The Pullman Library
Contributed by Kate Corcoran
Almost a year after the opening of the Arcade, the Pullman Public Library was officially dedicated, on April 11, 1883. For the event, a special train ran from Chicago to Pullman, where the ceremonies were held in the theater. Although George Pullman was present, the dedicatory address was read by Professor David Swing, a liberal pastor of Central Church in Chicago and friend of George Pullman. He first read Pullman's document conveying the gift:
I, George M. Pullman, of Chicago, Cook County, Ill., in consideration of the fact that the moral and intellectual growth of any community promotes and advances not only all of its material interests, but all the forms of human welfare, do hereby give, grant, transfer, and set over unto the Pullman Public Library, a corporation created and existing under and by virtue of the Laws of the State of Illinois, the following named books, publications, and periodicals...To have and to hold the same unto the said Pullman Public Library and its successors forever.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal at Chicago this 10th day of April, A.D. 1883. -- George M. Pullman
Swing concluded his remarks:
The gentleman who gave these volumes, and who has been the soul of this new alliance between capital and labor, has among the many good works of his life done no one act more useful or attractive than this last act recorded in these many books. I thank him not only in the name of the grateful citizens of Pullman, but in the name of those good and kind beings in the outer circle who love to see the unfolding leaves and blossoms of a better civilization.
Interior of the library
Interior of the library
This town boosterism was common among many in the middle and upper classes, who deplored the tenements, saloons and other vices, and the general nose-wrinkling muckiness of the 19th century urban experience. What Swing neglected to mention was that the "Pullman Public Library" was not a public library in the sense we know it today, but rather a subscription-based enterprise: adult users were required to pay $3.00 per year ($.25 per month) for the privilege of using it (the fee was $1.00 per year for children). Perhaps due to this cost, library membership never exceeded 200, although circulation continued to rise between 1883 and 1893.
The library consisted of five rooms, with what must have been delightful 19th century decoration:
The library proper is forty-two by sixty feet in dimensions, with three retiring-rooms for ladies and one for gentlemen. The architectural design is ancient Roman, and the woodwork is of unique pattern. The walls are beautifully frescoed in peacock colors and marine blue and gold, with a fancifully-designed frieze ornamentation. The floors are richly carpeted with costly Axminster velvet and plush. Along the sides of the main room are eleven double book-cases of tastefully-carved cherry, which contain 5,100 carefully-selected volumes. Ventilation and lighting have both been carefully looked after, a large skylight affording ample light.
The "gentleman's" retiring room had a separate entrance and plain furnishings, to allow workers with "soiled hands and faces" library access without having to come in through the plush and carpeted main room.
The first librarian was Mrs. Lucy D. Fake, followed in 1889 by Mrs. Charles B. Smith, then in 1897 by Miss Bertha Ludlam, a cousin of George Pullman.
Interior of the library, showing Bertha Ludlam and patron
Interior of the library, showing Bertha Ludlam
The collection was eclectic, but comprised of English-language books and journals. The "Tauchnitz Collection of British and American Authors" served as the basis for the 3,000 works of the original list and Doty's table of "Pullman Library Statistics for Three Years" give some indication of the breadth of the collection by 1892: art (400 volumes), biography (300), political economy (130), fiction (2,600), history (500), juvenile (750), literature (325), "mental philosophy" (55), poetry (300), religion (225), science (730), travel (300), reference (300), public documents (500), and bound magazines (335).  Given the extreme anti-unionism of George Pullman, there were probably no pro-labor, anarchist, union, or socialist publications, particularly if no foreign-language Chicago newspapers were included in the collection.
The separate rooms were used for social and educational activities, such as the Womans' Union of Pullman, a charitable society...The Boys' Provident Club...The Pullman Whist Club; all kinds of University extension classes for the study of various languages, English literature and United States history; painting and china decoration classes; Girls' Reading Clubs; The Library Study Club, etc.
Bertha Ludlam's Account of the History of the Library
The History of the Pullman Library
Extracted from The Calumet Index
dated October 12, 1917: Story Pullman Library Full of Local Romance
Written by Bertha Stewart Ludlam, Librarian, for The Calumet Index
, Gives Early
FEW KNOW REAL STORY
Details How the Library Came to Be, Where the Maintenance Source Comes From, and What Keeps it Going are Given Herein.
One of the most
interesting places in this community is the Pullman Free Library, a place where men of
distinction and renown have come and spent hours, where the hope and desires of the late
George M. Pullman were centered, and where the people of this community may go and find
recreation in the reading of fine literature.
The ever-changing population of this territory perhaps does not know
the real history of this free institution, so The Calumet Index has the pleasure this week
to print the first installment of an article by Bertha Stewart Ludlam, the present
librarian, dealing with the story from the early life of this place. The article follows:
History of the Pullman Public Library.
Written by Bertha Stewart Ludlam
The Pullman Public Library was originally the gift to the Town of
Pullman from the late George M. Pullman, founder of the town, and was opened to the public
, 1883. The collection of books at that time numbered five thousand
(5,000) volumes, some three thousand (3,000) of which were in the Tauchnitz edition of
standard authors. Professor David Swing, of Chicago, made the dedicatory address in the
Pullman Theatre May 10th
, 1883, to a large audience of representative people
gathered there for the occasion from Pullman and the City of Chicago. The exercises were
opened by reading from the stage document, signed by Mr. Pullman, making the conveyance of
a long list of books, periodicals, etc. (in number 5,000) to the Pullman Public Library as
I, George M. Pullman, of Chicago, Cook County, Ill., in consideration
of the fact that the moral and intellectual growth of any community promotes and advances
not only all of its material interests, but all the forms of human welfare, do hereby
give, grant, transfer, and set over unto the Pullman Public Library, a corporation created
and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Illinois, the following named
books, publications, and periodicals, to wit (Here comes the list of books [which
the newspaper article does not include].) To have and to hold the same, unto the said
Pullman Public Library and its successors forever.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal, at Chicago,
day of April, A.D., 1883.
GEORGE M. PULLMAN
After the conclusion of the exercises all present were invited to
visit the Library rooms (5 in number) located in the southeast corner of the Arcade
Building, where it is still used and enjoyed by all residents of Pullman proper and its
The Library may be described somewhat as follows: In the main reading
rooms are massive ornamental pillars which support the roof and stained glass dome which
gives abundant light by day. Artistic open mahogany book cases house and display the
books. Three long magazine tables fill the centre of the room, while there are small
tables for individual use, comfortable easy chairs, lounges and rugs to be found
everywhere. Adjoining the main room are three class rooms which may be used at any time by
anyone desiring them, and there is also a good sized filing room for back numbers of
magazines, papers, and other reference material.
The first Librarian appointed was Mrs. Lucy Hall Fake, an old
resident of Chicago, and the entire selection and arrangement of books was left to her
judgment, with the assistance of Mr. Duane Doty, who was then Agent of the Town of Pullman
and for many years an earnest worker in the Library interests.
Mr. Pullman during his lifetime firmly believing that everything
worth having in life is the better appreciated if a sacrifice, however small, be made for
the desired object, established a Library membership fee of $3.00 per year for adults and
$1.00 per year for those under eighteen years of age, with the express understanding that
all money collected in this way should go towards the purchase of new books, the Pullman
Company paying all the running expenses. This arrangement continued for many years, or
until January 1st
, 1903, when a new regime was inaugurated of which I will
speak later. Mrs. Fake held the position of Librarian from April 10th
, 1883, to
, 1889. From October, 1889, to September, 1897, Mrs. Charles B.
Smith, also an old resident of Chicago, was Librarian, at the expiration of which time
Miss Bertha Stewart Ludlam assumed charge and is still acting, only three Librarians to
date having been appointed.
It would seem appropriate here to speak further of the work of Mrs.
Fake and Mrs. Smith, both of whom were intimately connected for years with the growth of
the Library and the town. Mrs. Fake, with Mr. Dotys able help, selected, catalogued,
and inaugurated at that time an absolutely up-to-date efficient Library and for a long
period of time thereafter conducted and graced most ably the center of the literary life
of this vicinity. Later Mrs. Smith took up the work, first with Mrs. Fake and then alone,
and as the years went by drew the varied interests of the town more and more to the
Library. For instance; here met monthly for years the Womans Union of Pullman, a
charitable society, with Mrs. Smith as President; The Boys Provident Club, organized
and assisted by the late Mr. Henry H. Sessions; The Pullman Whist Club; all kinds of
University extension classes for the study of various languages, English literature and
United States history; painting and china decoration classes; Girls Reading Clubs;
The Library Study Club, etc.
It is of noteworthy interest to mention here the Worlds Fair of
Chicago, which brought hundreds of eminent people from all over the world to visit the
then Model Town of Pullman. It was during the summer of 1893 that Mrs. Smith
received at the Library the Pan American Congress, crowned heads and representative men of
almost every nation on the face of the globe and for three months held one vast reception
of prominent and noteworthy people of all nationalities. A register of visiting signatures
was kept for many years in the Library and this is perhaps the most interesting and
valuable thing now in its possession.
Throughout a long period of years the Librarian annually
arranged an entertainment for the benefit of the Library and to swell the book buying
fund. These were usually given in the Arcade Theatre and proved quite the most pretentious
entertainments ever given in Pullman. They consisted of illustrated lectures, musical and
literary entertainments, amateur theatricals, drills, etc. At one time Miss Florence
Pullman, now Mrs. Frank O. Lowden, interested the society young people of Chicago to come
out to Pullman and give an entertainment, which proved one of the social events of Chicago
that winter. Again Mrs. Fake, upon her return from a six months sojourn in the
Orient, gave a lecture on Japan and many times Mr. J. F. Hostrawser and his famous Pullman
Band, which later became the First Regiment Band of Chicago, donated their services for
(To Be Continued Next Issue)
Extracted from The
, October 19, 1917
A few of the different
assistants in the work here should be mentioned in this history as having been connected
with the Library for long periods of time. They are:
Miss Edith Doty, now Mrs. Fred Wild of Pullman.
Miss Minnie Pogue, now Dr. Pogue of Wheaton,
Miss Isabel Ludlam, now Mrs. George C. How
Miss Luella Hewitt, now living in Elgin,
Miss Rhoda Hiestand, now Mrs. Herbert Howes
Miss Caroline Mott and Miss Freda Grapes.
The last two mentioned being of the Library staff at present. Miss Mott in the work with
Miss Ludlam, and Miss Grapes as evening librarian. Miss Mott has been here since May,
1908, and Miss Grapes for the past three yearsformerly as page and desk assistant
after school hours and as evening librarian since January 1, 1917.
After Mr. Pullmans death, October 19, 1897, the Pullman
Company continued to run the Library until January 1, 1908, when Mrs. George M. Pullman
assumed the financial responsibilities. About this time Mrs. Pullman purchased the Arcade
Building and it was arranged that she would give us the rent of our rooms, heat and
janitor service free, in addition to an annual sum for the running expenses.
At Mrs. Pullmans request a Library Executive Committee
was organized, she not desiring any further responsibility, and the following citizens of
Pullman were asked to serve as members on this Board:
Mr. Ellis Morris, Chairman.
Mr. D. R. Martin.
Miss Louise M. Vosburgh.
Miss Abigail M. Hunt.
Dr. John McLean.
From time to time since then the personnel of the committee has
changed, though at this time Mr. Morris is still chairman. It is with sincere regret that
we recall the death of two very active membersMiss Louise M. Vosburgh and Miss Grace
R. Barbour, both of whom for many years were untiring in their efforts to assist in all
library progress and with the cooperation between the Library and the schools.
Mrs. Pullmans expressed wish that the card membership fee
remain the same as during her husbands lifetime was adhered to for the first six
months after the establishment of the new regime, when it became apparent to all that the
day of library membership fees had past [sic] and that if this library was to grow to
greater usefulness in this vicinity it should be made a free as well as a public library.
For some time previous to this the librarian and the members of the committee, observing
the free circulation of books in every community throughout the United States, made
possible by the endowment of Carnegie libraries in all sections of the country, at last
persuaded Mrs. Pullman to allow them to try the experiment here, and thus it was that the
Pullman Public Library was made the Pullman Public Free Library July 1, 1908, and has
remained so ever since.
The maintenance of the Library has always been understood to
rest upon the use made of its advantages by the people themselves and those who may care
to go into that in detail may do so by consulting the monthly and yearly report on file,
both with Mr. Morris and in the Library.
It was April 1, 1912, that a recataloguing of the Library was
commenced, a task that took the entire services of an expert cataloguer, Miss Ann White,
of Chicago, together with the help of Miss Mott and Miss Ludlam, fifteen months to
accomplish. This was entered upon with a full realization of the inadequacy of the old
cataloguing system, established years before and prior to the great progress library
economy has made in the last fifteen years or more. The volumes recatalogued were 9,289,
and 3,460 were discarded, as they were considered out of date, lost, undesirable, or too
much worn to be retained upon the shelves. At the present writing there are 8,893 volumes
in the Library. After the completion of the cataloguing work and to create greater
interest in the Library and acquaint the people with the new cataloguing system, an
entertainment and reception was given on the evening of November 21, 1913, invitations
being sent out to all our adult and high school members. It was estimated that about one
hundred and fifty people attended and the occasion was pronounced an enjoyable affair. Mr.
Ellis Morris presided and able addresses were made by Mr. Carl Roden, assistant librarian
of the Chicago Public Library; Miss Mary Ahern, editor Public Libraries; Miss
Irene Warren, Librarian School of Education of the University of Chicago, and by Prof. L.
G. Weld, principal Pullman Free School of Manual Training, at that time about to be
erected in Pullman. Music was rendered by Mrs. H. L. Lucas and Miss Mabel Lee. Mrs. George
M. Pullman, Mrs. Frederick L. Fake and Mrs. Charles B. Smith were the guests of honor,
while all the members of the committee and the Library staff were present to receive and
to answer questions regarding the new cataloguing system.
The next step of special importance in this history is the
establishment of a branch of our Library, which was opened April 24th
year in the office of the Brass Finishing Department of the Pullman car works. This is
known as Branch No. 1, and should the demand be great enough other branches
will be opened from time to time. It is hoped in this way to interest the workmen in
standard technical books and reading of all kinds and to bring about greater cooperation
between the shops and the Library.
This brings our Library history up to date, but it cannot be
closed without a formal expression of appreciation of the untiring work and interest of
the various members of the Executive Committee who have unremittingly lent their efforts
and help to the maintenance of the Library in this vicinity for varied lengths of time,
some from the beginning to the present date.
The present Executive Committee is as follows:
- Mr. Ellis Morris, Chairman.
- Dr. John McLean.
- Miss Abigail M. Hunt.
- Miss Harriett Sayers.
- Dr. L. G. Weld.
- Mr. D. R. Martin.
- Mr. E. E. Thompson.
- Mr. Frederick Moerl.