Sandburg's Hometown

November 24, 2014

Greetings from Galesburg, Illinois - Vintage Postcard

Galesburg, Illinois

by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg called Galesburg “a piece of the American Republic” in his autobiography Always the Young Strangers. As he walked to work, read the newspapers, delivered milk or shined shoes in the Union Hotel, he heard the accents of different nationalities as well as the nasal voices of the New Englanders who founded the town. The latter owned most of the businesses, factories and large Victorian houses. Most of them voted Republican.

There was the drawl of the English and Scots-Irish who had been in this country just as long as the New Englanders. They had come by way of Kentucky and Tennessee. They voted Democratic and had done so since before the Civil War.

There were other groups who had come across the Atlantic Ocean and they spoke different languages. Swedish immigrants had come to Galesburg a decade after its founding and they kept coming for several more decades. Gradually, they became business owners and began to participate in local and state politics. Many of them had served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

The Irish came and many of their daughters became school teachers. There was only one French family in Sandburg's neighborhood. Italians arrived and began selling fruits and vegetables from handcarts. There were two Chinese men who laundered and ironed the household linens of other people.

The children of all those immigrants knew there were differences. They called one another nicknames which would not be approved today. If a swear word preceded the nickname, then it was likely a fight would develop. They mocked one another's accents. Carl could do a pretty good imitation of an Irishman. The Irish boys could imitate the Swedish greenhorns just as easily. Their audience laughed until their sides hurt.

Over time, things would change. A Swedish Lutheran boy would marry a Irish Catholic girl and the blending would begin. The children couldn't speak the language of their grandparents.

By the 1890s Galesburg was a town of nearly twenty thousand population. Carl pondered in his mind why so many had come to this place. Of course, there was the chain of relationships that encouraged one family to follow another to Galesburg. There were the letters with glowing descriptions of the prospects for jobs on the railroad. He asked himself if life had been so hard in the places where they came from. During the depression years of that decade, was life so much better here? He was about to come of age and become a full citizen with the right to vote. What was patriotism? It was said America was a “free country,” but what did it mean?

Sandburg spent his life writing about those questions as well as many others. His epic poem, The People, Yes, dwelt on many of those questions.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
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 4  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