Sandburg's Hometown

February 9, 2015

Bread cooking in cast iron stove (1909) - Library of Congress
Baking Bread with cast-iron cookstove (1909)
Courtesy of Library of Congress

White Bread

by Barbara Schock

In the twelve by fifteen foot kitchen in the house on Berrien Street, Clara Sandburg baked bread every few days. She may have taken the flour from a barrel kept in a dry place free of insects. She mixed flour with yeast, water, a little sugar and fat and put it aside in a warm place to rise. Then, she kneaded the dough to develop the gluten in the flour and set the mixture aside to rise again.

Kneading bread dough requires muscle as well as a delicate touch to make good bread. After a second rising, the dough was shaped and placed in bread pans. The loaves were baked after the third rising. Clara would have made sure the fire in the cast iron kitchen stove was just right for baking the loaves with a golden crust. From experience, she knew how hot the heat in the oven should feel against her hand.

The fragrance of the baking bread surely attracted the children. They could hardly wait until the bread had cooled enough to be sliced and buttered for eating. During the hard times of the 1890s, the family spread lard or molasses on the homemade bread rather than butter.

Mrs. Sandburg made a pork chop sandwich for Carl's lunch when he worked in the ice harvest on Lake George. The slices of bread would have been thick and nourishing. When August Sandburg walked home from the Q shops to eat his lunch, his wife probably made a sandwich for him with homemade bread.

Humans have been making bread for at least 30,000 years. The first bread probably consisted of ground seeds mixed with water. Someone discovered that heating it on a hot rock made the food more digestible and improved the taste. Since yeast spores naturally float in the air, the rising of bread attracted attention. Imaginative people figured out that saving a little of the dough for the next day would make a new batch of bread dough rise again.

At the turn of the twentieth century, commercial baking was becoming more common in this country. In order to keep the price low, the bakeries added sawdust and used chemicals to make the dough rise more quickly. People began to buy white bread to be sure there were no impurities and they wanted it soft so they could tell it was fresh. Pure food laws put an end to the use of sawdust, but chemicals are still used to speed the process.

Until the First Work War, many homemakers were proud of their bread baking skill. In order to send food to the war torn countries of Europe, the United States added other grains, such as rye and barley, to flour to make it go farther. The quality of home-baked bread began to suffer and many homemakers stopped preparing bread at home.

Only in more recent years have consumers begun to appreciate artisan breads and to use bread machines in their own homes. Traditional breads of other countries, such as pita and tortillas, have become popular here as well.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
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