This past Tuesday, February 23, the Chicago Tribune carried an article titled “Pullman porter recalls his days on the railroad.” I love it when the media covers one of my favorite genealogy topics, railroads. Benjamin Gaines personal story is about his nine years as a Pullman Porter. His story is interesting and worth reading.
The activity surrounding the Pullman Porters and the Pullman Company in general has really grown in the last decade. A museum dedicated to the Porters is the A. Philip Porter Pullman Porter Museum, located in Chicago.
It will soon have a new website that will include the “Pullman Porter National Historic Registry of the African-American Railroad Employees.” I am excited by this endeavor. The museum has already been involved in An Anthology of Respect: A Pullman Porter Book The Pullman Porter National Historic Registry (1st ed.) by Lyn Hughes (Hughes-Peterson Publishing , 2007). The book included a registry of African American Railroad employees who worked for the railroad between the late 1800s – 1969.
As with any list or registry, there are always additions to be made and that is happening, If you were a Pullman Porter, a Dining Car Waiter, other job, or are a relative of one, you can now add your information to the online registry that will be on the museum website. The Chicago Tribune also had a recent article about the museum and the registry.
These workers fought for rights and better working conditions. They formed their own union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, with A. Philip Porter as the leader.
A quick check on ArchiveGrid, a free online finding aid for manuscript collections, shows 174 collections across the U.S. with that exact union title. Many of these have membership applications, listings, and other details. Divisions existed across the country. Related unions also flourished and so did one for the women. To learn more about the Pullman Porters and related jobs, read the history mentioned above or one of the many articles and other books found via a search on WorldCat. ArchiveGrid is connected to WorldCat, but I like to do some separate searching.
The Newberry Library in Chicago is one major repository that holds many records of the Pullman Palace Car Company, as it was originally called. The company not only built many railroad cars, but employed people who worked on them. The Encyclopedia of Chicago has a short history of the Pullman Company.
A future blog post will tell more about researching other railroad workers. Stay tuned
© 2016, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.