Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders . . .
There was a time when every child in Chicago learned those words. They are the opening lines of Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago.” The house where he wrote them still stands at 4646 North Hermitage Avenue.
Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Ill. in 1878, the son of Swedish immigrants. As a young man, he drifted through a series of jobs–milkman, bricklayer, fireman, soldier, hobo, political organizer for the Social Democratic Party. Then he got married.
Time for stability. Sandburg moved to Chicago and became a reporter. He landed a job with the Daily News. He’d been writing poetry for years, with little success. That began to change.
His collection Chicago Poems appeared in 1916. Another anthology followed, then a series of children’s books. Sandburg was gaining a reputation. His publisher suggested he write a Lincoln biography for young people.
Sandburg did the research, and more research.