Pullman Porter
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Basic Information

A Pullman Porter was a railway porter and steward working for the iconic Pullman passenger company on the railways of America roughly between the 1860s to the 1960s … which was arguably the golden era for American passenger rail. If a Pullman train was a hotel on wheels, then the porters were its domestic and room service crews, its kitchen and wait staff and its bellhops, responsible for the care and feeding of a passenger from their embarkation to their delivery at their destination. Where Pullman did not operate their own trains, their branding was so strong that they often subcontracted services to other companies, making the experience that bit more universal.

An interesting feature of the Pullman company was that the vast majority of its staff were black men - in an era where it was hard for a black man to find "genteel" work, or indeed much outside manual labour. Given the era, management were - especially in the early years - entirely white, but even that was changing in later days and eventually Pullman porters were to play a significant role in the US Civil Rights movement, partly as a network of couriers and organisers and partly, as literate, well spoken men, as figureheads and representatives. These demographics were at least partially a result of the company founder George Pullman availing himself of the large numbers of "domestic servants" left, for want of a better word, unemployed following their emancipation at the end of the American Civil War.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Anyone crossing the US in the golden era of rail is likely to meet these men.
  • Like most domestic servants, they are almost invisible in context and see and overhear a great deal - being able to recruit them to your cause could be very useful for a spy or investigator.
  • As noted, it's a good background for a black American PC in the right era (which would include the Cthulhu mythos core years around the 1920s) … still a hard row to hoe, but might at least grant the skills necessary to move amongst white people without being immediately challenged.
  • The whole Ex-slave thing could be relevant - especially if a Southern gentleman has a nasty accident on a Pullman train in the late C19. Even if it's not an ex-slave taking revenge, someone is likely to try and wipe the blame off on the porters and many courts were not exactly fastidious when presented with an easy scapegoat. The company could swing either way depending on the requirements of plot.
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