Sandburg's Hometown

January 20, 2014

Horse-drawn Milk Wagon

Walking to Work
by Barbara Schock

In the fall of 1892, Carl Sandburg began delivering milk for George Burton. The dairy farm was located two miles from Galesburg. To save the nickel streetcar fare, Carl walked to the Burton farm. That winter was brutally cold with recurrent bouts of ice and snow. Delivering milk house to house for five hours every morning of the week was hard work even on milder days.

 Sandburg’s family had no money for warm boots as the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, where his father was employed, had reduced working hours by more than half. One day Carl was ten minutes late to work because his feet had become so wet and cold. Mr. Burton had no compassion for the teenage boy.

 Carl quit the milk delivery work and got a job as barbershop porter at the Union Hotel located on the Public Square. There he cleaned spittoons, hauled clinkers from the furnace, shined shoes and performed other menial tasks. It was inside work and, if he was careful, he could eat from the free lunch served in the barroom.

 After a few months, he started working for Sam Barlow who also had a dairy farm. Carl drove the milk wagon to Galesburg twice a day. Mrs. Barlow served a good meal every day at noon, and the teenaged Sandburg was invited to partake of it, in addition to the $12 monthly pay. When Mrs. Barlow saw the condition of Carl’s footwear, she gave him a new pair of warm boots.

 Carl discovered that he could read newspapers and books while driving the milk wagon to town. He devoured every kind of reading matter he could get his hands on. Mr. Barlow played the fiddle and encouraged him to learn about music. Carl tried various instruments by making his own and practicing on them.

 Sandburg walked across the Knox College campus each day on the way to the Barlow dairy farm. He observed the plaques placed on the wall of Old Main containing quotations from Lincoln and Douglas when they had appeared in the great debate of 1858. The words of Abraham Lincoln were soon imprinted on his mind: “He is blowing out the moral lights around us, when he contends that whoever wants slaves has a right to hold them.”

 Growing up in Galesburg, Carl Sandburg was surrounded with the history of the city, the economic presence of the railroads and the social layers of native and immigrant residents. His experiences there would stay with him throughout his life. They provided him with an endless stream of ideas for his writing.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
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