Sandburg's Hometown

August 18, 2014

Late 19th century temperance movement poster

Alcoholic Beverages

by Barbara Schock

One of the many jobs Carl Sandburg held during his youth was cleaning the drugstore owned by Harvey A. Craig at 324 East Main Street. He arrived at 7:00 in the morning to sweep the floors, chamois fingerprints off the glass showcases and re-fill bottles of medicine, including various kinds of spirits. Large containers of chemicals were stored in the basement. There were also barrels of port, claret, whiskey and rum. Carl's job was to put the contents into smaller containers for the druggist to dispense.

Carl tasted some of Harvey Craig's inventory. The port tasted better than he expected. Whiskey didn't appeal to him, but there was some twenty-year-old rum that was “as grand and insinuating” as could be. He allowed himself only “a half-mouthful” per day.

Sandburg came from a family of abstainers with one exception. His father August would purchase a pint of grain alcohol at the beginning of winter. After a hard day's work in the railroad blacksmith shop he would put a teaspoon of the alcohol into his coffee and enjoy every sip. The bottle was made to last until spring. The Sandburg, the Krans and the Holmes families had better uses for their money than buying alcohol.

Carl had taken a pledge at the Mission Sunday School to never drink intoxicating beverages. Like the other children, he may not have understood all the words used in the pledge. Even though he tasted Dr. Craig's intoxicating beverages, Carl was still concerned about what they could do to him. He remembered the lessons of his grade school teacher describing the ruinous things alcohol could do to one's body.

Galesburg was established as a “dry” town from the very beginning in 1837. The founders were temperance people. They insisted that every deed for a parcel of real estate include a clause prohibiting alcohol in any form.

The sale of liquor in Galesburg was not licensed until1872. When Knox County was formed in 1830, the first tax it levied was for a liquor license. In those days whiskey and hard cider were the drinks of choice.

By the 1880s there were thirty saloons in the city. There were no saloons located on Main Street. An effort was made by the city fathers to keep the taverns out of the sight of people going to church. The elite of the community did not drink at home or at social events, although there were a few who spiked the punch at their New Year's Eve parties. The town wavered back and forth over the regulation of the sale of alcohol a number of times, depending upon who had been elected as mayor and members of the city council.

Those wishing to hide their drinking, purchased alcohol at the several drugstores on Main Street. They even went so far as to acquire a doctor's prescription. It was considered a stimulant which helped with some health conditions. It was alleged some druggists would sell the product out of the back door, even on Sundays.

Women were against drinking alcoholic beverages of any kind. They knew that husbands and fathers who drank to excess deprived their families of food and other necessities. In 1914, shortly before the First World War began, women in Galesburg were allowed to vote for the first time on an issue of public policy. They overwhelming cast their votes against licensing the sale of alcohol by the drink. The town would stay “dry” until the end of Prohibition in 1933.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
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