Scope and Contents
The collection consists of approximately 13,500 images (original photographs, copy prints, and film and glass plate negatives) for freight, passenger, private, and street and rapid transit cars manufactured by the Pullman Palace Car Company. The collection contains primarily interior and exterior views of private and business cars as well as passenger and street cars. The collection is an important part of the historical record of the railroad car-building industry as well as the history of architecture and interior design. Historians, designers, railroad enthusiasts, model railroad hobbyists, scholars, and others will find this collection useful.
The glass plate negatives in this collection were produced using the wet collodion process, which was introduced to the United States in 1855 and used into the 1880s. The plates were coated with chemicals, sensitized, exposed and developed, all while the plate was wet. Later, Pullman photographers used the dry collodion process. This process involved using glass plates with a photographic emulsion of silver halides suspended in gelatin. This process had shorter exposure times.
George Pullman assembled a variety of photographers to document his company's work. The photography was primarily used as a record of work, especially for the Operating Department and Manufacturing Department at Pullman, as well as for prospective corporate customers.
Before establishing an in-plant photographic department in 1888, Pullman relied on local photographers. Some of the photographers included John Jex Bardwell, Wylie Dennison, Henry R. Koopman, J. W. Taylor, Thomas S. Johnson, Wylie Dennison, John P. Van Vorst, Clayton Ford Smith, Joseph McAllister, Melvin C. Horn, Ernie Stutkus, and Donald J. O'Barski. Many of the photographers signed the glass plates using their initials. For example, John P. Van Vorst signed his J.P.V.V.
Photography of Pullman activities began in the Detroit Shops (property of the Detroit Car & Manufacturing Co. which was purchased by Pullman in 1873 and operated as the Detroit Shops of Pullman) in the 1870s and expanded to include photographing the town of Pullman, steel car construction, shop accidents, workers, panoramic views, and in some instances, for company publications. In-plant photography was started with Wylie Dennison in 1888. Dennison was the first full-time Pullman photographer, and he created the Pullman Photographic Department. Dennison instituted the practice of recording each photograph, noting the negative number, description of the car, the type of view (typically one interior view and one exterior view) and lot number. All of Dennison's photography was done outside in the daylight.
The negative numbers assigned to the glass plates were identified with a "lot" number. The lot number identified the production order, and in later years, the plan number was added, designating the layout of the car. Photographing one car out of each new lot was the intital practice, but over-time, the Photographic Department began taking six or more views of the interior and exterior as well as end views.
Lot numbers include:
Lots 1 - 500 (Pullman Car Works - Chicago)
Lots 1 - 500 (Detroit Car Works)
Lots 500 plus (can be freight and passenger mixed)
Lots 1000 to 4999 (Pullman passenger equipment)
Lots 5000 to 5999 (Pullman freight equipment)
Lots 5000 + Haskell and Barker (Pullman overlap)
Lots 6000 to 7000+ (Pullman and P-S passenger)
Lots 8000 to 9999 (Pullman freight equipment)
Lots 10000+ (Pullman freight equipment)
Series 1, Original prints, circa 1880-1949, are arranged numerically by Pullman numbers. The original prints begin with number 7343 and end with number 33091. The photographs document Pullman cars, including freight, passenger, private, and street railway/rapid transit. Many of the images depict interior views of the cars, and there are some views of porters and passengers. There is some documentation of the workmen constructing the cars. The prints are primarily 8" by 10" black-and-white and were originally bound into books and backed on linen. The prints were unbound at some time. Many of the original prints bear an embossed stamp "Built by Pullman Car and Manufacturing Corporation Chicago." Some photographs are sepia-tone and there are no negatives for these prints.
Series 2, Copy prints, 1885-1955, consists of prints made from the glass plate negatives by the Smithsonian photographic services office. The copy prints were originally stored in loose binders but were re-housed into folders and arranged numerically according to the original Pullman Company number. The number is typically found in the lower right corner of the image. The copy prints are black-and-white and are either 5" x 7" or 8" x 10".
Series 3, Film negatives, 1917-1955, consists of film negatives (4" x 5" and 8" x 10") that are arranged numerically by Pullman numbers. In some instances, information on the enclosure includes the type of car (e.g. sleeper, freight), the name of the car if applicable, name of railroad company, geographical information, and date(s). In some instances, "repro," or "broken glass" are recorded. For negatives that did not conform to the Pullman numbering system, the container list provides additional information. For example, Haskell and Barker Car Company (Haskell and Barker merged with the Pullman Company in 1922) machine shop views, or Pullman cars in St. Paul, Minnesota are recorded in the collection inventory listing.
Series 4, Glass plate negatives, [circa 1882-1948], is divided into two subseries, Subseries 1, 6" x 8" negatives and Subseries 2, 8" x 10" negatives. The series consists of approximately 13,500 glass plate negatives arranged by Pullman Company negative number. The negatives document primarily Pullman cars, including freight, passenger, private and street railway/rapid transit. Many of the images depict interior and exterior views of the cars and some views of porters and passengers. The interior views include details such as seating, window treatments, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures, wood paneling, marquetry work, fabrics, floor treatments, and other furnishings. There is some documentation of the construction of the cars by workmen in the factory.
The negative numbers and lot numbers are etched on the glass plates. Overall the series is in good condition, although there are some broken plates which have been separated. The negatives are not inclusive and some plates are missing, or there are two copies. If plates are missing or additional copies exist, this is noted in the collection inventory. In some instances, plates are labeled 3937 and then 3937-A. This numbering distinguished two different views/angles of the same car.
Many of the envelope enclosures contain the negative number, sometimes preceed by the letter "P" (e.g. P9597), lot number (L4700), and in some instances, text describing the negative. Text typically includes the type of car (sleeper, freight), the name of the car if applicable, name of railroad company, geographical information, and date(s). If a copy print was created from the negative plate, the enclosure is stamped "printed." However, this practice was not consistent. Plates that were not printed are occasionally noted, but not with any consistency.
The 6" by 8" glass plates numbered 82-4130 to 82-4167, represent numbers assigned by the Office of Photographic Services, Smithsonian Institution. Previously labeled "Pullman" on the enclosures, the plates primarily document engines and passenger cars for the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad, 1870-1890 and undated. The plates do not have Pullman negative numbers etched in the lower left or right corners and it is unclear if these plates belong to this collection.
Series 5, Indices, 1990 and undated include bound, typescript indices to the Pullman negatives. Created by the National Museum of American History, Division of Transportation (now known as the Division of Work and Industry), the indices include listings by railroad, private cars, freight cars, street cars and rapid transit, and Pullman negatives. The indices provide the name of the railroad/railway (e.g. Chicago & Alton), type of car (e.g. coal car or box car), number, lot, remarks (e.g. baggage area), year, type of view (e.g. exterior or interior) and frame number (for the laser disc).
One index is a supplemental guide listing sepia tone prints for which no negative exists in our collection. The indices for the negative listings on laser discs one and two are available. However, the actual lasers discs are missing.
Horn, Don. "The Pullman Photographers," Railroad Heritage, No. 7, 2003, pp. 5-13.
Arnold, Rus. "This Negative File was a Sleeper." Technical Photography. May 1970, pp. 21-XX.
Pullman State Historic Site, http://www.pullman-museum.org/theCompany/timeline.html (last accessed April 18, 2011)