Pullman Porter's Blanket

Part of a Pullman porter's job was to make up the sleeping berths in his assigned sleeping car, and to provide extra blankets to passengers requesting them. The standard Pullman blanket in the 20th century was dyed a salmon color, which became almost a trademark of the company. When a blanket became worn or damaged in service, it was assigned to those blankets reserved for porters' use.
This wool blanket in use between the 1930s and the 1950s, was used by African American railroad porters. According to Pullman service rules, a porter's blanket was never to be given to a passenger. Ostensibly to avoid mixing these with the passengers' blankets, the porters' blankets were dyed blue. This was to comply with statutes in the South that dealt with the segregation of blacks and whites. The Pullman service rules were applied nationwide throughout the Pullman system, not just in the South. Dyeing the blanket blue made it easy to tell which blankets were used by passengers and which blankets were used by the African American porters and attendants. A dyed-blue Pullman blanket is today extremely rare, given its negative racial symbolism.
Object Name
Date made
Pullman Palace Car Company
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
wool (overall material)
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Railroad
America on the Move
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line

Visitor Comments

7/18/2013 3:55:59 PM
The pullman blanket was made at the Faribault Woolen Mill, located in Faribault MN. While apparently these blankets are no longer in official use, they are still being made and sold as reproductions of the original blanket. The Faribault Woolen Mill is still in business and thriving to this day. According to their webite, they are one of the last fully vertical woolen mills in the U.S. They start with raw wool and process it all the way to beautiful blankets. Further, most of the wool used at the plant comes from ranchers in the Western United States. Faribault Woolen Mill can still claim to produce a fully American product.
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