Pullman's Sons

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George, Jr. and Walter (Sanger) Pullman

In all truth, Chicago is a hard town to scandalize, but the Pullman twins did it most effectively. -- The [New York] World, November 29, 1901, p. 9


Extended family at Pullman's Fairlawn estate, Elberon, New Jersey, 1894

George M. Pullman married Harriett Sanger, daughter of a construction company owner, on June 13, 1867. Together, they had four children: Florence (1868-1937), Harriett (1869-1956), and the twins George, Jr. (1875-1901) and Walter Sanger [known as Sanger] (1875-1905). While Harriett was described by contemporaries as going through a "boy-crazy" phase, both girls eventually settled into mostly peaceful and respected lives.


Early portrait of Florence and Hattie (Harriett)
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Harriett holding the twins
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The same cannot be said of the twins. In an age when it was considered appropriate to be in the news only 3 times in one's life (birth, marriage, and death), their activities and affairs filled many column inches in newspapers across the world with tales of their affairs, drunken antics, and money problems.

As young boys, the twins were schooled at their home on Prairie Avenue, tutored by the finest tutors that Pullman's money could hire. Their antics were notorious even then: in one instance, allegedly arranging and promoting pit bull fights. As teenagers, they frequently were seen riding around Chicago in cabs filled with champagne bottles. Sent to Harvard Training School, Sanger and George were ranked 147 and 148 out of a class of 148 students. Failing at Harvard, they attended The Hill School in Pottstown, PA, an exclusive boarding school. Thoroughly despised by their fellow schoolmates for their arrogance, they lasted at Hill for only one term.

At the time of Pullman's death in 1897, George was engaged to Felicite Oglesby (daughter of Governor Oglesby) and Sanger was engaged to Lynn Fernald. Pullman's will stipulated that the twins were to be given a yearly stipend of only $3,000. The twins, perhaps knowing that their doting mother would bolster this meager income substantially, stated publicly that they would not fight the terms of the will. Upon hearing of his father's disinheritance (and the reasons behind it), Oglesby broke off her engagement to George, Jr. He then became infatuated with a woman who eventually became Blanche Bowers, wife of (then) famous composer Frederick V. Bowers. His relationship with Blanche fell apart and he then secretly married Lynn Fernald, his brother's betrothed. His brother, Sanger, consoled himself by moving in with an unnamed woman. This common law marriage was only dissolved because of the intervention of his mother, who paid the unnamed woman $10,000 to leave Sanger and never return.

Ms. Fernald echoes throughout the lives of both boys. Her father, who knew George, Sr. socially through their Republican Party ties, was James W. Fernald, famous for instigating the practice of having American flags displayed in U.S. schools. Ms. Fernald's marriage to George, Jr. was short lived. She grew tired of his alcoholism and wandering eye and eventually separated from him after only 2 years.

The twins' problem with alcohol was of real concern. Both sought, at different times, the "Keeley Cure"-- at the time, the treatment of choice for the rich and famous. Unfortunately, this was a poor choice of treatment-- the Keeley method approached alcoholism purely as a disease, much the same way that one would approach treating flu or chicken pox. The course of treatment was really only effective if the patient had a vested interest in quitting. Neither of the boys was able to control their drinking. The New York Daily Tribune, March 11, 1900 reported that Sanger, visiting the White Plains (New York) clinic, almost killed a newsboy by running over him in a horse and trap, racing drunkenly around town.

Sanger, while widely acknowledged as the smarter of the 2, was very poor with money. He routinely ran up huge debts, counting on his family or his name to cover them. His self-destructive financial behavior led to several humiliating incidents. He was expelled from the New York Athletic Club for non-payment of dues. At one point in 1901, his sister-in-law's luggage was confiscated for 5 months by a creditor attempting to settle a debt with Sanger.

Blanche returned to George, Jr.'s life in June of 1901. She had married the often aloof Frederick V. Bowers, composer of hit musicals for the stage. She left her husband to travel with George, who introduced her as his wife. Lynn Fernald sued for divorce, seeking maintenance, naming Blanche and another woman only known as "Minnie" as co-respondents. Frederick Bowers sued George for $100,000, eventually settling for $50,000.


Account of scandal involving George, Jr., with Mrs. Blanche Bowers, San Francisco Call, March 6, 1900

Bowers' Lawsuit, San Francisco Call, June 14, 1901

George died of complications from pneumonia in November, 1901. His brother died after being thrown from a horse and carriage after yet another wild ride in August, 1905. All the boys managed to achieve in life was causing grief to the people who cared about them. As was said in a 1901 headline from the World: "Death of George Pullman a Warning to Rich Fathers."


Death notice of George, Jr. “A warning to rich fathers!”, The World, Nov. 29, 1901

Death notice of Sanger Pullman, San Francisco Call, August 16, 1905

THE PULLMAN STATE HISTORIC SITE

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George M. Pullman and his Family

George Mortimer Pullman


George Pullman

Pullman's Children


Harriett Pullman holding her twin sons

The Twins


Account of scandal involving George, Jr., with Mrs. Blanche Bowers, San Francisco Call, March 6, 1900

Gustave Behring: Pullman's Illegitimate Son?


The Strange Case of Gustave Behring

Images of Pullman and Family