Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, as the son of poor Swedish immigrant parents. His father was August Sandburg, a blacksmith and railroad worker, who had changed his name from Johnson. His mother was the former Clara Anderson. Sandburg was educated at public school until he was thirteen, and he then worked in odd jobs in Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. In 1898 he worked as a house-painter. Sandburg enjoyed telling people that he was that he was denied acceptance by West Point because he failed the test. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Sandurg enlisted but saw no combat. Later he entered Lombard college in Galesburg. During these years he worked as a janitor as a "call man" on the Galesburg fire department. His first book, “In Reckless Ecstasy,” was printed privately in 1904.
Just short of receiving his degree in 1902, Sandburg moved to Wisconsin. He worked as traveler for a stereoptican slides firm, labor organizer, and as a journalist. He also was involved in the presidential campaign of Eugene Debs. In 1908 he married Lillian Steichen. From 1910 to 1912 he worked as secretary to the Socialist mayor of Milwaukee. Sandburg was considered a security risk by J. Edgar Hoover and F.B.I. kept a dossier on him. In 1913 Sandburg moved with his family to a suburb of Chicago. He worked as an editor of a business magazine, and published articles. Sandburg was not a political thinker but he was soon considered to be the voice of men and ideals for the Midwest. Sandburg's first major collection of poems, “Chicago Poems,”appeared in 1916. Sandburg was too old to serve in the army during World War I, but he went abroad to serve as a foreign correspondent. Later, "Abraham Lincoln” The War Years” won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for history. In 1928 Sandburg moved to Harbert, Michigan, and in 1943, seeking a milder climate, the family moved again, this time to a farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where Sandburg lived the rest of his life. Between the wars Sandburg travelled widely as a poetry-reciter, accompanying himself on a guitar. From 1945 he lived as a farmer and writer, breeding goats and folk-singing, in Flat Rock, North Carolina. He was the poet for the John Kennedy Inauguration in 1960. Sandburg died on July 22, in 1967.