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Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), was an American poet, biographer, and balladeer. He was a writer, famous for his free-verse style (Carl Sandburg, 222). He focused on the people and places of modern American life. Sandburg wrote what is regarded as the definitive biography of Abraham Lincoln. He was even invited to address the joint session and to be honored, when the houses of Congress came together on Feb. 12, 1959, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Lincoln. Sandburg was well known as a lecturer and singer (Carl Sandburg, 392). His craggy voice along with his guitar made him a great performer of folk songs.
The two most impressive things about Carl Sandburg*s physical trait was his face and his incredible height, yet he was only about six feet tall. He resembled an American Indian, the reddish skin over the craggy face, the high cheekbones, the narrow hips, and the broad shoulders. Someone said of him once that when he was young and dark he looked like a Sioux brave. Sandburg*s face was a unique phenomenon. No matter what the picture or photograph, his expressions were never the same. He did not have a set pose but was recognizable. Mrs. Sandburg once remarked of him that during all these fifty-three years she*s known him, Carl has always had the same unruly shock of hair over his forehead, and the same habit of leaning forward like a fast-ball pitcher winding up and pulling the string on the batter (Golden, 23).
Sandburg was born on Jan. 6, 1878, in Galesburg, Illinois, where his Swedish immigrant father had settled some years before. He grew up in Galesburg, a town of 15,000 residents in his childhood. He went to the Galesburg public school for four years, and to Swedish Lutheran summer school. At age 13, he finished the eighth grade and had to go to work. His first job was driving a milk wagon, and as he drove along, he recited his favorite pieces of prose and verse. Later he worked as a bootblack and porter in a local barber shop, where he listened to the customers* talk about local history and arguments about politics, and became involved in the affairs of his state. One of his important jobs Carl held to support himself through college was *call man* for the Galesburg Fire Department. He slept at the firehouse and was depended upon to leave his college classroom if the fire whistle blew during the daytime. The pay was ten dollars a month. Sandburg would read books durin!
g the free times he had, and one of the reasons that Sandburg became a great writer was because of the fact that he read a lot. Sandburg bought second-hand books which fitted into his hip pocket for ten cents each. He bought books of famous American authors, such as Daniel Defoe, Washington Irving, Joseph Addison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson (Carl Sandburg, 222).
When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Sandburg enlisted. He did not go to the war because of his pride for the country, he went to the war simply because he wanted to do something, he wanted to accomplish something. He served in the first Puerto Rico campaign; and he was the war correspondent for the Galesburg Evening Mail. When the war ended in September of 1898, Sandburg went back to school. He entered Lombard College, a local institution, receiving free tuition for his war service. But in 1902, at the time of examinations and diplomas, he wandered off and was never graduated. He was the captain of the basketball team, and the editor of the college newspaper. It was at Lombard that Sandburg began to think of himself as a writer, particularly as a poet. But his first professional writing was in advertising, politics, and journalism. Philip Green Wright, professor of English at Lombard, published Sandburg*s first little book, In Reckless Ecstasy (1904) (Ca!
rl Sandburg, 392).
Sandburg took up the guitar in 1904, and he practiced music daily. Sandburg*s voice is heavy, but there*s a haunting quality about it. His voice is almost entirely untrained, with just a few lessons he had came from a choirmaster in Galesburg. Public singing started for Carl when he was a boy in Galesburg. Later he
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Carl Sandburg, House of Vasa, Chicago, Galesburg, Illinois, The American Songbag, The People, Yes, Carl Sandburg bibliography, Carl Sandburg State Historic Site
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