Sandburg's Hometown

April 7, 2014

August Sandburg (1845-1909), Carl Sandburg's father

A Father's Face
by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg’s father August was of average height and weight. His hair was black and his eyes were almost as dark. His hands were thick with calluses from hard work. When he came home from the blacksmith’s shop at the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, he used three changes of cistern water to remove the dirt and grime from the creases in his hands and around his neck.

August Sandburg enjoyed hard work. He averaged about four hours per day of “free time” after his job. He used it to improve his home, to visit with relatives, to play a little music on the accordion and, in season, to plant a garden.

His was a sober life. He didn’t go to saloons. He didn’t swear, He didn’t gamble. He paid his debts. He didn’t praise his children, but he did play with them when they were babies. They called him “Papa.” He went to church and read the Bible. He was loyal to the Republican party. He did little to improve his accent, but he knew how to pronounce properly the words used in his work.

The elder Sandburg liked investing in property, improving it and selling it for a profit. After retiring from the railroad shop, he made more money as a handyman than he had earned at the C.B.&Q.

The brothers Carl and Martin watched their father shave at the kitchen sink. Every three days August would lather his face and use a straight razor to remove the growth of beard. The boys were fascinated by the grimaces their father made when shaving the different parts of his face. He left just a small tuft of hair on his chin. He didn’t wear sideburns or a long beard like other men of the time. He didn’t flaunt his facial hair, but he did express a certain individuality.

In 1909 August was trimming a tree in his backyard. A limb fell and broke his right arm. Splints were applied by a doctor and August was put to bed to rest and recover. Pneumonia overtook him. He was sixty-four years old.

In his autobiography, Carl Sandburg wrote “No glory of any kind ever came to him.” His obituary appeared in the Galesburg newspaper–it gave his name as Andrew rather than August.

The ambitions of August Sandburg were few, but sincere. He wanted a good day’s work with enough pay to support his family. He intended to do his work better each time. He avoided any activities which might have harmed his good name. He wanted to provide for his family.

There was a fundamental conflict between father and son. August saw life as work and responsibility in a specific place among people of his own kind. The son suspected there was more to life than manual labor, and familiarity with place and people. There was a larger world in books, places and people with whom to become acquainted and get to know. There might be a chance to be a writer. August Sandburg didn’t understand how that kind of job could provide a reasonable income.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity