Sandburg's Hometown

January 6, 2014

Carl Sandburg photo

Birth of a Poet
by Barbara Schock

The weather was fairly mild for the beginning of January. The sidewalks were cleared so pedestrians could walk to businesses on Main Street. The streets were frozen ruts of mud and difficult to travel with horse-drawn conveyances.

The second child of August and Clara Sandburg was born a little after midnight on January 6, 1878. The midwife assisted with the delivery and stayed on for two days to help with the cooking and cleaning. The newborn was placed in a handmade cradle which had been occupied by his older sister Mary. His diapers were made from coarsely woven Pillsbury flour sacks. He was born on a mattress made of cotton ticking stuffed with corn husks. He would sleep on the same kind of mattress for the next ten years or so, until his family was in better financial circumstances.

This little bundle of energy and hope was named Carl August Sandburg. It took a number of years, much hardship and a lot of hard work for this boy to find his way in the world. But when he did, he achieved great success. He became world famous for his poetry and other writing; not the least of which was his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Seventy-five years later he would come back to Galesburg to celebrate his birthday. He stepped off the train from Chicago. He had been feted there by all kinds of celebrities at the Palmer House Hotel. In Galesburg he was greeted by students of English from Alexis High School. That day they had visited the little cottage on East Third Street to see the place where Carl Sandburg had been born.

Mayor Ralph B. Johnson proclaimed Sandburg Day in Galeburg to recognize the hometown boy. The next evening Sandburg gave a performance at the Central Congregational Church before 1400 people.

His newly published autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, was for sale at the O.T. Johnson Department Store. He signed several hundred copies for purchasers at the store. The book cost $5.

Always the Young Strangers gave a vivid picture of life in Galesburg in the 1880s and 1890s. Critics across the nation praised the book for its simplicity and description of ordinary life.

Now would be a good time to read the story of a poor Swede boy growing up in Galesburg, Illinois. Copies are available for purchase at the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site which is open on Saturday and Sunday through the winter. For readers far away, mail orders of the book can be filled.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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