Are you traveling somewhere for the holidays? Take a moment to relax and imagine yourself in some of the more ideal accommodations from Pullman State Historic Site as found in their vintage advertisements from The Saturday Evening Post and National Geographic. The Pullman State Historic Site collection includes nearly 5,000 digitized items from the Pullman Historic Site, the former planned industrial community that specialized in luxury sleeper cars, providing a unique lens into a very intentional joining of civic and everyday life and manufacturing.
Far before the Midwest bloc was referred to as “fly-over country”, Pullman cars contributed to a modernized image of the prairie, consistently promoting a “comfortable, convenient, and safe” alternative to cramped travel. In her recent book The Heartland: An American History Kristin Hoganson argues that “The heartland myth insists that there is a stone-solid core at the center of the nation,” which is isolationist, resistant to change, and geographically static. These advertisements directly support that argument representing a historic change of persisting economic growth in the Midwest’s legacy of movement, migration, and seizure.
The Pullman advertisements’ specific brand of modernism and modernizing travel depicts spacious, comfortable cars that are conducive for individual and family travel, and suitable even for silent-film star Gloria Swanson. Compare her experience to your probable one on the road, or in the air this Thanksgiving.
I personally really love the grid system that gets repeated in these advertisements, that build out the entire Pullman itinerary, including the “Short Lesson in Anatomy”.