YOUNG MOTHER AND HER TWO CHILDREN IN PULLMAN, ILLINOIS (PORTRAIT BY PULLMAN COMPANY PHOTOGRAPHER)

FAMILY FRONT

A young mother and her two children pose for their portrait at the Johnson studio in Pullman, Illinois. It is interesting that the children are not in closer proximity to their mother. The distance may be due to the photographer’s direction or perhaps a more intimate pose was not part of this family’s makeup. Mom seems disconnected from her kids. The child furthest back in the image does have his hand lightly resting on his mom’s shoulder. Mom is wearing a pretty patterned dress and a wonderful hat. She is looking at the camera in an untrusting manner. One must also consider the possibility that the woman in this picture is actually the children’s older sister and not their mother. There is no information available to clarify this family’s constellation. The photographer of  this cabinet card, Thomas S. Johnson,  has an interesting biography which is very much connected to the history of the town of Pullman. Johnson was born in Chicago in 1850.He was raised on a farm in Thornton, Illinois. At the age of fifteen he attended Chicago University. He studied there until 1867. He then studied painting for a short time but in 1869 became a photographer. He married E. I. A. Fortier in 1874. She died in 1877 and he returned to farming. In 1879, while in Thornton, he reentered the field of photography. In 1880 he moved his business to Crete, Illinois and by 1882 established his business in Pullman. In 1881 he married Mary C. Whalen of Indiana. In Pullman, Johnson worked for George Pullman and he was tasked with using his photography skills to document Pullman’s factory, town and workers. Thomas Johnson was the first known photographer hired by Pullman to photograph his town and railcars. A number of photographers besides Johnson worked in the same capacity on a part time basis. Johnson published a book about Pullman; “Picturesque Pullman”. Obviously, Pullman, Illinois was named after George Pullman. The community was located in the south side of Chicago. It was built in the 1880’s by Pullman to provide housing for the employees of his company, “The Pullman Royal Palace Car Company”. The business manufactured railcars. Pullman created behavioral standards that residents of his houses had to meet in order to live in the houses that he rented to them.

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