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George Mortimer Pullman, nineteenth century marketer

Jacqueline Botterill (Communication, Popular Culture and Film, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 9 December 2019

Issue publication date: 14 August 2020




George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897), nineteenth century US luxury rail car entrepreneur, divides opinion. Some commemorate Pullman as a brilliant industrialist, innovator and self-made man. Others view him as a loathsome robber baron, union buster, racist and affront to democracy. This paper aims to demonstrate Pullman’s significant contribution to marketing.


Historical accounts of Pullman are re-examined to highlight his company’s unique adaptation of numerous marketing techniques (consumer research, brand strategy, public relations, product launch, fashion cycle, advertising, product placement and customer service marketing).


Pullman’s distinct flair for understanding his market enabled him to develop marketing strategies intertwined with broader cultural changes in ideals and practices. Pullman’s construction of destination tourism met an expanding white middle class desire for recreation and escape from the economic and racial inequality of the city. Pullman’s creed that beauty acted as a civilizing agent spoke to the social norms of leisure class femininity. Constant release of ever-grander rail cars shaped a fashion cycle around which wealthy men’s status competition turned. Pullman pioneered the leasing of luxury to control his best asset: the service of black Porters’.


First, this paper provides a new perspective on George Pullman, a significant figure in US history. Second, it addresses a common bias in nineteenth century historical accounts that privilege the contribution of men, industrial labor and production and shadow the role of consumption, women and leisure. Third, it challenges the idea of a clean divide between industrial and post-industrial economies by tracing contemporary consumer culture practices to their nineteenth century roots (marketing, destination tourism, brand stories, democratization of fashion, tipping and service with a smile).



Botterill, J. (2020), "George Mortimer Pullman, nineteenth century marketer", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 305-322.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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