Sandburg Carl August life and biography

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Sandburg Carl August biography

Date of birth : 1878-01-06
Date of death : 1967-07-22
Birthplace : Galesburg, Illinois
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-06-04
Credited as : Writer, Poems of the Midwest, Abraham Lincoln

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Carl (August) Sandburg, also known as: Carl Sandburg, Carl August Sandburg, Charles A. Sandburg was born January 6, 1878, in Galesburg, IL.

He died July 22, 1967, in Flat Rock, NC; buried at Remembrance Rock, Carl Sandburg Birthplace, Galesburg, IL; son of August (a railroad blacksmith; original surname, Johnson) and Clara (Anderson) Sandburg; married Lillian "Paula" Steichen, June 15, 1908; children: Margaret, Janet, Helga (originally named Mary Ellen). Avocation: Walking. Education: Attended Lombard College, 1898-1902. Politics: Initially a Social-Democrat, later Democrat. Memberships: American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Institute of Arts and Letters, Phi Beta Kappa (honorary), Chicago's Tavern Club (honorary), Swedish Club (Chicago; honorary).

Carl Sandburg was "the one American writer who distinguished himself in five fields--poetry, history, biography, fiction and music," according to one of his friends, Harry Golden. Also known as the "Singing Bard," Sandburg once earned money by playing the guitar and singing folk songs all around the United States. Although today he is best known for his biographies of Abraham Lincoln and his poetry, the author also published several books for children. Only the three "Rootabaga" stories, however, were originally intended for young people; the other children's books were adaptations from his writings for adults.

Sandburg came from a large family of children born to two Swedish immigrants. He was raised in Galesburg, Illinois, in a small cottage near the railroad roundhouse and yards where his father worked as a blacksmith for fourteen cents an hour. The early years were tough for the young Sandburg. In order to fit into American society better, he called himself Charles in school, and he also went by this name while writing his first books. When he was only eleven Sandburg had to work before and after school, sweeping floors in a law office and delivering newspapers. After he finished the eighth grade, he left school for a full-time job driving a milk wagon--sometimes even through blizzards. He also carried water for a road crew, sold refreshments at a resort, harvested ice on a frozen lake, and shifted scenery in a theater.

In June of 1897, Sandburg rode a freight train to Kansas to work in the wheat fields. A few months later he was back in Illinois, working for a house painter. When the Spanish-American War broke out he joined the army and served for eight months in Puerto Rico, but he never saw any combat. His first journalistic contributions were letters sent home from the war zone to the Galesburg Daily Mail.

When he returned to the United States, Sandburg was eligible for college tuition because of his war service, so he entered Lombard College in Galesburg. At the end of his first year there he was nominated for an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but he failed the entrance tests in arithmetic and grammar. He returned to Lombard College, where his activities included playing on the basketball team, singing in the glee club, editing college publications, and delivering a prize-winning oration, all the while working at various odd jobs to support himself. He dropped out of college without getting his diploma, although in his later years he was to receive many honorary degrees.

One of the Lombard professors, Philip Green Wright, encouraged Sandburg to write and reawakened his interest in Abraham Lincoln, which had begun in childhood with the stories he had heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in Galesburg and the parades of Civil War soldiers that he had seen. Wright himself later had Sandburg's first two volumes of poetry published in 1905. In 1907 Sandburg moved to Milwaukee, where the Daily News published his first article on Lincoln. The next year he married Lillian Steichen--whom he called Paula--the sister of photographer Edward Steichen, who pioneered the use of photography as an art form.

Sandburg spent two years as a private secretary to the mayor of Milwaukee. During this time he contributed articles to the International Socialist Review under the name Jack Phillips. In 1912 the Sandburgs moved to Chicago, where the young journalist wrote for several newspapers and received his first literary recognition when some of his verses were published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. In March of 1914, his famous poem, "Chicago," won the two hundred dollar Levinson prize. In 1919 and 1921 his poems shared the Poetry Society of America prize, and in the years that followed he received many other awards and honorary college degrees.

Sandburg's first venture into children's literature was Rootabaga Stories, a work in the tradition of the American fairy tale that he wrote for his daughters. Sandburg's favorite topic, however, remained the life of Abraham Lincoln, so after his successful "Rootabaga" stories he decided to write a children's biography of the sixteenth president. He continued to satisfy his curiosity about Lincoln during the 1920s by travelling around the country in search of material concerning the president, a trip he financed by giving public performances in which he recited his poems and sang folk songs while accompanying himself on the guitar. He collected and classified Lincolniana for over thirty-five years, gathering such a wealth of documentation that he finally had to rent a barn in which to store it all. Concerning Sandburg's extensive work on Lincoln, Mark E. Neeley, Jr., wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography that the "historical writings of Carl Sandburg were the most important twentieth-century factor in Abraham Lincoln's continuing popularity." In 1927 Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, which covered Lincoln's life to 1861 and contained anecdotes and details of frontier days, was published.

Sandburg spent the next eleven years gathering material for his four volumes of Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, which were finished in 1939. During this time he interrupted his work on Lincoln to go on some money-making tours and to publish American Songbag, a collection of folk music which became a standard source for music and ballads. As a result of his works on Abraham Lincoln, Sandburg was later the first private citizen to deliver an address before a joint session of Congress. It took place on February 12, 1959, the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

During the Depression years of the 1930s, Sandburg developed an enthusiasm for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal, seeing in him a resemblance to Lincoln. From 1941 to 1945 Sandburg wrote articles for the Chicago Times in support of the Allied war effort. At the age of sixty-five he wrote his only novel, Remembrance Rock, at the request of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studio, which wanted material for a movie that could help the war effort. However, the novel never reached the screen. After the war, the Sandburgs moved from the Midwest to the more favorable climate of Flat Rock, North Carolina. They called their new home there "Connemara." In 1952 Sandburg wrote the autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, which covers the first twenty years of his life. New York Times critic Robert E. Sherwood called the book "the best biography ever written by an American."

Sandburg won the Pulitzer Prize twice: in 1939 he won the prize in the category of history for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years when the committee classified the book as history in order to override a rule forbidding the acceptance of biographies of Washington or Lincoln; and in 1951 he was given the award for poetry. Sandburg died at Connamara on July 22, 1967. On September 17 of that year a national memorial service was held at the Lincoln Memorial to honor Sandburg; several of his fellow poets paid homage to the "Singing Bard" by reading his verses aloud at the ceremony.


Reporter, columnist, historian, novelist, and poet. Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee Daily News, and Milwaukee Journal staff writer; secretary to Milwaukee Mayor Emil Seidel, 1910-12; worked for Milwaukee Leader, Chicago World, and Day Book (daily), Chicago, IL, 1912-13, 1913-17; System: The Magazine of Business, Chicago, associate editor, 1913; worked for Chicago Evening American for three weeks in 1917; Newspaper Enterprise Association, Stockholm correspondent, 1918, ran Chicago office, 1919; Chicago Daily News, 1917-30, served as reporter (covered Chicago race riots), editorial writer, and motion picture editor, and later continued as columnist until 1932; wrote weekly column syndicated by Chicago Daily Times, beginning 1941. Helped to organize Wisconsin Socialist Democratic Party. Presidential Medal of Freedom lecturer, University of Hawaii, 1934; Walgreen Foundation lecturer, University of Chicago, 1940. He sang folk songs to his own guitar accompaniment. As a young man, he tried his skills as a milk-delivery boy, barber shop porter, firefighter, truck operator, apprentice house painter, and film salesman for Underwood and Underwood. Military service: Sixth Illinois Volunteers, 1898; served in Puerto Rico during Spanish-American War.

WORKS by Sandburg

* Writings
* (Under name Charles A. Sandburg) In Reckless Ecstasy, Asgard Press (Galesburg, IL), 1904.
* (Under name Charles A. Sandburg) The Plaint of a Rose, Asgard Press (Galesburg, IL), 1905.
* (Under name Charles A. Sandburg) Incidentals, Asgard Press (Galesburg, IL), 1905.
* (Under name Charles A. Sandburg) You and Your Job, (Chicago, IL), c. 1906.
* (Under name Charles Sandburg) Joseffy (promotional biography; commissioned by a wandering magician), Asgard Press (Galesburg, IL), 1910.
* Chicago Poems, Holt (New York, NY), 1916.
* Cornhuskers, Holt (New York, NY), 1918.
* The Chicago Race Riots, July, 1919, Harcourt, Brace & Howe (New York, NY), 1919, reprinted with new introduction, 1969.
* Smoke and Steel, Harcourt, Brace & Howe (New York, NY), 1920.
* Slabs of the Sunburnt West, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1922.
* Selected Poems of Carl Sandburg, edited by Rebecca West, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1926.
* Songs of America, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1926.
* (Editor) The American Songbag, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1927.
* Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, two volumes, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1927.
* Good Morning, America, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1928.
* Steichen, the Photographer, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1929.
* M'Liss and Louie, J. Zeitlin (Los Angeles, CA), 1929.
* Potato Face, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1930.
* (With Paul M. Angle) Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1932.
* The People, Yes, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1936.
* Smoke and Steel (and) Slabs of the Sunburnt West, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1938.
* A Lincoln and Whitman Miscellany, Holiday Press (Chicago, IL), 1938.
* Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, four volumes, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1939.
* Abraham Lincoln: The Sangamon Edition, six volumes, Scribner (New York, NY), 1940.
* Bronze Wood, Grabhorn Press (San Francisco, CA), 1941.
* Storm over the Land, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1942.
* Smoke and Steel, Slabs of the Sunburnt West (and) Good Morning, America, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1942.
* Home Front Memo, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1943.
* (With Frederick Hill Meserve) Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1944.
* Poems of the Midwest, two volumes, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1946.
* The Lincoln Reader: An Appreciation, privately printed, 1947.
* Remembrance Rock (novel), Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1948.
* Lincoln Collector: The Story of Oliver R. Barrett's Great Private Collection, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1949.
* (Editor) Carl Sandburg's New American Songbag, Broadcast Music, 1950.
* Complete Poems, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1950, revised and enlarged edition published as The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, 1970.
* A Lincoln Preface, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1953.
* Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1954.
* The Sandburg Range, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1957.
* Chicago Dynamic, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1957.
* The Fiery Trial, Dell (New York, NY), 1959.
* Address before a Joint Session of Congress, February 12, 1959, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1959, published as Carl Sandburg on Abraham Lincoln, (Cedar Rapids, IA), 1959, published as Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1959, J. St. Onge (Worcester, MA), 1959.
* Abraham Lincoln (condensation of earlier work), three volumes, Dell (New York, NY), 1959.
* Harvest Poems, 1910-1960, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1960.
* Six New Poems and a Parable, privately printed, 1960.
* Address upon the Occasion of Abraham Lincoln's One Hundredth Inaugural Anniversary, Black Cat Books, 1961.
* Honey and Salt, Harcourt, Brace & World (New York, NY), 1963.
* The Letters of Carl Sandburg, edited by Herbert Mitgang, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1968.
* Seven Poems, illustrated with seven original etchings by Gregory Masurovsky, Associated American Artists, 1970.
* Breathing Tokens, edited by daughter, Margaret Sandburg, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1978.
* Ever the Winds of Chance, edited by Margaret Sandburg and George Hendrick, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1983.
* Fables, Foibles and Foobles, edited by George Hendrick, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1988.
* Billy Sunday and Other Poems, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1994.


* Rootabaga Stories, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1922.
* Rootabaga Pigeons, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1923.
* Abe Lincoln Grows Up (nonfiction), illustrated by James Daugherty, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1928.
* Rootabaga Country: Selections from Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1929.
* Early Moon (poems), Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1930.
* Always the Young Strangers (autobiography), Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1952.
* Prairie-Town Boy (autobiography), Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1955.
* Wind Song (poems), Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1960.
* The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It (chapter from the "Rootabaga" stories), illustrated by Harriet Pincus, Harcourt, Brace & World (New York, NY), 1967.
* A Sandburg Treasury: Prose and Poetry for Young People, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1970.
* Rainbows Are Made (poems), edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1982.
* Rootabaga Stories: Part Two, illustrated by Michael Hague, Harcourt, Brace (San Diego, CA), 1989.
* Arithmetic (poems), illustrated by Ted Rand, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1993.
* More Rootabagas, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.
* Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough To Vote (includes previously unpublished poems), Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
* Also author of commentary for U.S. government film, Bomber; collaborator on screenplay for the film King of Kings, 1960. Author of captions for "Road to Victory" mural photograph show, 1942. Contributor of newspaper columns to Chicago Times Syndicate and radio broadcasts such as "Cavalcade of America" and foreign broadcasts for the Office of War Information during World War II. Contributor to International Socialist Review (sometimes under pseudonym Jack Phillips), Tomorrow, Poetry, Saturday Evening Post, Masses, Little Review, New Leader, Nation, and Playboy. Sandburg made numerous audio recordings of readings from his works, including excerpts from Always the Young Strangers and The People, Yes for Caedmon; other recordings for Caedmon are Poems for Children, A Lincoln Album, Carl Sandburg Sings His American Songbag, and The Poetry of Carl Sandburg.


* The World of Carl Sandburg, a stage presentation by Norman Corwin, was published by Harcourt in 1961. A four-cassette recording of Sandburg's poetry was released as Carl Sandburg Reads: A Poetry Collection by Carl Sandburg, Harper-Audio, 2001.

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