Politics in Pullman

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Pullman and Politics

19th century political life was an impassioned, exciting affair. Politics was an integral part of everyday life.

"Private Joe" Fifer

The Tribune reported on Nov. 11, 1888: The Pullman Republicans are overjoyed at the success of their ticket... Friday night the Pullman Iron and Steel Republican club, with its glee club, serenaded Samuel Job, the president of the club. The serenade was meant to be a recognition of Mr. Job's services to the Republican Party in Indiana... This informal celebration, however, did not content them, and they now proposed to 'whoop it up' in a style worthy of the 'Model City'... They have secured... about 500 oil barrels and a sufficient quantity of wooden boxes and packing-cases to make a structure... [as tall as] a two story building. In the early evening, a street parade and torchlight procession will stir the town with enthusiasm. Two or three brass bands will be secured and there will be music on every corner. The procession will end up at the bonfire and the torch will be applied. It is intended to make the flames visible for miles around.

Amusingly, while everybody was out voting and celebrating, the Tribune reported in the same article, The Pullman Post-Office was robbed election night of $85 in stamps.

This type of celebration could not go on without the approval of George Pullman. The Pullman Company and Pullman himself gave company support to the Republican cause to such an extent that it would nowadays trigger a Grand Jury investigation. During a campaign stop on Sep. 30, 1888 for the Republican candidate for Governor, Private Joe Fifer, the Tribune reported: [The Pullman Republicans] will escort Mr. Fifer through the shops at Pullman just before noon. Dinner will be served at the Hotel Florence and in the early afternoon the distinguished visitor will address the people. The Pullman Shops and Offices will be closed without exception. If the weather is favorable 'Private Joe' will speak in the public square, immediately south of the Hotel. In case of rainy weather the demonstration will take place in the Arcade theater. In the early evening the Pullman assemblage will adjourn to meet at South Chicago... The Pullman Company will run several of their own trains to South Chicago for the accommodation of all who wish to make the trip.

There is evidently not much reporting about the activities of the Pullman Democrats in the heavily Republican and very partisan Tribune of the 19th century; however, I would assume that there was an equal number of Democratic activities since the 1888 elections mentioned above were hotly contested in Pullman (in fact, the Democrats carried Pullman). There is a mention of Democratic activity mentioned in the Tribune on Sep. 23, 1888: The Democrats of Pullman and vicinity crowded Market Hall Thursday night and listened to an address by W. S. Forrest of Chicago. Before the meeting W. W. Stewart presented the president of the club with a handsome lantern of silver, highlighted in gold. Note that the rally was held in the Market Hall, which probably meant that the Democrats would have had to pay for the hall rental where the Republicans got use of the company facilities for free.

It is interesting to note that there was more than one Republican organization. The Pullman Iron and Steel Republican club was probably based at the foundry on 104th; an article in the Trib on Sep. 30, 1888 mentions the Scandinavian Republican Club. The meeting featured good speakers [who] will address the meeting in the Norwegian and Danish languages.

On Oct. 21, 1888, the Trib reported: The Pullman Republican Club held an enthusiastic meeting Friday evening. Twelve new members signed the roll, making a total of over 300.


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