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Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg

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Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois on 6th January, 1878. Sandburg's parents, August and Clara Anderson Sandburg, were Swedish immigrants and at the age of thirteen left school and found work as a labourer. He also worked as a bricklayer and a truck driver.

In 1897 Sandburg became a hobo. Has one biographer has pointed out: "His experiences working and traveling greatly influenced his writing and political views. As a hobo he learned a number of folk songs, which he later performed at speaking engagements. He saw first-hand the sharp contrast between rich and poor, a dichotomy that instilled in him a distrust of capitalism."

After fighting in the Spanish-American War he returned to Galesburg and studied at Lombard College while working as a fireman. He joined the Poor Writers' Club, a literary organization formed by Lombard professor Philip Green Wright. Members met to read and criticize each other's work and Wright immediately recognized Sandburg's talent and encouraged him to continue to write. Wright paid for the publication of Sandburg's first volume of poetry, Reckless Ecstasy, in 1904.

After college, Sandburg moved to Wisconsin, where he worked as an advertising writer. By this time Sandburg was a committed socialist and in 1907 he met Lilian Steichen, the sister of the photographer Edward Steichen, at the Social Democratic Party office. They married the following year and over the next few years Lilian (he called her Paula) gave birth to three daughters (Margaret, Janet, and Helga). Sandburg was also district organizer of the American Socialist Party and in 1910 became secretary to Emil Seidel, the socialist mayor of Milwaukee.

Sandburg became a freelance journalist and eventually was employed by the Chicago Daily News where he met another aspiring writer, Ben Hecht. Other friends during this period included Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Edgar Lee Masters. He also produced articles for the International Socialist Review, a journal published by Charles Hope Kerr in Chicago.

In 1911 E. W. Scripps decided to publish a newspaper that was completely free of advertising. The tabloid-sized newspaper was called The Day Book, and at a penny a copy, it aimed for a working-class market, crusading for higher wages, more unions, safer factories, lower streetcar fares, and women’s right to vote. It also tackled the important stories ignored by most other dailies. Carl Sandburg was employed by Scripps in 1913. As a socialist, Sandburg enjoyed working for the The Day Book. According to Duane C. S. Stoltzfus, the author of Freedom from Advertising (2007): "The Day Book served as an important ally of workers, a keen watchdog on advertisers, and it redefined news by providing an example of a paper that treated its readers first as citizens with rights rather than simply as consumers." The newspaper ceased publication in 1917.

Sandburg also contributed poems and articles to The Masses, a socialist journal edited by Max Eastman and run by a co-operative of radical writers and artists. Other members of the group included Floyd Dell, John Reed, William Walling, Sherwood Anderson, Upton Sinclair, Michael Gold, Amy Lowell, Louise Bryant, John Sloan, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, K. R. Chamberlain, Stuart Davis, Lydia Gibson, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.

Sandburg's reputation as a major poet was established in 1916 with the publication of Chicago Poems. The book, with its urban themes and Sandburg's use of colloquialism, heralded a new development in American poetry. Sandburg produced several collections of poems over the next fifteen years including Cornhuskers (1918), Smoke and Steel (1920), Slabs of the Sunburnt West (1922) and Good Morning, America (1928).

As well as his poetry, Sandburg is known for series of books on the life of Abraham Lincoln. This included Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926), a book for children, Abe Lincoln Grows Up (1928), Mary Lincoln: Wife and Widow (1932) and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939). This work won a Pulitzer Prize as did his Complete Poems (1950). Other books include the novel, Remembrance Rock (1948) and an autobiography of his early life, Always the Young Strangers (1952).

Sandburg continued to write poetry and some critics believe that Honey and Salt (1963) published when the author was 85, contains some of his best work.

Carl Sandburg died on 22nd July, 1967.

Thru a steel cage door of the Cook county jail, Big Bill Haywood today spoke the defiance of the Industrial Workers of the World to its enemies and captors.

Bill didn't pound on the door, shake the iron clamps nor ask for pity nor make any kind of a play as a hero. He peered thru the square holes of the steel slats and talked in the even voice of a poker player who may or may not hold a winning hand. It was the voice of a man who sleeps well, digests what he eats, and requires neither sedatives to soothe him nor simulants to stir him up.

The man accused of participation in 10,000 separate and distinct crimes lifted a face checkered by the steel lattice work and said with a slow smile: "Hello, I'm glad to see you. Do you know when they're going to bring the rest of the boys here? We'd like to have them from all over the country together here. It would be homelike for us all to be together."

He was asked about the 10,000 criminal offenses of which the I. is accused.

"I don't see where they can scrape up 10,000 offenses unless they claim that we circulated 10,000 copies of Pouget's book on sabotage." This with a half smile, and then more intensely:

"Ten thousand crimes! If they can make the American public or any fair minded jury believe that, I don't see how they'll do it. Why, they can't put their fingers on one single place where we have hampered the government in carrying on the war.

"The I. has done nothing on the war one way or another. It is true we have called strikes, but they were not aimed at stopping the war. Look! In one industry where a strike was called they could have paid workmen $10 a day and then made fat profits. The I. has been fighting and will keep on fighting for higher wages to pay for a higher cost of living.

"Eggs awhile ago were two for a nickel. Now they're a nickel apiece. A porkchop costs double what it used to. It takes a week's pay of a lumberjack to buy a wool shirt."

"Thousands of married men with families belong to the I. Milk has gone up for them. At 13 cents a quart they can't buy milk for their babies unless they get more money as wages. Read the testimony federal investigators took up in the Mesaba range. It's conditions and not philosophy that makes the I. W."

The checkered face in the steel slats and electric light kept a perfect calm. Where LaFollette is explosive and Mayor Thompson overplausible and grievous, Haywood takes it easy. He discusses the alleged 10,000 crimes with the massive leisure of Hippo Vaughn pitching a shut-out.

"You are charged with burning wheat fields," he was reminded.

"I deny it absolutely. Why should workmen burn up their own employment? They would be fools."

"You are accused of driving spikes into spruce trees needed for war airplanes."

"Deny it absolutely. And get this, boy: Not a dirty German dollar has ever come into our hands that we know of. Go back thru our speeches and literature and you will find that a year ago, two years ago and before the war ever started we were in favor of slashing the kaiser's throat. Every dollar we've got now and every dollar the organization will get comes from workingmen."

Woman of a million names and a thousand faces,

I looked for you over the earth and under the sky.

I sought you in passing processions

On old multitudinous highways

Where mask and phantom and life go by.

In roaming and roving, from prairie to sea,

From city to wilderness, fighting and praying,

I looked.

Dusty and wayward, I was the soldier,

Long-sentinelled, pacing the night,

Who heard your voice in the breeze nocturnal,

Who saw in the pine shadows your hair,

Who touched in the flicker of vibrant stars

Your soul!

When I saw you, I knew you as you knew me.

We had known far back in the eons

When hills were dust and the sea a mist.

And toil is a trifle and struggle a glory

With You, and ruin and death but fancies,

Woman of a million names and a thousand faces.

I met Carl Sandburg, and he read some of his poems from manuscript. They were all impressionistic, misty, soft-outlined, delicate; I remember liking particularly the one about the fog that "comes on little cat feet". Carl Sandburg had not struck yet the note he was soon to strike in Chicago Poems.

History + Highballs: A Walk in the Woods with Carl Sandburg

Don’t let National Poetry Month end without this virtual evening of prose and storytelling from the world of American poet, biographer, journalist, civil rights activist, and musician Carl Sandburg. Sandburg called Flat Rock (Henderson County) home from 1945 until his death in 1967, living with his family at the 245-acre farm known as Connemara.

The evening will begin with Oursler reading Sandburg’s poem, “I Am the People, the Mob.” Flanagan will then present some history about the Sandburg home—which was known by its original owner, Christopher Memminger, as Rock Hill. Her stories will be followed by Carlisle’s more intimate view into the relationship and lives of the Sandburgs—Carl and his wife, Lilian Steichen “Paula” Sandburg. Oursler will end the evening with a reading of her award-winning poem, “When Dreams Are Overrun.”

Flanagan recently served as president of Historic Flat Rock Inc. and is a passionate proponent of all things Flat Rock. Carlisle enjoyed a career in theatre, film, and television that spanned more than 30 years and included off-Broadway performances, work with Charles Nelson Reilly and the National Shakespeare Company, and tours with shows in schools and theaters across the country, as well as roles in several soap operas and prime-time programs. The Flat Rock resident retired from Western Carolina University in 2013. He wrote The Sandburgs of Connamara, a one-act play comprised of 12 vignettes depicting the Sandburgs from 1945 until 1967 his brother, Michael, created the play’s score and its three songs. Oursler is a Flat Rock poet who won the 2018 Carl Sandburg Student Poetry Contest.

Two of Carl Sandburg's books, Chicago Poems , and The Chicago Race Riots , are available at the Museum Shop! You can order them here.

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878. His parents, August and Clara Johnson, had emigrated to America from the north of Sweden. After encountering several August Johnsons in his job for the railroad, the Sandburg's father renamed the family. The Sandburgs were very poor Carl left school at the age of thirteen to work odd jobs, from laying bricks to dishwashing, to help support his family. At seventeen, he traveled west to Kansas as a hobo. He then served eight months in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war. While serving, Sandburg met a student at Lombard College, the small school located in Sandburg's hometown. The young man convinced Sandburg to enroll in Lombard after his return from the war.

Sandburg worked his way through school, where he attracted the attention of Professor Philip Green Wright, who not only encouraged Sandburg's writing, but paid for the publication of his first volume of poetry, a pamphlet called Reckless Ecstasy (1904). While Sandburg attended Lombard for four years, he never received a diploma (he would later receive honorary degrees from Lombard, Knox College, and Northwestern University). After college, Sandburg moved to Milwaukee, where he worked as an advertising writer and a newspaper reporter. While there, he met and married Lillian Steichen (whom he called Paula), sister of the photographer Edward Steichen. A Socialist sympathizer at that point in his life, Sandburg then worked for the Social-Democrat Party in Wisconsin and later acted as secretary to the first Socialist mayor of Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912.

The Sandburgs soon moved to Chicago, where Carl became an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News. Harriet Monroe had just started Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, and began publishing Sandburg's poems, encouraging him to continue writing in the free-verse, Whitman-like style he had cultivated in college. Monroe liked the poems' homely speech, which distinguished Sandburg from his predecessors. It was during this period that Sandburg was recognized as a member of the Chicago literary renaissance, which included Ben Hecht, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Edgar Lee Masters. He established his reputation with Chicago Poems (1916), and then Cornhuskers (1918), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1919. Soon after the publication of these volumes Sandburg wrote Smoke and Steel (1920), his first prolonged attempt to find beauty in modern industrialism. With these three volumes, Sandburg became known for his free verse poems that portrayed industrial America.

In the twenties, he started some of his most ambitious projects, including his study of Abraham Lincoln. From childhood, Sandburg loved and admired the legacy of President Lincoln. For thirty years he sought out and collected material, and gradually began the writing of the six-volume definitive biography of the former president. The twenties also saw Sandburg's collections of American folklore, the ballads in The American Songbag and The New American Songbag (1950), and books for children. These later volumes contained pieces collected from brief tours across America which Sandburg took each year, playing his banjo or guitar, singing folk-songs, and reciting poems.

In the 1930s, Sandburg continued his celebration of America with Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow (1932), The People, Yes (1936), and the second part of his Lincoln biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He received a second Pulitzer Prize for his Complete Poems in 1950. His final volumes of verse were Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960) and Honey and Salt (1963). Carl Sandburg died on July 22, 1967.

Sandburg was inducted to the American Poets' Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 2018.

Carl Sandburg - History

Note: The photo below is from Stan's 91st birthday last year taken by J. Michael Hobbs.

S tanford Shover, former board member of the Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association. Stan was passionate about all things Carl Sandburg. Much of the success of the Penny Parades in the last decade can be attributed to the seeds he sowed within the Abingdon community to support the Sandburg State Historic Site. Thank you Stan, for a life well-lived.

Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association

P.O. Box 585 | 313 E. Third St. | Galesburg, Illinois 61402-0585 | 309-342-2361

Dusty Scott (2017) - Acrylic on canvas
(W ith permission of the artist-To see full image click on the image above)

Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association
P.O. Box 585
313 E. Third St.
Galesburg, Illinois 61402-0585

The Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association is a
501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Donations and contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

The Carl Sandburg State Historic Site
OPEN for Visitors

We are pleased to announce that Carl Sandburg State Historic Site has reopened as of Thursday, January 28, 2021. A mask is required for entry. Groups will be limited to 10 people or less at a time.

Hours of operation for the Visitor's Center and Sandburg Family Cottage will be

Thur, Fri, Sun 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Saturdays 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

We look forward to welcoming visitors back!
Questions about the new hours can be directed to Site Services Specialist II Bryan Engelbrecht at Bishop Hill State Historic Site by calling (309) 927-3345 or emailing: [email protected]


The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has revised access to most Illinois State Historic Sites due to concerns related to COVID-19 virus.

March 23rd presentation with Prof. Lawrence Webb
Due to unfortunate circumstances, we have had to cancel the event with Professor Webb. We hope to reschedule in the future — keep an eye out here or at galesburglibrary.org for more information.

Annual Day of Giving (December 1, 2020)

Many thanks to those of you generously donated to CSHSA via Facebook on the

Annual Day of Giving, Dec. 1, 2020

CSHSA received 20 donations totalling $1,010!

CSHSA Previous Fiscal Year Highlights

Thanks to the work this past Spring of the McFall Monument staff the site's Quotation Walk stepping stones have all been cleaned and raised! The project was funded through the generous support of donors to the Robert Ohlbach & the Helen "Tede" Verner Memorial Funds.

Second Sundays Sandburg Songbag Concert Series
Second Sundays of each month
Mar-Nov 2020

Sandburg Songbag Concerts
Cancelled Until Further Notice
Due to COVID-19 Precautions

Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association
Officers & Board of Directors
(as of November 10, 2020)
Pat Kane, president Erin Glasnovich
Don Moffitt, vice-pres. Mike Hobbs
Mike Panther, secretary Joey Lucero
J. Richard Sayre, treas. Nicholas Regiacorte
Andrew Chernin Seamus Reilly
Emily DuGranrut Micaela Terronez
Pamela Fox Gary Wagle
Bryan Englebrecht , ex-officio (Site Services Specialist II)

Annual Penny Parade Fundraiser

(Cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns)

The annual Penny Parade Fundraiser will begin January 6, 2020 (Carl Sandburg's birthday) and end on Thursday, April 30, 2020 (Program starts 1:00am) following Galesburg's annual Sandburg Days Festival, April 24-26, 2020. Pennies collected by our Galesburg area students will be accepted. There will be a program for the students representing their schools at the Sandburg site.

We sincerely appreciate all of the support we receive from our area schools!

Congratulations on an awesome Penny Parade 2019!

A tradition started in 1961, the Association and IDNR held the culmination of the annual Penny Parade Fundraiser or April 25. Students and the community turned in pennies and other donations collected primarily at area schools. Attendees, primarily students, participated in a variety of activities. Students from Silas Ward Elementary School presented “The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It.” Thank you to all who contributed and came to this important fundraiser!

Emcee Mike Panther, Musician Erin Glasnovich, Student presentations from several of the schools representing Hedding (Abingdon), Gale, Galesburg Christian, King, Nielson, Silas Willard, and Steele! Thanks to all!!

Penny Parade 2019 - $1,118.33 (as of 5/14/2019)

Illinois Turns 200: Galesburg Edition

Sunday, November 4 at 2:00 pm

Carl Sandburg State Historic Site

The episode explores an ongoing debate about which window Abraham Lincoln used as an exit from Knox College’s Old Main the role played by Galesburg’s founders in the Underground Railroad the Boxcar People from Mexico who worked on the rails and created a community in the early twentieth century the early career of the inventor of modern advertising Earnest Elmo Caulkins current efforts to revitalize downtown through local businesses and culture the creation of a recent community by Congolese immigrants and, of course, the life and career of poet, historian, and journalist Carl Sandburg.

Programs are free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

Featuring 8-year old Nakshatra Neeraja reciting "I Am the People"

Prior to the June 30, 2016 deadline the CSHSA raised just over $12,000 toward an endowment to support the Historic Site and the GCF has matched our efforts with the $10,000 matching grant.

This is our initial effort to start an endowment and we hope to see it grow to a point where the interest from the endowment will be significant enough to enrich the Carl Sandburg Historic Site in the future.

T he Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association
P.O. Box 585
Galesburg, IL 61402-0585

To send a donation online use the following Donate button:

Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association

P.O. Box 585
313 E. Third St.
Galesburg, Illinois 61402-0585

The Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association is a
501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Donations and contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

We have transferred a recently-acquired rare 16mm film of a 1953 interview with Carl Sandburg to DVD and are making copies available to the public. It's a perfect introduction to Carl Sandburg, his admiration for Abraham Lincoln, and what he means to America.

If you come by car or have an FM radio with you, tune to 88.7 and listen to a brief presentation about Carl Sandburg and the Historic Site. Three audio segments rotate: a short biography narrated by Rick Heath a tribute to Carl Sandburg by President Lyndon B. Johnson and Sandburg's Grammy Award-winning narration of Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait." Enjoy them all.


Slave spirituals through the blues, along with the music of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane .

May 17, 2019

Briar Road
This multi-talented group performs a unique blend of contemporary folk, blues, jazz and original music.

Hailing from Peoria, the group plays a wide variety of Irish & Celtic music.

We are grateful to Tom Foley who is coordinating the Songbag Concert Series this year for the Association.

A donation of $5.00 per person is suggested as the door (or gate) entry fee. These door receipts go to the Songbag Concert performers to supplement a base amount paid by the Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association. If you enjoy the concert, please be generous in support of our performers.

Songbag Concert Series performers and refreshment costs are underwritten by the Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association and its members at a cost of approximately $2,500 per year. If you would like to support the Songbag Concert Series, become a member of the Association, and/or feel free to make a donation to the Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association, PO Box 585, Galesburg, IL 61402-0585.

The home where poet and author Carl Sandburg was born and its adjacent grounds containing a park and garden are located at 331 East Third Street on the south side of Galesburg, Illinois. Click here for a map and access to directions.

Next door is the Visitor's Center. It contains a museum, a museum shop, a small theater where several informative videos about Carl Sandburg are shown and a renovated "barn" which is actually a small theatre with a few more exhibits and where live performances are often held. The museum contains hundreds of artifacts and modern colorful displays appropriate for all ages.

The Carl Sandburg Historic Site is supported by the State of Illinois and the nonprofit Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association. The Association sponsors and participates in many activities throughout the year to honor and remember Carl Sandburg. These include the "Penny Parade" which brings schoolchildren to the site to have fun while learning about Galesburg's most famous son. The Association is a participating sponsor of the Sandburg Days Festival For The Mind held each April. It hosts the Songbag Concert Series of folk music concerts (and sometimes other genres) held inside the Visitor's Center "Barn" theatre in the fall, winter and spring. Details of upcoming concerts are also available on the CSHSA Website. The Association meets at 7pm on the second Tuesday of each month in the Visitors' Center. Guests and interested visitors are always welcome.

The Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association planned and funded a perennial garden and quotation walk in the back yard. The plantings are appropriate to Sandburg's era and surround Remembrance Rock, where the ashes of Carl Sandburg, his wife, Lilian, and two daughters, Margaret and Janet, are buried.

Carl Sandburg - History

Carl Sandburg's Biography
1878 - 1967

Author-poet Carl Sandburg was born in the three-room cottage at 313 East Third Street in Galesburg on January 6, 1878. The modest house, which is maintained by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, reflects the typical living conditions of a late nineteenth century working-class family. Many of the furnishings once belonged to the Sandburg family. Behind the home stands a small wooded park. There, beneath Remembrance Rock, lie the ashes of Carl Sandburg, who died in 1967.

Early Years

Carl August Sandburg was born the son of Swedish immigrants August and Clara Anderson Sandburg. The elder Sandburg, a blacksmith's helper for the nearby Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, purchased the cottage in 1873. Carl, called "Charlie" by the family, was born the second of seven children in 1878. A year later the Sandburgs sold the small cottage in favor of a larger house in Galesburg.

Carl Sandburg worked from the time he was a young boy. He quit school following his graduation from eighth grade in 1891 and spent a decade working a variety of jobs. He delivered milk, harvested ice, laid bricks, threshed wheat in Kansas, and shined shoes in Galesburg's Union Hotel before traveling as a hobo in 1897.

His experiences working and traveling greatly influenced his writing and political views. As a hobo he learned a number of folk songs, which he later performed at speaking engagements. He saw first-hand the sharp contrast between rich and poor, a dichotomy that instilled in him a distrust of capitalism.

When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 Sandburg volunteered for service, and at the age of twenty was ordered to Puerto Rico, where he spent days battling only heat and mosquitoes. Upon his return to his hometown later that year, he entered Lombard College, supporting himself as a call fireman.

Sandburg's college years shaped his literary talents and political views. While at Lombard, Sandburg joined the Poor Writers' Club, an informal literary organization whose members met to read and criticize poetry. Poor Writers' founder, Lombard professor Phillip Green Wright, a talented scholar and political liberal, encouraged the talented young Sandburg.

Writer, Political Organizer, Reporter

Sandburg honed his writing skills and adopted the socialist views of his mentor before leaving school in his senior year. Sandburg sold stereoscope views and wrote poetry for two years before his first book of verse, In Reckless Ecstasy, was printed on Wright's basement press in 1904. Wright printed two more volumes for Sandburg, Incidentals (1907) and The Plaint of a Rose (1908).

As the first decade of the century wore on, Sandburg grew increasingly concerned with the plight of the American worker. In 1907 he worked as an organizer for the Wisconsin Social Democratic party, writing and distributing political pamphlets and literature. At party headquarters in Milwaukee, Sandburg met Lilian Steichen, whom he married in 1908.

The responsibilities of marriage and family prompted a career change. Sandburg returned to Illinois and took up journalism. For several years he worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, covering mostly labor issues and later writing his own feature.

Internationally Recognized Author

Sandburg was virtually unknown to the literary world when, in 1914, a group of his poems appeared in the nationally circulated Poetry magazine. Two years later his book Chicago Poems was published, and the thirty-eight-year-old author found himself on the brink of a career that would bring him international acclaim. Sandburg published another volume of poems, Cornhuskers, in 1918, and wrote a searching analysis of the 1919 Chicago race riots.

More poetry followed, along with Rootabaga Stories (1922), a book of fanciful children's tales. That book prompted Sandburg's publisher, Alfred Harcourt, to suggest a biography of Abraham Lincoln for children. Sandburg researched and wrote for three years, producing not a children's book, but a two-volume biography for adults. His Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, published in 1926, was Sandburg's first financial success. He moved to a new home on the Michigan dunes and devoted the next several years to completing four additional volumes, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Sandburg continued his prolific writing, publishing more poems, a novel, Remembrance Rock, a second volume of folk songs, and an autobiography, Always the Young Strangers. In 1945 the Sandburgs moved with their herd of prize-winning goats and thousands of books to Flat Rock, North Carolina. Sandburg's Complete Poems won him a second Pulitzer Prize in 1951. Sandburg died at his North Carolina home July 22, 1967. His ashes were returned, as he had requested, to his Galesburg birthplace. In the small Carl Sandburg Park behind the house, his ashes were placed beneath Remembrance Rock, a red granite boulder. Ten years later the ashes of his wife were placed there.

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Early Life and Poetry

Carl Sandburg was born January 6, 1878, in Galesburg, Illinois. He was educated in local schools, which he quit in his early teens to work as a laborer. He became a traveling worker, moving throughout the Midwest and developing a great appreciation for the region and its people.

After joining the Army during the Spanish-American War, Sandburg returned to his education, enrolling in a college at Galesburg. During that period he wrote his first poetry.

He worked as a journalist and as the secretary for the socialist mayor of Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912. He then moved to Chicago and took a job as an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News.

While working in journalism and politics he began writing poetry seriously, contributing to magazines. He published his first book, Chicago Poems, in 1916. Two years later he published another volume, Cornhuskers, which was followed after another two years by Smoke and Steel. A fourth volume, Slabs of the Sunburnt West, was published in 1922.

Cornhuskers was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1919. He would later be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1951, for his Complete Poems.

His early poems have been called "subliterary," as they tend to use common language and slang of the common people. With his early books he became known for his free verse that was rooted in the industrial Midwest. His plain manner of speaking and writing endeared him to the reading public and helped make him a celebrity. His poem "Fog," was known to millions of Americans, and appeared often in schoolbooks.

He had married Lillian Steichen, the sister of photographer Edward Steichen, in 1908. The couple had three daughters.

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (1878 - 1967) was a Swedish-American poet, editor, and folk song writer who earned three Pulitzer prizes. Two were for his poetry collections: Cornhuskers in 1918 (which he shared with Margaret Widdemer), and Complete Poems in 1951. In 1940, he won the Pulitzer Prize in History for his three-volume work titled, The War Years , a sequel to his biography about Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926). We feature Sandburg in Pulitzer Prize Winners.

Sandburg's wide-ranging appeal for his poems extended into popular folk songs. His anthology, American Songbag (1927) was a huge success, gaining him recognition as perhaps the first urban folk singer. His work inspired Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger , among other populist American folk singers and poets.

Raised in the small town of Galesburg, Illinois, Sandburg's wide range of work and life experiences contributed to his "corny" style of literature, creating accessible and enjoyable poems that appealed to a broad range of readers. According to President Lyndon B. Johnson : "Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America."

Fans of Carl Sandburg may also enjoy the parody poems of favorite fables and fairy tales by Guy Wetmore Carryl.

Carl Sandburg, People’s Poet

At one time, nationally-acclaimed poet Carl Sandburg was so popular in Connecticut that even his goats made the news. After his death in 1967, some of Sandburg’s herd was sold to a kennel in Washington, Connecticut. The goats– Babette, Coty, and Tenu–were eventually returned to North Carolina when Sandburg’s home became a national historic site.
Today, however, if Sandburg is known at all by the general public, it is only as the white-haired old man who strummed a guitar and dubbed Chicago the “city of big shoulders.”

Carl Sandburg was, and still is, the people’s poet. He deserves a revival, especially in Connecticut where he had so many significant ties. But the reintroduction of his work can’t be a sanitized version of the original. It must include Sandburg the authentic radical (from the Latin, “coming from the root”). His collected folk songs and performances are treasures from America’s grassroots. His poetry offers a powerful critique of economic exploitation.

Born in 1878 to Swedish immigrants, Carl Sandburg was a working class boy who never forgot his roots. His father was a blacksmith for the Chicago railroad who took part in labor causes, including strikes. Sandburg recalled these formative events and considered himself a “partisan” who “took a kind of joy in the complete justice of the strikers.” He was ten years old.

In his twenties Sandburg was a regular contributor of news and poetry to the International Socialist Review (ISR) and other prominent liberal and radical magazines. With his work for the Chicago Daily News he honed his skill as a reporter who wrote in the language of the working class.

In true muckraking tradition Sandburg exposed the 1915 Eastland steamer tragedy on Lake Michigan. The ship capsized, killing 800 workers on their way to a company picnic. Sandburg discovered that the Seamen’s union had for years protested the lack of ship safety regulations and quality inspections. He further revealed that the “picnic” was a mandatory event: you bought a ticket or you might lose your job.

The College Club of Hartford may have been the first to invite Sandburg to our state. On February 3, 1922, he performed at the Center Church House on Gold Street. His lecture was entitled “Is there a New Poetry?” (Tickets could be purchased for one dollar at Mitchell’s Book Shop around the corner from the church.) Sandburg recited “The Windy City,” which had not yet been published, and sang some of the many folk songs that eventually appeared in his collection The American Song Bag.

In January, 1932, Sandburg gave readings at Hartford’s Weaver High School, Bulkeley High and West Middle School for several thousand students, faculty and members of the public.

He spoke frequently at Wesleyan University and received an honorary degree there in 1940, the year he won his first Pulitzer Prize for Lincoln: The War Years. Sandburg shared the stage in Middletown with Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and artist Grant Wood. A few days later he was in New Haven, receiving another honor from Yale University along with New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and philosopher Paul Tillich.

The poet’s body of work was widely known and celebrated throughout the state: as each new book was published, it would immediately move up the charts at local booksellers. In November, 1948, Sandburg’s Remembrance Rock was on the fiction best-seller list of Hartford’s eight bookstores. By the 1950s Sandburg no longer toured the country, but his works were as popular as ever. In 1959, Bette Davis and her husband, actor Gary Merrill (who was born in Hartford), performed Sandburg’s work at Bushnell Memorial Hall.

“I am with all the rebels everywhere. Against all those who are satisfied,” Sandburg once wrote. As far as he was concerned, there was a straight line from the early builders of the American nation to the 20th century radicals, socialists, and unionists with whom the poet associated. “For the writing of the Lincoln I knew the Abolitionists better for having known the IWW I knew Garrison better for having known Debs,” he wrote. In Sandburg’s view, modern-day rebels would become tomorrow’s heroes.

Sandburg supported the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) and his admiration for this radical union frequently appeared in his writing. Sandburg’s first three published collections, Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920) are full of IWW references, along with sympathetic portraits of immigrants, farmers, factory workers and the poor. He considered himself “an I.W.W. without a red card.”

The notion that Sandburg’s political leanings were just a symptom of youthful rebellion is contradicted by, of all people, J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI collected intelligence on the poet for 40 years. A newspaper exposé in 1987 revealed the extent to which Hoover kept tabs on Sandburg and all his affiliations that might be “communist front” activities. Sandburg was in good company: the FBI also had files on Ernest Hemingway, Pearl Buck, William Faulkner and 130 other famous American writers. Sandburg, however, survived the 1920 Red Scare and the Joe McCarthy years, anti-communist witch hunts that ruined the careers of other artists and writers.

He earned a reputation as a political and moral compass for many people in public life. As Secretary of Welfare in the Kennedy administration, Abraham Ribicoff considered Sandburg’s Lincoln an inspiration. Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker quoted Sandburg during the Watergate hearings to encourage Richard Nixon to voluntarily testify before Congress. The Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes called Sandburg “my guiding star.”

Sandburg counted a Connecticut governor as his friend. Fellow poet and Wesleyan faculty member Wilbert Snow knew Sandburg for fifty years. Snow was elected Connecticut Lieutenant Governor in 1945. He served as governor for thirteen days when sitting governor Raymond Baldwin resigned to take his newly-elected position in the U.S. Senate. Snow said Sandburg “found poetry not among the rills and rivers of the countryside but in the smokestacks of the city.” Sandburg once told Snow that he “cried for an hour” after he finished writing his six-volume Abraham Lincoln biography. Some years after completing the Lincoln work Sandburg wrote: “Poets cry their hearts out. If they don’t they ain’t poets.”

Hartford author and poet Wallace Stevens met Sandburg in their early Chicago days. The famously reserved vice president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company so impressed Sandburg that he dedicated the poem “Arms” to Stevens. In the poem Sandburg learns that the French impressionist Renoir (who died in 1919) kept a rigorous daily schedule of painting despite arthritis that seriously crippled his hands. In the last stanza Sandburg writes that when the two poets met again “I will ask you why Renoir does it / And I believe you will tell me.” This tribute to Stevens was not published until 1993.

Sandburg described Stevens (but not by name) in a newspaper series that recorded his 1932 national lecture tour. “I sat in the home of a Business-man author (there is such an animal!) in Hartford Conn.,” Sandburg wrote. He described Stevens as “conservative in his political and economic views,” concerned about how “lady luck” dominated the fate of the middle and working class as they struggled through the Great Depression.

Is Sandburg Still Relevant?

Sandburg’s early detractors labeled his poetry “propaganda” and warned that poets had no place focusing on issues of the day. In later years, his Work was called dated, almost quaint. But there will always be ideas and events that need a poet’s anger and passion.

In December, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, twenty-six elementary students and staff were shot to death at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The killer was armed with a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle and a Glock pistol. He fired 154 bullets in five minutes.

Carl Sandburg, long dead, responded to the killings.

Just a month after the shootings, a previously unknown Sandburg poem was discovered. Found by accident at the University of Illinois, the piece is entitled “A Revolver.” It begins:

Here is a revolver. / It has an amazing language all its own. / It delivers unmistakable ultimatums. / It is the last word. / A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.

The poem ends: “And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.”

Guns, violence, and war are haunting subjects of Sandburg’s poetry. But they are balanced with the courage and hope of people forced to cope with tragedy and hard times. He writes in “The People, Yes:”

The people know the salt of the sea / and the strength of the winds / lashing the corners of the earth. / The people take the earth / as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope. / Who else speaks for the Family of Man?

We have Carl Sandburg to thank for lasting portraits of ordinary Americans, as true today as when he first introduced them to us.

Carl Sandburg - History

Lilian Sandburg was the driving force behind the Sandburg’s move from a home on the dunes of Lake Michigan to Flat Rock, North Carolina. In 1935 she took up the hobby of raising goats for milk. She eventually bred an award-winning herd and became internationally famous among those in the goat breeding business. However, the herd outgrew the Michigan property, sending Lilian on a quest to find a bigger property in a warmer climate. Carl had no objections as long as the place was quite so he could write. On a trip to North Carolina with her daughter Helga, Lilian found the Smyth house for sale and arranged for the purchase. In 1945, the family moved to their new home.

When Carl died and Lilian donated the house and furnishings to create Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, she did not include the goats (which were sold). The National Park Service has resurrected the goat farm for historical purposes, and today the herd consists of three varieties of goats, all descendants of Lilian Sandburg’s goats: Toggenburgs (tan and white), Saanens (white), and Nubians of African descent (long, floppy ears). Baby goats are born each spring, and this is one of the busiest tourist seasons at the park.

Baby goats at the Carl Sandburg Home goat barn

Visitors can roam around the entire area and can pet the goats. In addition to the animals, there are information panels and exhibits throughout the barn.

Exhibit inside the Goat Barn

Visiting time is only limited by your love for goats, but a half hour should be ample time for most people. My daughter, on the other hand, would want to spend all day there.

About Sandburg Village

Nestled quietly in the Old Town neighborhood, the nine condominium high-rises and more than 60 townhouses are home to over 8,000 residents. Located at the center of one of the most exciting and historic areas in the city nearby attractions include the “Magnificent Mile” shopping district, North Avenue Beach (known for its volleyball games), and the beautiful Lincoln Park. Transportation across Chicago (and beyond) is made easy by a number of bus lines, the CTA Red Line, and Lake Shore Drive.

Sandburg Village Living

Carl Sandburg Village offers a quiet hideaway in one of the most popular and exciting neighborhoods in the City.

The low brick wall surrounding the Village conceals its world-class amenities. What looks from the outside like a dense development is actually majority green and public space, including landscaped concourses and a village center. Amenities include two large outdoor swimming pool complexes (complete with attendants, locker rooms, and cabanas), four tennis courts, and a children’s play lot.

Completing the “village within a city” experience are an on-site dry-cleaners, doctor and dentist’s offices, hair salon, and child care facilities. The heated underground garages are essential in an otherwise difficult to park area.

Available units include two sizes of studios, generous-sized one-bedrooms, two bedrooms, and a few units with combined floor plans.

Sandburg Village History

Sandburg Village was built in the early 1960s as an urban renewal project. The goal for the development was to revitalize the Old Town neighborhood, which was perceived to be threatened by encroaching slums. The project was a runaway success. Today, Old Town is one of the most popular and prosperous neighborhoods in Chicago. A short walk around and you’ll be sure to see picturesque streets, well-maintained 19th-century mansions, and fine restaurants.

The development was named after prominent poet and writer Carl Sandburg, who blessed the project. The individual buildings were also named after esteemed American writers, including Emily Dickinson and William Faulkner.

The project was, at the time, one of the largest ever attempted. Its sheer scale and speed of completion drew experts in construction and housing from across the world. At its peak, the effort included 950 workers from 30 different trades with concrete trucks coming once per hour and pouring an average of 550 yards of concrete every day. In 1979, all rental units were converted to condos.


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