Carl Sandburg – Biographical Sketch
Charles August Sandburg—poet, biographer, historian, novelist, journalist and minstrel—was born in a cottage on January 6, 1878, in Galesburg, Illinois. His parents, Clara and August Sandburg, were Swedish immigrants, As the second child in a family of seven children, Carl was expected to supplement the family income, so he helped by delivering newspapers and working as an office boy.
When he finished the eighth grade in 1891, Carl took on a full-time job. In 1897, when he was nineteen, Carl spent five months as a hobo riding trains throughout the West. In the process, he learned many folk songs, the beginnings of his American Songbag. He served briefly in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war. After that, he returned to Galesburg and entered Lombard College. Sandburg left Lombard before taking his degree, and wrote for two years before his first book of verse, In Reckless Ecstacy, was published in 1904 on a basement press.
Sandburg grew more and more concerned with the plight of the American worker, and became an organizer for the Wisconsin Social Democratic Party in 1907. It was while doing this work he met Paula Steichen, who became his wife a year later. With family responsibilities, Carl turned to journalism and worked on several Chicago newspapers. In 1914 his "Chicago" and other poems were published and won Poetry magazine's prestigious Levinson prize.
During the next five years Sandburg wrote two more volumes of poetry, Chicago Poems and Cornhuskers, as well as a searching analysis of the 1919 Chicago race riots. More poetry followed, along with the Rootabaga Stories, a book of fanciful children's tales. He then went on to write a children's life of Abraham Lincoln and within three years produced his two-volume Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years.
It was Sandburg's first financial success, and encouraged him to undertake a complete Lincoln biography. He then wrote four additional volumes, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Sandburg continued writing, publishing more poems, a second volume of folk songs, an autobiography and a novel, Remembrance Rock. Sandburg's Collected Poems won him a second Pulitzer Prize in 1951.
Following the poet-historian's death on July 22, 1967, his ashes were returned to his birthplace.