Company's Contribution to hospital trains and to cars and trains used in the promotion of public health, 1925

1 7

History of hospital cars, 1911-1945

2 8

History of medical department transportation, undated

1 9

Dining cars (Syracuse China Company), 1928, 1974 and undated

1 10

Wagner Palace Car Company, An Illustrated Descriptive List of Sleeping, Drawing-Room, Hotel, Private, and Special Plan Cars, 1982

1 11

New York Central Lines Corporate Maps of Leased and Controlled Lines, circa 1920s

1 12

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 Series 2: Correspondence, 1912-1960

Box Folder

General, 1912-1980

1 13

Hospital cars, 1916-1931

1 14

Hospital cars, 1941-1945

1 15

Sale of cars and equipment, 1930-1943

1 16

Sale of cars, 1941-1945

1 17-19

Assignment of cars to railway, 1930-1939

1 20

Assignment of cars to railway, 1947-1948

1 21

Assignment of cars to railway, 1949

1 22

Assignment of cars to railway, 1950-1951

1 23

Assignment of railway cars, 1952-1960

1 24

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 Series 3: Financial Records, 1875-1930


Cost of Repairs, Volume 1, 1875-1880


Cost of Repairs, Volume 2, 1881-1884

Box Folder

Details of cost (baggage car), 1897 December 3-1898 January 15

1 25

Details of cost (general service on the Pennsylvania Railroad parlor car), 1897 December 22-1898 April 29

1 26

Details of cost (general service for three parlor cars), 1897 December 22- 1898 May 5

1 27

Details of cost (Wisconsin Central Railway Company for composite cafe chair), 1905 January 27-1905 June 15

1 28

Details of cost (Samuel Spencer Prescott/Southern Railway), 1905 July 13-1905 November 17

1 29

Details of cost (private Pennsylvania Company), 1905 January 27-1905 July 13

2 1

Details of cost (Pennsylvania lines of west Pittsburgh), 1905 August 17-1906 January 13

2 2

Details of cost (vestibule passenger car for Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway), 1905 September 27-1906 February 15

2 2A

Details of cost (private car for Col. J.M. Schumaker of Pittsburgh Lake Erie Railway), 1906 November 2-1907 April 23

2 2B

Details of cost (private car for Southern Pacific Company), 1906 November 14-1907 February 20

2 2C

Details of cost (private car for Atchison, Topeka and Santa fe Railway Company), 1906 November 14-1907 April 20

2 2

Details of cost (private car of D.C. Jackling), 1909 April 10-1909 July 19

2 3

Details of cost (private car of A.J. Earling, President of Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway), 1909 May 4-1909 August 30

2 4

Details of cost (private car of Pennsylvania lines west of Pittsburgh), 1909 September 24-1911 February 25

2 5

Details of cost (private steel car of D. G. Reid), 1912 June 19-1913 January 20

2 6

Details of cost (private steel car for Pennsylvania lines west of Pittsburgh), 1912 December 18-1914 March 11

2 7

Details of cost (private steel car for Nevada Northern Railway, 1915 December 1-1916 May 5

2 8

Details of cost (private steel car for Charles M. Schwab), 1916 November 20-1917 October 24

2 9

Details of cost (private car for Baltimore and Ohio Railroad), 1916 November 14-1917 November 15

2 10

Details of cost (private car for New York, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad), 1924 June 30-1925 February 4

2 11

Details of cost (president's staff car, Mexican Government), 1927

2 12

Details of cost (six gas rail motors for Pennsylvania Railroad), 1927 December 22-1928 September 5

2 13

Details of cost (private car for Harry Payne Bingham), 1930 March 15-1930 October 15

2 14

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 Series 4: Operating Records, 1875-1972

Box Folder

Government transportation orders (military), 1875

2 15

Car Service rules of the Operating Department, 1893

2 16

Instructions for laundering, heaters, air conditioners and passenger comfort, 1875, 1877, 1923

2 17

Instructions to porters, attendants and bus boys, undated

2 18

General file (correspondence), 1866-1972

2 19

Record of completion of cars, 1879-1887

Box Folder

Record of completion of cars, 1887-1893

2 20

Cars constructed, 1886-1903

8 1

Cars Constructed, 1903-1911

8 2

Record of lots, completion and shipment (for Chicago Works and Detroit Shops), 1881-1884

2 21

Repair Record Book, 1900-1907

2 22

Directory for General Offices, 1948

2 23

llustrations Accompanying the Report of the Engineer-in-chief, H.C. Mais, on Observations on Railways Made During His Tour in 1883, 1884


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 Series 5: Personnel Records, 1873-1979

Box Folder

Instructions for cholera, 1873 June

2 24

Payroll of General Ticket Department, 1876 January

2 25

Reward notices for robbery, 1878

2 26

Strike, 1894

2 27

Correspondence, 1896-1949

2 28-29

Photographs, circa 1940s, undated

2 30

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 Series 6: Drawings, 1907-1939, undated

Box Folder

Record of Tracings, 1907-1912

2 31

Record of Tracings, 1913-1917

3 1

Record of Tracings, 1932-1939

3 2

Standard passenger car drawings, undated

3 3

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 Series 7: Photographs, 1932-1950s and undated

Box Folder

Employees, circa 1945

3 4

Hospital cars (United States government), circa 1916, undated

3 5

Passengers, circa 1950s

3 6

Southern Pacific dining cars, 1929

3 7

Album, 1875

Box Folder

Miscellaneous, undated

3 8

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