Guide to the Carl Sandburg Collection, 1923 - 1940Manuscript MS-1201

Biography

Carl Sandburg was born on January 6, 1878, in Galesburg, IL. After working as a milkman, a porter, a bricklayer, a farm laborer, a hotel servant, and a coal heaver, he began traveling as a hobo in 1897. His experiences working and traveling greatly influenced his writing and political views. Sandburg volunteered for the military during the Spanish American War with the 6th Illinois Infantry but left within a year to enter Lombard College, supporting himself as a call fireman. While at Lombard, Sandburg joined the Poor Writers' Club, an informal literary organization whose members met to read and criticize poetry. He honed his writing skills and adopted socialist views before leaving school in his senior year in 1903. He grew increasingly concerned with the plight of the American worker. In 1907 he worked as an organizer for the Wisconsin Social Democratic party, writing and distributing political pamphlets and literature. Sandburg was virtually unknown to the literary world when, in 1914, a group of his poems appeared in the nationally circulated Poetry magazine. Two years later his book Chicago Poems was published. In 1918 he published another volume of poems, "Cornhuskers." More poetry followed, along with "Rootabaga Stories" (1922), a book of fanciful children's tales. That book prompted Sandburg's publisher, Alfred Harcourt, to suggest a biography of Abraham Lincoln for children. Sandburg researched and wrote for three years, producing not a children's book, but a two-volume biography for adults. His "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years," published in 1926, was Sandburg's first financial success. He moved to a new home on the Michigan dunes and devoted the next several years to completing four additional volumes, "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Sandburg continued his prolific writing, publishing more poems, a novel, "Remembrance Rock", a second volume of folk songs, and an autobiography, "Always the Young Strangers" Sandburg died on July 22, 1967.

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