Sandburg's Hometown

October 28, 2013

Reed Organ

The Front Room

By Barbara Schock

The Front Room in the August Sandburg home on Berrien Street was always called that. It was a room for entertaining friends and family. It also contained the best furniture. The Sandburgs never called it the parlor as the wealthier families did who lived to the north of Main Street.

 Over the years the Sandburgs added more furnishings to the room. The chairs were of wood with cane seats. The children tried very hard to avoid causing scratches on the dark, smooth wood. A marble top table was placed in the center of the room. On it was a large family Bible with gilt lettering and embossed designs on the cover. August Sandburg paid $6.50 for the Bible (more than $165 in today’s money). The book was too heavy to hold while reading it.

 For lighting a kerosene lamp sat on a side table. It had a white globe over the chimney and cast a softer light than other lamps used in the home. A haircloth sofa was added to the room one year.

 When Mary Sandburg was in high school a reed organ was delivered and placed in the front room. Pedals at the base of the instrument provided the power to vibrate the reeds and make music. The keyboard was limited in size and there may have been a few stops to change the sound.

 The salesman who delivered the new organ played “The Fisher Maiden” for the family. The song was written by Franz Schubert in 1828 based on a poem by Heinrich Heine. It tells the story of a young man who tries to win a girl by comparing his heart and the sea. Before long Mary was playing chords and learning songs to accompany her singing. The children occasionally heard their father playing chords on the organ. He seemed to be very pleased with the purchase.

 The Front Room also had carpet on the floor. It wasn’t a fancy patterned carpet. A layer of straw was put under the carpet before it was tacked to the floor at the edges of the room. Every couple of years Clara Sandburg would ask her sons Carl and Martin to take up the carpet. They took it outside, hung it over the clothes line and beat the dust out of it. There were wire beaters used just for the purpose. A fresh layer of straw was scattered on the floor and the carpet was tacked in place again.

 There was no heating stove in the Front Room. The door between the kitchen and the front room was opened to allow some heat to pass through.

 Martin Sandburg took manual training in high school. He chose to make a bookcase for his class project. The completed bookcase was added to the front room. Gradually, the family’s collection of books began to fill the shelves.

 The Sandburgs lived frugally, saved their pennies and eventually furnished the Front Room in the style of a middle-class family in the late nineteenth century.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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