Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878. He was an American 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". His parents, August and Clara Johnson, had emigrated to America from the north of Sweden. After encountering several August Johnsons in his job for the railroad, the Sandburg's father renamed the family. The Sandburgs were very poor; Carl left school at the age of thirteen to work odd jobs, from laying bricks to dishwashing, to help support his family. At seventeen, he traveled west to Kansas as a hobo. He then served eight months in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war. While serving, Sandburg met a student at Lombard College, the small school located in Sandburg's hometown. The young man convinced Sandburg to enroll in Lombard after his return from the war.

Sandburg worked his way through school, where he attracted the attention of Professor Philip Green Wright, who not only encouraged Sandburg's writing, but paid for the publication of his first volume of poetry, a pamphlet called Reckless Ecstasy (1904).

Much of Carl Sandburg's poetry, such as "Chicago", focused on Chicago, Illinois, 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 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 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 Marvelous Pretzels".

In the twenties, he started some of his most ambitious projects, including his study of Abraham Lincoln. From childhood, Sandburg loved and admired the legacy of President Lincoln. For thirty years he sought out and collected material, and gradually began the writing of the six-volume definitive biography of the former president. The twenties also saw Sandburg's collections of American folklore, the ballads in The American Songbag and The New American Songbag (1950), and books for children.

In the 1930s, Sandburg continued his celebration of America with 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 which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He received a second Pulitzer Prize for his Complete Poems in 1950. His final volumes of verse were Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960) and Honey and Salt (1963). Carl Sandburg died in 1967.


* 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 (1922) (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)[13] online
* 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 Art)
* 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 Man (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)