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Porter's wool blanket dyed blue
Catalog #: 1986.0133.01, Accession #: 1986.0133
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection
This blanket was used by African American railroad porters. According to Pullman service rules, a porter's blanket was never to be given to a passenger. This was to comply with statutes in the south that dealt with the segregation of blacks and whites. Dyeing the color blue made it easy to tell which blankets were used by passengers and which blankets were used by the African American porters and attendants.
Physical Description
Material: Wool The blanket was dyed blue but has faded over the years. The name "Pullman" appears in the middle of the blanket.
Date Made:
about 1930
Pullman cars ran everywhere in the U.S.
Gift of Arthur D. Dubin

Part of a Pullman porter's job was to make up the sleeping berths in his assigned sleeping car, and to provide extra blankets to those passengers requesting them. The standard Pullman wool blanket in the 20th century was dyed a salmon color, which became almost a trademark of the company. When a blanket became worn or damaged in service, it was assigned to those blankets reserved for porters' use.

Ostensibly to avoid mixing these with the passengers' blankets, the porters' blankets were dyed blue. (This was done nationwide, throughout the Pullman system, not just in the South.) A dyed-blue Pullman blanket is today extremely rare, given its negative racial symbolism.

See other Pullman and Pullman Porter-related objects and photos in this database.

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