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Carl Sandburg in 1955

Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967) was an Americanmarker writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat."


Sandburg was born in Galesburgmarker, Illinoismarker to Swedishmarker ancestry. At the age of thirteen he left school and began driving a milk wagon. He then became a bricklayer and a farm laborer on the wheat plains of Kansasmarker. After an interval spent at Lombard College in Galesburg, he became a hotel servant in Denvermarker, then a coal-heaver in Omaha. He began his writing career as a journalist for the Chicago Daily News. Later he wrote poetry, history, biographies, novels, children's literature, and film reviews. Sandburg also collected and edited books of ballads and folklore. He spent most of his life in the Midwest before moving to North Carolinamarker.

Sandburg fought in the Spanish-American War with the 6th Illinois Infantry, and participated in the invasion of Guánicamarker, Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898. He attended West Pointmarker for just two weeks, for failing mathematics and a grammar exam. Sandburg returned to Galesburg and entered Lombard College, but left without a degree in 1903.

He moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsinmarker and joined the Social Democratic Party. Sandburg served as a secretary to Mayor Emil Seidel, mayor of Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912; Seidel was the first person to be elected mayor of a U.S. city on a socialist platform.

Sandburg met Lilian Steichen at the Social Democratic Party office in 1907, and they married the next year. Lilian's brother was the photographer Edward Steichen. Sandburg with his wife, whom he called Paula, raised three daughters.

Sandburg moved to Harbert, Michiganmarker, and then suburban Chicagomarker, Illinois. They lived in Evanstonmarker, Illinois before settling at 331 S. York Street in Elmhurstmarker, Illinois from 1919 to 1930. Sandburg wrote three children's books in Elmhurst, Rootabaga Stories, in 1922, followed by Rootabaga Pigeons (1923), and Potato Face (1930). Sandburg also wrote Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, a two volume biography in 1926, The American Songbag (1927), and a book of poems Good Morning, America (1928) in Elmhurst. The family moved to Michigan in 1930. The Sandburg house at 331 S. York Street, Elmhurst was demolished and the site is now a parking lot.

He moved to a Flat Rock, North Carolinamarker estate, Connemaramarker, in 1945 and lived there until his death in 1967.

Sandburg supported the civil rights movement, and contributed to the NAACP.


Rootabaga Stories by Sandburg
Much of Carl Sandburg's poetry, such as "Chicago", focused on Chicago, Illinoismarker, where he spent time as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and the Day Book. His most famous description of the city is as "Hog Butcher for the World/Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat/Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler,/Stormy, Husky, Brawling, City of the Big Shoulders."

Sandburg is also remembered by generations of children for his Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons, a series of whimsical, sometimes melancholy stories he originally created for his own daughters. The Rootabaga Stories were born of Sandburg's desire for "American fairy tales" to match American childhood. He felt that the European stories involving royalty and knights were inappropriate, and so populated his stories with skyscrapers, trains, corn fairies and the "Five Marrvelous Pretzels".

Sandburg earned Pulitzer Prizes for his collection The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, Corn Huskers, and for his biography of Abraham Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln: The War Years). He recorded excerpts from the biography and some of Lincoln's speeches for Caedmon Records in New York Citymarker in May 1957. He was awarded a Grammy Award in 1959 for Best Performance - Documentary Or Spoken Word for his recording of Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait with the New York Philharmonic.


Carl Sandburg rented a room in this house where he lived for three years while he wrote the poem Chicago.
It's now a Chicago landmark.

Sandburg's home of 22 years in Flat Rock, Henderson County, North Carolinamarker, is preserved by the National Park Service as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Sitemarker.

Carl Sandburg Collegemarker is located in Sandburg's birthplace of Galesburg, Illinoismarker.

Galesburg opened Sandburg Mall in 1974, named in honor of Sandburg.

Carl Sandburg's boyhood home in Galesburg is now operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as the Carl Sandburg State Historic Sitemarker. The site contains the cottage Sandburg was born in, a modern visitor's center, and small garden with a large stone called Remembrance Rock, under which he and his wife Lilian's ashes are buried.

Carl Sandburg Village was a Chicago urban renewal project of the 1960s located in the Near North Side, Chicagomarker. Financed by the city, it is located between Clark and LaSalle St. between Division Street and North Ave. Solomon & Cordwell, architects. In 1979, Carl Sandburg Village was converted to condominium ownership.

Elmhurst, Illinois renamed the former Elmhurst Junior High School as 'Carl Sandburg Middle School,' in his honor in 1960. Sandburg spoke at the dedication ceremony. He resided at 331 S. York Street in Elmhurst from 1919 to 1930. The house was demolished and the site is a parking lot.

In 1954, Carl Sandburg High Schoolmarker was dedicated in Orland Park, Illinoismarker. Mr. Sandburg was in attendance, and stretched what was supposed to be a one hour event into several hours, regaling students with songs and stories. Years later, he returned to the school with no identification and, appearing to be a hobo, was thrown out by the principal. When he later returned with I.D., the embarrassed principal canceled the rest of the school day and held an assembly to honor the visit.

In 1959, Carl Sandburg Junior High School was opened in Golden Valley, Minnesotamarker. Carl Sandburg attended the dedication of the school. In 1988 the name was changed to Sandburg Middle School servicing grades 6, 7, and 8. Originally built with a capacity for 1,800 students the school now has 1,100 students enrolled. Sandburg Middle school was one of the first schools in the state of Minnesota to offer accelerated learning programs for gifted students.

In December 1961, Carl Sandburg Elementary School was dedicated in San Bruno, Californiamarker. Again, Sandburg came for the ceremonies and was clearly impressed with the faces of the young children, who gathered around him. The school was closed in the 1980s, due to falling enrollments in the San Bruno Park School District.

Sandburg Halls is a student residence hall at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukeemarker. The building consists of 4 high rise towers with a total housing capacity of 2,700 students. There are several other schools named after Sandburg in Illinois, including those in Wheaton, Orland Park, Springfield, Mundelein, and Joliet.

On January 6, 1978, the 100th anniversary of his birth, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Sandburg. The spare design consists of a profile originally drawn by his friend William A. Smith (1918-1989) in 1952, along with Sandburg's own distinctive autograph.

Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign possesses the Carl Sandburg collection and archives. The bulk of the collection was purchased directly from Carl Sandburg and his family, with many smaller collections having been donated by his family and purchased from outside sources.

Funded by the State of Illinois, Amtrak in October 2006 added a second train on the Chicago-Quincy (via Galesburg and Macomb) route. Called the Carl Sandburg, this new train joined the "Illinois Zephyr" on the Chicago-Quincy route.

In Neshaminy School District of lower Bucks County resides the secondary institution Carl Sandburg Middle School. Located in the lobby is a finished split tree trunk with the quote engraved lengthwise horizontally:
Another secondary school by the same name is located south of Alexandria, Virginia and is part of the Fairfax County Public Schools School District.

References to Sandburg

  • Carl Sandburg is referred to in Sufjan Stevens' song "Come on! Feel the Illinoise! Part I: The Columbian Exposition Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream" on his Illinois album. The song speaks of Carl appearing as a ghost and questioning, "Are you writing from the heart?" Sandburg is again referenced in the title of the song "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders". Sandburg's poem "Chicago" calls the eponymous city "The City of Broad Shoulders".
  • Sandburg's line "Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come" from The People, Yes was a very famous slogan of the German peace movement of the 1970s/1980s. It was used in the German translation "Stell dir vor, es ist Krieg und keiner geht hin". (Commonly this quote is falsely attributed to Bertolt Brecht)
  • He also appears in a live version of the Bob Dylan song "Talkin' World War III Blues" performed at Philharmonic Hallmarker, New York Citymarker on October 31, 1964 in the line "Now all of the people can be all right part of the time, and some of the people can be part right all the time, and even all the people can be all right part of the time, but not all the people can be all right all the time. Carl Sandburg said that." Other versions say, "I think Abraham Lincoln said that," or "I think T.S. Elliot said that."
  • Sandburg's poem "Prairie" and excerpts from several others are featured in the Emmy Award-winning PBS musical documentary The Song and The Slogan. The video features opera singer Jerry Hadley, narrator David Hartman with the music of Daniel Steven Crafts.
  • For his album, Parades and Panoramas: 25 Songs Collected by Carl Sandburg for the American Songbag, Dan Zanes selected twenty-five songs from Sandburg's song and folklore compilation, The American Songbag.
  • Sandburg's poem Grass inspired and was covered by folk-punk band Bread and Roses on their 2004 demo The Workplace Is A Battlefield.
  • In June 2007, a major work by composer Peter Louis van Dijk called "Windy City Songs", based on Sandburg's Chicago Poems was debuted by the Chicago Children's Choir and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University performing with the Lyric Theatre Orchestra.
  • Andrew WK references a misquote of Carl Sandburg ("death comes in the night on little cat's feet") taken from an exchange between Pat Buchanan and John McLaughlin on The McLaughlin Group in his song "The McLaughlin Groove". On the show Buchanan makes a point of informing him that it is, in fact, the fog that comes in on little cat feet.[6713]
  • Steven Spielberg has said that the face of the alien in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was based on a composite of Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, and Albert Einstein.
  • Sometime in the 1980s Bob Gibson wrote a musical, "The Courtship of Carl Sandburg". The play was produced by the North Light Theater, Evanston, Illinois, for many weeks. Tom Amandes played Carl Sandburg, and Bob and Anne Hills sang the songs with Amandes. The play was a resounding success and a cassette of the show was produced, marked "Courtship Prod. Inc." with Bob's home address. There is no written information other than the name of the show and the performers on the dot-matrix printed labels, except the time (38:50 on side A, 32:27 on Side B) and notations that the songs were published by Robert Josiah Music, Inc., and recorded at WFMT-Radio, Chicago by Rich Warren -Engineer. There's no j-card and no play list. The material includes monologue, dialogue, patter, and songs. [6714]


  • In Reckless Ecstasy (1904) (poetry) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)
  • Abe Lincoln Grows Up (N/A)
  • Incidentals (1904) (poetry and prose) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)
  • Plaint of a Rose (1908) (poetry) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)
  • Joseffy (1910) (prose) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)
  • You and Your Job (1910) (prose) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)
  • Chicago Poems (1916) (poetry)
  • Cornhuskers (1918) (poetry)
  • Chicago Race Riots (1919) (prose) (with an introduction by Walter Lippmann)
  • Clarence Darrow of Chicago (1919) (prose)
  • Smoke and Steel (1920) (poetry)
  • Rootabaga Stories (1920) (children's stories)
  • Slabs of the Sunburnt West (1922) (poetry)
  • Rootabaga Pigeons (1923) (children's stories)
  • Selected Poems (1926) (poetry)
  • Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926) (biography)
  • The American Songbag (1927) (folk songs)
  • Songs of America (1927) (folk songs) (collected by Sandburg; edited by Alfred V. Frankenstein)
  • Abe Lincoln Grows Up (1928) (biography [primarily for children])
  • Good Morning, America (1928) (poetry)
  • Steichen the Photographer (1929) (history)
  • Early Moon (1930) (poetry)
  • Potato Face (1930) (children's stories)
  • Mary Lincoln: Wife and Widow (1932) (biography)
  • The People, Yes (1936) (poetry)
  • Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939) (biography)
  • Storm over the Land (1942) (biography) (excerpts from Sandburg's own Abraham Lincoln: The War Years)
  • Road to Victory (1942) (exhibition catalog) (text by Sandburg; images compiled by Edward Steichen and published by the Museum of Modern Artmarker)
  • Home Front Memo (1943) (essays)
  • Remembrance Rock (1948) (novel)
  • Lincoln Collector: the story of the Oliver R. Barrett Lincoln collection (1949) (prose)
  • The New American Songbag (1950) (folk songs)
  • Complete Poems (1950) (poetry)
  • The wedding procession of the rag doll and the broom handle and who was in it (1950) (children's story)
  • Always the Young Strangers (1953) (autobiography)
  • Selected poems of Carl Sandburg (1954) (poetry) (edited by Rebecca West)
  • The Family of Manmarker (1955) (exhibition catalog) (introduction; images compiled by Edward Steichen)
  • Prairie-town boy (1955) (autobiography) (essentially excerpts from Always the Young Strangers)
  • Sandburg Range (1957) (prose and poetry)
  • Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960) (poetry)
  • Wind Song (1960) (poetry)
  • Honey and Salt (1963) (poetry)
  • The Letters of Carl Sandburg (1968) (autobiographical/correspondence) (edited by Herbert Mitgang)
  • Breathing Tokens (poetry by Sandburg, edited by Margaret Sandburg) (1978) (poetry)
  • Ever the Winds of Chance (1983) (autobiography) (started by Sandburg, completed by Margaret Sandburg and George Hendrick)
  • Carl Sandburg at the movies : a poet in the silent era, 1920-1927 (1985) (selections of his reviews of silent movies - collected and edited by Dale Fetherling and Doug Fetherling)
  • Billy Sunday and other poems (1993) (edited with an introduction by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick)
  • Poems for children nowhere near old enough to vote (1999) (compiled and with an introduction by George and Willene Hendrick)
  • Abraham Lincoln : the prairie years and the war years (2007) (illustrated edition with an introduction by Alan Axelrod)

See also


External links

Online selections from Sandburg's poetry

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