This is Carl’s workroom at Connemara in East Flat Rock, N.C.,
where he spent many hours working on poetry and other famous writings.
1878: Born Jan. 6 in Galesburg, Illinois, second child and
eldest son of August and Clara Sandburg. Baptized Carl August, called Charles.
1883: Lilian Steichen, future wife, born May 1 in Hancock,
1891: Leaves school after eighth grade. Works as newsboy,
milk delivery boy, and, in subsequent years, as barbershop shoeshine boy
1896: Sees Robert Todd Lincoln at 40th anniversary
of Lincoln-Douglas debate, Knox College, Galesburg.
1897: Rides boxcar to Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado,
Iowa, and works on railroad section gang, as farmhand, as dishwasher, and
at other odd jobs.
1898: Paints houses in Galesburg and on April 26 enlists
in Illinois Volunteers. Serves as private in Puerto Rico during Spanish-American
War. Returns to Galesburg, enrolls as special student at Lombard College,
1899: Appointed to West Point but fails written examination
in grammar and arithmetic. Enters Lombard College. Serves in town fire
department and as school janitor.
1900: In summer sells stereographs with Fredrick Dickinson.
1901: Editor-in-chief of The Lombard Review.
1902: Leaves college in spring before graduating; wanders
country selling stereographs.
1904: Writes "Inklings & Idlings" articles in Galesburg
Evening Mail, using pseudonym "Crimson." First poetry and a few
prose pieces published as booklet, In Reckless Ecstasy, by Professor
Philip Green Wright’s Asgard Press.
1905: Becomes assistant editor of To-Morrow magazine
in Chicago, which publishes some of his poems and pieces.
1906: Becomes lecturer on Walt Whitman and other subjects.
Becomes associate editor and advertising man of The Lyceumite, Chicago.
Continues lecturing at Elbert Hubbard’s chautauquas. Asgard Press publishes
Incidentals. Becomes organizer for Social-Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Meets Lilian Steichen, schoolteacher and fellow Socialist.
1908: Publishes The Plaint of a Rose. Marries Lilian
Steichen on June 15. Thereafter uses "Carl," not "Charles," as given name.
Campaigns in Wisconsin with Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V.
Debs. Writes pamphlet You and Your Job.
1909: Becomes advertising copywriter
for Kroeger’s Department Store in Milwaukee, then reporter for Milwaukee
Sentinel, Journal, and Daily News.
1910: Father dies March 10. Becomes private secretary to
Emil Seidel, Socialist mayor of Milwaukee. Becomes city editor of Milwaukee
Social-Democratic Herald. Works for Victor Berger’s Political
1911: Daughter Margaret born June 3.
1912: Writes for Berger’s Milwaukee Leader. Moves
to Chicago, joins Evening World briefly.
1913: Joins The Day Book, Chicago, then System,
a management magazine, for which he writes under pseudonym R.E. Coulson.
Writes under pseudonym Sidney Arnold for American Artisan & Hardware
1914: Returns to The Day Book, Poems published in
March issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Wins Helen Haire Levinson
Prize for best poems of the year. Moves to Maywood, a Chicago suburb.
1915: Writes articles on "That Walsh Report" and "Fixing
the Pay of Railroad Men" for The International Socialist Review.
1916: Writes four poems for The Little Review. Chicago
Poems published by Henry Holt. Daughter Janet born June 27.
1917: Covers labor conference for the American Federation
of Labor at Omaha and Minneapolis Labor Convention. Joins Chicago Daily
1918: Joins Chicago Evening American briefly, then
Newspaper Enterprise Association. Goes to Stockholm, Sweden. Daughter Helga
born November 24. Cornhuskers published by Henry Holt. Returns to
1919: Moves to NEA office in Chicago. Rejoins Chicago Daily
News as labor reporter; becomes movie reviewer. Shares Poetry Society
of American prize with Margaret Widdemer. Harcourt, Brace and Howe publishes
The Chicago Race Riots. Moves to Elmhurst, a Chicago suburb.
1920: Smoke and Steel published by Harcourt, Brace
1921: Shares Poetry Society of America Annual Book Award
with Stephen Vincent Benet.
1922: Rootabaga Stories and Slabs of the Sunburnt
West published by Harcourt, Brace and Company, now Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
1923: Rootabaga Pigeons published.
1926: Two-volume Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years
published by Harcourt, which publishes rest of his major works. Buys summer
cottage at Tower Hill, Michigan. Mother dies December 30.
1927: The American Songbag published. Buys land in
Harbert, Michigan, on which to build home.
1928: Receives Litt. D. from Lombard College. Moves to Harbert.
Good Morning, America and
Abe Lincoln Grows Up, the first 26 chapters of Abraham
Lincoln: The Prairie Years, are published.
1929: Receives Litt. D. from Knox College. Steichen the Photographer
and Rootabaga Country published.
1930: Potato Face and Early Moon published.
1931: Receives Litt. D. from Northwestern University. Sister
Martha Goldstone dies.
1932: Leaves Chicago Daily News in May. Mary Lincoln:
Wife and Widow published.
1936: The People, Yes published.
1938: Receives Order of the North Star from King of Sweden.
1939: Four-volume Abraham Lincoln: The War Years published.
1940: Wins Pulitzer Prize for history. Elected to American
Academy of Arts and Letters. Receives Litt. D. degrees from Harvard, Yale,
Wesleyan and New York Universities, and Lafayette College.
1941: Receives Litt. D. from Syracuse University and Dartmouth
College. Grandson John Carl born December 3 to Helga.
1942: Writes weekly column for Chicago Times syndicate, commentary
for U.S. Government film "Bomber," foreign broadcasts for Office of War
Information, captions for Road to Victory exhibit at Museum of Modern Art.
"Storm Over the Land," excerpted from The War Years, published.
1943: Home Front Memo published. Grand-daughter Karlen Paula
born June 28 to Helga.
1944: The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, with Frederick
Hill Meserve, published. Brother Martin Sandburg dies April 7.
1945: Moves to Connemara Farm, Flat Rock, N.C., in late fall.
This is Carl’s home at Connemara Farm, Flat
Rock, N.C. He and his family lived here the last 22 years of his life.
It is now a National Historic Site and can be toured
by the public. It is a fabulous tour that is well worth your time!
The farm consists of the 22-room house, barns, sheds,
rolling pastures, mountainside woods, trails, two small lakes, a trout
pond, flower and vegetable gardens, and an orchard.
Carl referred to his wife, Lilian, as "a champion
breeder of a champion." Mrs. Sandburg was internationally recognized as
a dairy goat breeder. In 1960, her most famed goat, Jennifer II, broke
the World Toggenburg record for milk production when she produced 5,750
pounds of milk in one year!
1946: Birthplace at Galesburg dedicated as historic site.
1948: Remembrance Rock published. Goes to Hollywood
to help plan it as a film. Receives LL.D. from Augustana College.
1949: Lincoln Collector: The Story of Oliver R. Barrett’s
Great Private Collection is published.
1950: Received Ph.D. from Uppsala University, Sweden. Publishes
Complete Poems, which wins Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The New
American Songbag published.
1952: Receives National Institute of Arts and Letters gold
medal for history and biography.
1953: Autobiography Always the Young Strangers published.
Attends Carl Sandburg Day banquet in Chicago on 75th birthday.
Receives Poetry Society of America gold medal.
1954: Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years,
a condensation of the six volumes in one, published.
1955: Prairie-Town Boy, a child’s version of his autobiography,
published. Writes prologue to Family of Man, a book of photographs
selected by Edward Steichen.
1956: Paid $30,000 by University of Illinois for manuscripts,
library, and papers. Receives Humanities Award from Albert Einstein College
of Medicine. November 18 proclaimed Carl Sandburg Day in Chicago.
1957: The Sandburg Range, an anthology of his work,
1958: Named "Honorary Ambassador" of North Carolina on March
27, Sandburg Day in Raleigh. Sister Mary Johnson dies July 29.
1959: Delivers Lincoln Day address February 12 before a joint
session of Congress. Visits Moscow with Edward Steichen under State Department
auspices for "Family of Man" Exhibit. Travels to Stockholm
for Swedish-American Day and receives Litteris et Artibus
medal from King Gustav.
1960: Works in Hollywood as consultant for film The Greatest
Story Ever Told. Publishes paper-bound volumes Harvest Poems 1910-1960
and Wind Song, poems for children.
1962: Designated poet laureate of Illinois.
1963: Honey and Salt published. Receives International United
Poets Award as "Hon. Poet Laureate of the U.S.A."
1964: Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from Lyndon
1967: Dies July 22 at home in Flat Rock, N.C., at age 89.
1977: Lilian Steichen Sandburg dies February 18 at age 94.
Carl often serenaded Lilian with his
The sea rocks have a green moss.
The pine rocks have red berries.
I have memories of you.
Speak to me of how you miss me.
Tell me the hours go long and slow.
Speak to me of the drag on your heart,
The iron drag of the long days.
I know hours empty as a beggar’s tin cup on a rainy day,
Empty as a soldier’s sleeve with an arm lost.
Speak to me . . .
Explication of "Home Thoughts"
This poem by Carl Sandburg is written in free verse. This style became
popular among 20th century poets. "It was said in the 1920s
that if you still didn’t like free verse, you would, once you heard Sandburg.
He was considered the master interpreter of his own poetry" (H. Sandburg,
76). "His own particular style of writing is evident, if in a paler version,
in the early letters, poems, and pieces of prose that he wrote. At Lombard
College he had read the English authors, had admired Keats, Shelley, and
Browning. His first poems were often rhymed and marked with traditional
rhythms, but in his phrasings, his pauses, his subject matter, there is
the clear mark of Carl Sandburg. That mysterious decider, style, was there
from the beginning" (70).
The poem "Home Thoughts" was written to his loving wife, Lilian "Paula"
Sandburg. When they first met, there was to be a blizzard of letters. He
won her, first, through his writing." (56) This particular poem
was written after their marriage. The hardest aspect of their marriage
was the separation when Carl would be traveling on lecture trips. It was
necessary to provide income for the family, yet it was a heartfelt loss
each day they were apart. He was in Scandinavia on a newspaper assignment
when his daughter Helga was born. It was evidently painful to be separated
at such milestones in their life. The poem "Home Thoughts" expresses his
yearnings to be by her side. The traveling was something they both grew
to accept. It was a financial necessity and being a wanderer, it suited
Carl to see the changing landscape and many faces of America.
We see the literary device known as a simile in the eighth line
"hours empty as a beggar’s tin cup on a rainy day." Line nine also refers
to the emptiness: "Empty as a soldier’s sleeve with an arm lost." It is
here that he is trying to convey to you the deep emotional torment of being
away from his loving wife and family. Also, note that he uses a device
known as repetition. He refers to the "drag on your heart" and then re-emphasizes
it in the next line "the iron drag" to give you the feeling of the heaviness
of his heart. He also repeats "Speak to me . . ." at the end of the poem
letting us know that he longs to hear her voice. He uses symbolism in the
first lines where he notes that "The sea rocks have a green moss and the
pine rocks have red berries." These lines refer to the closeness of the
rock and moss. It symbolizes that he is "incomplete" without her. Even
nature has identities that compliment each other. She makes him whole.
"Before their marriage, in a letter postscript, he once wrote to her,
"No, I will never get the letter written and finished. It will always need
postscripts. I end one and six minutes after have to send more. All my
life I must write at this letter --- this Letter of Love for the Great
Woman Who Came and Knew and Loved. All my life this must go on!" (67)
"The day before my grandfather died, he lay quiet, not speaking. At
midnight my grandmother went in to him, to see that all was well before
retiring. She touched his hand, and he looked into her face and spoke his
single, last word, "Paula." (68)
"What was the popular conception of poetry at the time that my grandfather
began writing his own? The poets read by most Americans were those such
as James Whitcomb Riley and Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Walt Whitman had been
published, of course, but he was not widely accepted or enjoyed. Readers
felt at home with a poetry that glorified, idealized, and often softened
the hard lines of life. They expected to be carried away from social problems
and the mundane routine of their own lives and surroundings" (M. Sandburg,
"But young Charles Sandburg had been a different kind of reader, and
he was to become a different kind of writer. Professor Wright wrote of
him in those early, formative years, "He reads everything: Boccaccio, Walt
Whitman, Emerson, Tolstoi, and enters with appreciation and sympathetic
enthusiasm into all that he reads. But literature, even the best, is but
a pallid reflection of life; he prefers impressions at first hand" (70).
"Any of the unpublished poems could be picked
up and read by anyone familiar with American poetry and the reader could
say with conviction, ‘The author must be Carl Sandburg.’ His style was
not the product of scholarly pursuit and intention; it was an extension
of the man and the man’s life, coming more from instinct than design."
"My grandfather hit his stride at an early age, but the hurdles before
him were great. The years before his acceptance as a poet were marked by
stacks of rejection letters, and by a need for continual work in areas
other than poetry so he could provide the bare necessities of life. There
was a great reluctance on the part of readers and critics to accept free
verse and the particular subject matter of Sandburg’s poetry. Above all,
however, the years were marked by his undaunted determination and his personal
faith in the value of his work"(Salwak, 70).
"He began writing poetry after he entered Lombard College, where he
received so much encouragement from Professor Wright. He was first a writer,
and afterwards a poet, for his writing career, as such, had begun with
the letters that he wrote home for the Galesburg paper during the Spanish-American
War. But it seems that once he began writing poetry, began to feel his
own style developing and began to see how well poetry succeeded in expressing
his feelings and thoughts, he turned to it instinctively and there was
never to be a time in his life after that in which he stopped writing poetry"(70).
Salwak, Dale. Carl Sandburg: A Reference Guide. Macmillan,
Provides a chronological listing (1904-1985) of articles relating to
Sandburg and and criticism of his work.
Sandburg, Helga. A Great and Glorious Romance: The Story of Carl
Sandburg and Lilian Steichen. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
Sandburg, Margaret, editor. Breathing Tokens (a collection
of previously unpublished poems by Carl Sandburg). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
Written by Lisa Lee, student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke,
Edited by Mark