Carl Sandburg Childhood & Life
Carl Sandburg was born on January 6, 1878 in Galesburg, Illinois. His parents were August and Clara Johnson, who had immigrated to America from the north of Sweden. When his father found his name very common in his job in the railroad, he changed it to the Sandburg. The family was not financially well-off which is why Carl had to abandon school at the young age of thirteen. In order to support his family, he did a variety of odd jobs, from driving milk wagon, laying bricks to dishwashing. At the age of seventeen in 1895, Sandburg moved west to Kansas. He served eight months in the military and was posted in Puerto Rico with the 6th Illinois Infantry during the Spanish-American War. While serving in the military, he made a friend at Lombard College who helped him get enrolled in the Lombard College after the completion of the war. In college, Sandburg came in contact with Professor Philip Green Wright, who not only encouraged him to write, but also financed the publication of his first volume of poetry, a pamphlet called “Reckless Ecstasy” (1904). Even though Sandburg attended the Lombard College for four years, he could not get a degree from the college. He, then, moved to Milwaukee, where he worked as an advertising writer and a newspaper reporter. In 1907, Sandburg met Lilian Steichen at the Social Democratic Party office and married her the following year. He started working for the Social-Democrat Party in Wisconsin and later served as the secretary to the first Socialist mayor of Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912.
Sandburg then moved to Chicago, where he became an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News. A group of his poems were published in the newly established national magazine, ‘Poetry: A Magazine of Verse’. It was started by Harriet Monroe who encouraged Sandburg to continue writing in the free-verse. Monroe liked the homely speech of his poems, which differentiated Sandburg from his predecessors. Meanwhile, he was also making his mark as a member of the Chicago literary renaissance, which included the names like Ben Hecht, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Edgar Lee Masters. In 1916, he published his famous, “Chicago Poems”, which established his reputation as a poet. The success of this book was followed by another successful work, “Cornhuskers” (1918). For the same, Sandburg was felicitated with a Pulitzer Prize. From 1919 to 1930, he lived at 331 S. York Street in Elmhurst, Illinois. In 1920, Sandburg came with “Smoke and Steel”, his first prolonged attempt to find beauty in modern industrialism. In 1920s, he started working on his ambitious projects, including his study of Abraham Lincoln. Since his childhood, Sandburg had always admired Abraham Lincoln. For thirty years, he collected material on Abraham Lincoln and then published the first volume of the biography, “Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years” in 1926. While he was living in Elmhurst, Sandburg wrote three children's books, “Rootabaga Stories” (1922), “Rootabaga Pigeons” (1923), and “Potato Face” (1930). His other important works from this period were “The American Songbag” (1927), and a book of poems “Good Morning, America” (1928). In 1930, he moved to Michigan. During 1930s, he continued his significant works with the publication of “Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow” (1932), “The People, Yes” (1936), and the second part of his Lincoln biography, “Abraham Lincoln: The War Years” (1939). For the latter, he received his first Pulitzer Prize. Sandburg received his second Pulitzer Prize for his “Complete Poems” in 1951.
Important Works & Awards
Majority of Sandburg’s poetic works including “Chicago” was based on Chicago, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and the Day Book. He was also remembered for his works for children including “Rootabaga Stories” and “Rootabaga Pigeons”. The latter was a series of whimsical, sometimes, melancholy stories which he originally wrote for his own daughters. Sandburg won three Pulitzer Prizes for his works, “The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg”, “Cornhuskers”, and for his biography, “Abraham Lincoln: The War Years”. In 1957, Sandburg recorded excerpts from the biography and some of Lincoln's speeches for Caedmon Records in New York City. Two years later he was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Performance - Documentary Or Spoken Word for his recording of Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait with the New York Philharmonic
Carl Sandburg married Lilian Steichen in 1908. Lilian was the sister of famous photographer Edward Steichen. The couple had three daughters.
Carl Sandburg breathed his last on July 22, 1967 at Flat Rock, North Carolina estate, Connemara.
Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, Henderson County, North Carolina, where he lived for 22 years, is preserved by the National Park Service as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. A college dedicated to him, Carl Sandburg College is located in his birthplace Galesburg, Illinois. His childhood home in Galesburg is now operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site. This site constitutes the cottage where he was born in, a modern visitor's center, and small garden with a large stone named Remembrance Rock, under which he and his wife Lilian's ashes are buried. In 1959, Carl Sandburg Junior High School was established in Golden Valley, Minnesota, the dedication was attended by the Sandburg himself.
In 1960, to honor him, the former Elmhurst Junior High School in Elmhurst, Illinois was renamed as 'Carl Sandburg Middle School. Following year in the month of December, he was honored by dedicating one more school to his name, Carl Sandburg Elementary School in San Bruno, California. There are many other schools named after him in Illinois, including those in Wheaton, Orland Park, Springfield, Mundelein, and Joliet. There are few other schools established outside Illinois named after him, such as Carl Sandburg Middle School in Neshaminy School District of lower Bucks County and Carl Sandburg Middle School, located south of Alexandria, Virginia On January 6, 1978, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Sandburg on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth.