Carl Sandburg was born in 1878 in a small three-room cottage in Galesburg, Illinois, the second child of Swedish immigrants August and Clara Sandburg. To help support his family, he quit school after eighth grade and worked odd jobs such as delivering milk, laying bricks, and shining shoes in Galesburg's Union Hotel. After traveling the country and serving in the Spanish-American war, Sandburg returned home in 1898 to attend Lombard College. While there, he attracted the attention of Professor Philip Green Wright, who not only encouraged his writing, but also paid for and printed Sandburg's first volume of poetry, Reckless Ecstasy, on his basement press in 1904.
Much of Sandburg's work explores the industrial, agricultural, and political issues that he experienced firsthand and fought passionately for throughout his lifetime. His writing often intertwines his familiar landscape with the plight of the working class, as in this passage from his poem "I am the People, the Mob":
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sandburg's birthplace, located at 331 East Third Street, is now maintained by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Most of the furnishings once belonged to his family and reflect the typical living conditions of a late-nineteenth-century working-class family. The flora around the house were carefully chosen to maintain the appearance of Sandburg’s childhood and include daisies, black-eyed Susans, yarrow, and phlox. Behind the cottage, there is a small wooden park with a perennial garden and a red granite boulder known as Remembrance Rock where the ashes of Carl Sandburg and his wife are buried. Both the cottage and the grounds are open to the public. Visit the website for hours, admission fees, and more information.
The cottage is one of two historic landmarks preserved in Sandburg's name; the second is the Carl Sandburg Home—his farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina. In 1945, Sandburg moved to this thirty-acre farm, which provided continued solitude for his writing and land for his wife to raise her champion goats. Since 1968, the farm has been managed by the National Park Service. The Carl Sandburg Home is open daily, and visitors can explore the residence and its rolling pastures and woods, hiking trails, lakes, ponds, gardens, and apple orchard. Visit the website for hours, admission fees, and more information.