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Published semiannually by 

the University Library 

and the College of Arts and Sciences 

at Western Illinois University 

Macomb, Illinois 61455 






DAVID D. ANDERSON, 7V/zWn.?a// State University 
MICHAEL BECKES, Dickson Mounds Museum 
RICHARD W. CROCKETT, Western Illinois University 
RICHARD CROWDER, Purdue University 
JAMES E. DAWIS Jllinois College 
RODNEY DAVIS. Knox College 
ARLIN D. FENTEM, Western Illinois University 
MYRON J. FOGDE, Augustana College 
PEARCE S. GROVE, Western Illinois University 
THOMAS E. HELM, Western Illinois University' 
WALTER B. HENDRICKSON,A/flcM/rra>' College 
ROBERT JOHANNSEN, University of Illinois 
FREDERICK G. JONES, Western 'Illinois University 
JERRY KLEIN, 'Peoria Journal Star" 
CHARLES W. MAYER, Western Illinois University 
DENNIS Q. McINERNY,5raJ/ev' University 
RONALD E. ^ELSOn. District Historian, 

Division of Land and Historic Sites 
RONALD E. NELSON, Western Illinois University 
RICHARD D. POLL, Western Illinois University ' 
STUART STRVEWER, Northwestern University 
ROALD D. TWEET, Augustana College 
WILLIAM L. VRB AN, Monmouth College 

"Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society' " 
DOVGEASmESON, Knox College 

Subscription rates are $2.00 a year for individuals and $3.00 for institutions. Single 
issues are $1.50. 

Correspondence about subscriptions, contributions, and books for review should be 
sent to Chairman of the Board of Editors, Western Illinois University, Macomb, 




William Cullen Bryant: Illinois Landowner 

David J. Baxter 1 

The Garden Myth In "The Prairies" 

Edwin R. Booher 15 

Recollections of an Illinois Woman 

Mark E. Nac/<man and Darryl K. Paton 27 

Carl Sandburg's Influence on Modern Poetry 

Richard /-/. Crowder 45 

The Regional Essays of Jerry Klein 

John E. f-ia/lwas 65 

Notes and Documents 87 

Reviews of Books 91 

Contributors 103 

Copyright 1978 by Western Illinois University 


Kushner and Sherill, JOHN HAY: THE UNION OF POETRY 
By George Monteiro. 91 

Hale, JOHN HAY. 

By Br en da Murphy. 94 


By Michael R. Beckes. 95 


By Rodney 0. Davis. 97 

Sandburg, BREATHING TOKENS, ed. Margaret Sandburg and 
By Charles W. Mayer. 99 


David J. Baxter 

First as editor of the NEW-YORK REVIEW AND ATHE- 
NEUM MAGAZINE (1825-26), and then during his long tenure as 
editor of the NEW YORK EVENING POST (1829-78), William 
Cullen Bryant enthusiastically endorsed America's westward 
settlement. He supported legislation for the exploration and settle- 
ment of Oregon twenty-five years before that area officially be- 
came a territory. In 1830 he frequently editorialized in the POST 
in defense of Andrew Jackson's harsh Indian policy, especially his 
controversial Indian Removal Bill which called for the gradual dis- 
placement of all eastern tribes to west of the Mississippi. 
During the 1830's when the rights of squatters were being debated 
by the Whigs and Democrats, Bryant, a sympathizer with the radical 
Locofoco wing of the Democratic party, continually advocated 
stronger pre-emption legislation in order to protect a settler's right 
to buy land at the minimum government price when his sections 
came into market. He was captivated in 1845 by Asa Whitney's 
plan for a transcontinental railroad almost a quarter century before 
such a railroad became a reality, and he supported unlimited im- 
migration to America because he believed that the West was so 
boundless that it could absorb all who wished to emigrate from 
Europe. But beyond the editorializing demanded by his position, 
he was also personally involved in promoting western settlement. 

Although Bryant himself never resided in the West, his 
family felt and followed its allure. As the Bryant farmland at Cum- 
mington, Massachusetts, became less productive, William's 
brothers prepared to move west, either to Illinois or Michigan. 
Arthur Bryant left for Illinois in 1830 and squatted on a farm near 
Jacksonville. John Howard Bryant, the other poet in the family, 
followed soon after and went to work on Arthur's farm. Cyrus 



Bryant, meanwhile, was attempting to establish a farm near Adrian 
in Lenawee County, Michigan. By 1835 William's four brothers, 
mother, and sister Louisa were all settled in the West near Prince- 
ton, Illinois. Evidence suggests that William influenced the family's 
final selection of the Illinois prairies as a homestead instead of the 
oak-openings of south-central Michigan. As Bryant's writings 
before 1830 indicate, he had long conceived of the prairies as an 
ideal landscape, and the reports of the soil and scenery sent back 
by his brothers could only have enhanced his image of the prairies 
as a vast, fertile garden where wealth and happiness could be se- 
cured with little effort. His idealization of the prairies received its 
fullest expression in his 1833 poem "The Prairies," which begins: 

These are the gardens of the Desert, these 
The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful, 
For which the speech of England has no name— 
The Prairies. I behold them for the first, 
And my heart swells, while the dilated sight 
Takes in the encircling vastness!' 

Not only did Illinois provide, as Arthur Bryant described in 
a letter to his brother Cyrus, "beautifully romantic situations for 

Courtesy of the Bureau County Board of Supervisors. 

Seated: (Left to Right) John Howard Bryant, Cyrus Bryant, Austin Bryant 
Standing: (Left to Right) Arthur Bryant, William Cullen Bryant 


farms, "^ it was healthier than Michigan, and there was not the 
bother of hewing down so many trees and digging up stumps to 
create a workable farm. During the summer of 1831 when John 
Bryant contemplated abandoning the Illinois venture to join Cyrus in 
Michigan, William talked him out of it, citing the negative reports 
the western writer and editor Timothy Flint had published of the 
stated Later, John, in turn, tried to convince his brother Austin that 
a land of promise awaited his arrival in Illinois. John wrote home to 
his mother in October, 1833, that it was "high time for him [Austin] 
to be on his way. It is a pity for him to spend his strength in digging 
the poor soil of the Green Mountains when there is so much first rate 
land ready for the plough in these parts, where he can get a better 
living than he gets there with one half the labor. "^ Cyrus too, once 
he left Michigan, discovered the truth of his brothers' felicitous 
reports and described his farm in the same pastoral mode all his 
brothers were inclined to use. "There is a great variety of fruit on 
it," he wrote his mother, "some sandy knolls making beautiful 
places for buildings, for fruit trees and grape vines— a small creek 
running through it having excellent bottom land on its margin for 
meadow land,— and as much good first rate arable land as we 
should ever want, & timber tolerably convenient— firewood enough 
near by."^ 

Bryant seriously considered joining the westward migration 
as he grew increasingly dissatisfied with his strenuous editorial 
duties for the NEW YORK EVENING POST. In 1833 he thought of 
someday buying a farm in Illinois near his brothers, hopefully upon 
his return from his first visit to Europe planned for the following 
year. He and his wife wanted the farm "in order that," Frances 
Bryant wrote, "we may have a place where on to rest (if we need 
one) when we return."^ The idea of moving west was strong in the 
poet again in 1836. He wrote to his brother John, "I think of making 
some disposition of my interest in the EVENING POST and coming 
out to the western country to try my fortune. ... I have had my fill of 
town life, and begin to wish to pass a little time in the country." 
William never did make the move, but he did visit Illinois in 1832, 
1840, 1846, and 1851, and he invested periodically in land in and 
near Princeton from which he received a moderate profit. 

On April 10, 1832, Bryant wrote his friend Richard Henry 


Dana, Sr., an early editor of the NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW and 
father of the author of TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST, that he 
was going to Illinois "in the course of about four weeks, with no 
other purpose in the world than to look at it/'^ln truth, he was also 
interested in buying Illinois real estate. Shortly after arriving in 
Jacksonville in June, 1832, William and John set out on horseback 
for a tour of the prairies. William wrote his wife Frances, "The first 
day brought us to Springfield the capital of Sangamon County 
where the land office for this district is kept and where I was de- 
sirous of making some inquiries as to the lands in market. "^From 
Springfield William and his brother rode north toward Pekin, 
crossing the Salt and Mackinaw rivers, and stopping for the night at 
a place called Pleasant Grove with a man Bryant referred to only as 
Shurtliff. William described the area in the same letter to his wife. 

Shurtliff lives near the north end of Pleasant Grove and within four nniies of 
the northern limit of the lands in market. The soil is fertile and well watered, the 
streams being rather more rapid than in Jacksonville and the region more than 
usually healthy. It is within eight miles of Pekin on the Illinois river, so that it 
is within convenient distance of a market, there is plenty of stone within a few 
miles and sawmills have been erected on some of the streams. I am strongly 
inclined to purchase a quarter section in this place. ^° 

In writing his mother after his return from Illinois, William related 
that he had found a quarter section of 160 acres in Tazewell County 
that he especially liked and had left John the money to buy it.^"* 
Apparently the transaction was never made, however, for there 
is neither a record of it in the Tazewell County Recorder's office, 
nor did William ever write of the purchase again. Almost all of the 
land in which William Cullen Bryant speculated lay in Bureau 
County near Princeton, Illinois, where his brothers moved in the 
spring of 1833. 

The inducement that kept America moving west was the 
promise of cheap land, for public land purchased at the minimum 
government price of $1.25 per acre could be sold at a substantial 
profit once an area became more settled. Speculation was a game at 
which everyone along the frontier and many back East played. The 
Bryant family was no exception, and William and his brothers, 
especially John, were more successful at it than most. The involve- 
ment of the Bryant brothers in the political affairs of Bureau County 
gave them an advantage, carefully exploited, in the very risky 
business of land speculation. Not only were John and Cyrus Bryant 


instrumental in the maneuverings that led to the formation of 
Bureau County, John was also the county's first Recorder of Deeds, 
and Cyrus the first Circuit Clerk. Both held a variety of political posi- 
tions in the county throughout their lifetimes. When the Bryant 
family first moved to Princeton in 1833, the town, as yet unincor- 
porated, was part of Putnam County. The nearest land office was at 
Springfield. In January, 1833, the citizens of Princeton petitioned 
the state government at Vandalia for the establishment of a new 
land district for their region. Whoever became the land agent, re- 
corder, or receiver in the land office would be in favorable position 
to speculate in land, to facilitate land purchases by absentee land- 
owners for a fee or a share of the land, or to lend money to new- 
comers at exorbitant interest rates of up to sixty per cent.^^Cyrus 
Bryant tried to use William's influential positions as editor of the 
POST and friend of Democratic congressman Gulian C. Verplanck of 
New York to secure a position in the new land office. William wrote 
to Verplanck about the matter on January 25, 1833. 

My reason for writing at present, however, is, that I wish to get for my brother, 
in case the [land] district is established, the place of either Register or Receiver in 
the land office. Which of these offices is best I do not know; you perhaps may; 
of course he would prefer the most lucrative. He has all the qualifications necessary 
of both character and capacity, and being of a studious turn, would be perhaps 
allowed leisure for the prosecution of his favorite pursuit, the natural sciences. I 
need not say how much you would oblige, by doing what may occur to you as 
likely to promote his appointment.''^ 

The Bryant petition failed, however, most likely because the poli- 
tical power of Putnam County still resided in the county seat at 
Hennepin, and not with the newcomers at Princeton. But when 
Bureau County was formed in 1337 and Princeton incorporated as a 
city in 1838, both John and Cyrus Bryant won appointments that 
could aid them and William in the buying and selling of land. 
The first years of John, Cyrus, and Arthur Bryant in Prince- 
ton were financially difficult. In order to raise cash Arthur Bryant 
taught school for a time, and John and Cyrus borrowed heavily. The 
family's Illinois venture would have collapsed if William had not 
provided emergency funds. On April 25, 1833, William wrote his 
mother at Cummington about the aid he had furnished. 

I "^ent Arthur $100 according to his request. As CyriB also wanted to borrow mon- 
ey and as his case is even harder than Arthur's I sent him $100 also. This with what 
I lent him before makes $300. I have as I suppose you know advanced to John $200. 
I have also $300 in Illinois of which $200 are at 25 per cent and $100 at 33 1/3 
per cent. I have written to Cyrus and John to take the interest of this money as 
it accrues. '•'* 


Later in April William would send Cyrus an additional $250. John 
Bryant wrote of his tenuous situation in Illinois to his mother in 
December, 1833. "I am very poor. If my debts were paid, I should 
not be worth a farthing. William's assistance is all that has held me 


up." During his first year in Princeton, nevertheless, John, despite 

his poverty, began buying land with the money he borrowed, mostly 

town lots ranging in size from one to eight acres and in price from 

five to twenty dollars, and often in partnership with Lazarus Reeve, 

whose son Tracy later married Austin Bryant's daughter Sarah. 

In 1833 William also began his pattern of land investment which 

would continue until 1878. 

On August 15, 1833, William wrote to Cyrus, 

I have concluded to take the two town lots you speak of, as I believe I have already 
mentioned in a letter to you or John. I have written to John to pay for them out of 
the money that is to come from Cutler. Since your foolish law limiting the rate of 
interest to twelve percent, the effect of which will be to keep money out of your 
state, I have no doubt it is better to invest money in land than to lend it. It must 
be worth 33 or 25 per cent to the settler, or he would not offer it— if so, it must be 
worth nearly as much to one who employs it in the same way with the settler— 
that is, who invest it in land."'^ 

These lots, fifty-two and sixty-nine in the town of Princeton, were 
purchased in Cyrus Bryant's name and not officially "sold" to 
William until 1837. The sale of the lots some years later illustrates 
the rising value of Illinois land in the mid-nineteenth century. 
William purchased both lots for five dollars. He sold lot fifty-two 
on January 16, 1865, to a Cyril Rawson for $1,600, and lot sixty- 
nine on April 7, 1855, to a Dolan P. Bingham for $2,500. What use 
was made of the lots between the times they were bought and sold 
is not clear. Lot sixty-nine definitely had a house on it when it was 
sold in 1855, and since this lot was to have been Fanny Bryant's, 
William's daughter, the house was perhaps built according to plans 
she made which were sent to John Bryant in 1846yA letter dated 
March 29, 1855, discusses the sale. 

I have hesitated somewhat to accept Mr. Bingham's proposition for this occasion. 
When I had the two lots entered I designed one of them for each of my daughters. 
The lot no. 69 was to be Fanny's as I have made it so by my will. If it is to be sold 
the proceeds ought to be secured to her, so that she could receive the interest. 
I have therefore concluded to have the place sold for the price you mention and 
the amount secured to Fanny .... So, if Mr. Bingham buys the house and the lot 
let the proceeds be secured to Mrs. Fanny Bryant Godwin of Rosly, Queens County 
Long Island— or rather New York, for she is yet in New York— but let me have 
the papers. ^® 


If houses were built on the lots, they were probably rented for a 
number of years before being sold, adding further to William Cullen 
Bryant's income from Illinois land investment. 

From the extensive correspondence between William Cullen 
Bryant and his brother John, and from the records of the Bureau 
County Court in Princeton, the following pattern emerges of 
William's investments in Illinois real estate. John acted indepen- 
dently as William's agent throughout the decades during which they 
speculated, often making initial purchases in his own name and then 
"reselling" the land to his famous brother. William often did not 
know until months later that he had acquired more land. On March 
25, 1855, William wrote to John, "I have a deed from you and 
another from Olds, both of them I suppose at Princeton, which I 
shall be obliged to you if you would look up and send me. At the 
same time you will give me a list of my lands in Illinois, which I am a 
little uncertain about in the many changes which have been made."^® 
Most likely, William informed John of an amount he wished to in- 
vest, and John would buy the land he believed would bring a profit. 
This was the case at least for the extensive purchases of 1860 where 

Courtesy of the Bureau County Board of Supervisors. 
John Howard Bryant's Cabin in Princeton, III. Built by hinn in June, 1834. 


William limited his investment to $20,000 when John wanted him to 
go higher. William wrote to John on August 20, 1860 about the sum. 

I wrote you not long since that I wish to invest only $20,000 at the West— repairs 
and fencing Included. I have since received your letter relating to the matter. In 
the $20,000 I do not mean to include the fencing of the lands which I already 
owned, and which you thought of raising wheat upon. But all the new purchases 
with the incidental expenses I wish brought within that sum. Having that amount 
to invest, I wish to be understood literally that I desire literally to stop when it is 
exhausted, and make no subsequent additions at least until I am in funds to do so. 20 

Very little of the land William bought was left unimproved, most of 
it being rented to new settlers until land prices warranted selling. 
William occasionally arranged for his brother-in-law, Justin H. 
Olds, who owned a brick kiln, to build houses and fences on his land, 
thereby further increasing its value. Fences were an expensive but 
necessary measure to keep neighbors from using the land to graze 
their cattle. 

William and John carefully watched the factors affecting the 
land market. In 1848 William told John not to sell any of his land 
until they could see what effect a new canal might have on prices. 
With the natural increase in land values, the capital improvements 
they made, rents from tenants, and interest from mortgages (seven 
per cent or a portion of the crop) when the land was finally sold, 
William's profits were assured. Of the more than 2,300 officially 
recorded acres he purchased and sold in Bureau and Lee counties 
between 1833 and 1878, he was forced to sell only 280 acres at a loss. 
Two quarter sections were given as gifts to his niece Julia Louisa 
Olds, and nephew John H. Olds, in 1872. It is possible, however, 
that William owned more land than was officially recorded. His 
letters hint at this, and an early history of Ohio Township, Illinois, 
mentions the sale of some land owned by William Cullen Bryant to a 
Mr. Conner, of which there is no record .^^ Some of the land pur- 
chased with William's money probably remained in John's name. 

By the extravagant standards of Illinois land speculators in 
mid-century, when entrepreneurs like Henry L. Ellsworth bought 
tens of thousands of acres at a time (18,000 in 1835 alone), William 
Cullen Bryant's investments were small.^^ Even if he did keep some 
of his land in his brothers' names, his total acquisitions over a forty- 
five year period could hardly have exceeded 3,000 acres. Yet, in a 
sense, it is ironic that Bryant invested along the frontier at all. 
Because of his familiarity with the tenuousness of his brothers' 


frontier beginnings and his belief in the fundamental right of the 
western settler not to be threatened by eastern businessmen, 
Bryant fought in his editorials for squatters' rights. In 1837 during 
the pre-emption controversy, Bryant referred to squatters as being 
"adventurous," "moral," "intelligent," "some of the best and purest 
men it has ever been our fortune to be acquainted with," and he 
printed this argument in their defense: ^^ 

Nearly all that portion of this territory lying north of the Illinois, and bounded 
on the west, north, and east, by the Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Rock Rivers 
respectively, has been for sometime past in the market and subject to entry at the 
land office at ten shillings per acre. This at most does not exceed one tenth part of 
its actual value. This fact having become known to eastern capitalists, immense 
tracts of the best land have been purchased by individuals or companies — not for 
the purpose of improving it; but merely to leave it entirely useless until they can 
sell it to actual settlers at vastly augmented prices, or settle it with their own 
tenants! You will readily perceive what an incubus is thus fastened upon the settle- 
ment and the prosperity of the country. . , . Immense tracts of country in Illinois and 
Wisconsin are thinly settled by persons having no legal title to the land they 
cultivate. Congress have at various times passed laws giving the right of pre- 
emption to persons under similar circumstances, thus offering a direct encourage- 
ment for the settlement of the public lands in this manner. No such law is, however, 
in existence at the present time, so that the settler has now no legal security for 
his title. 24 

Bryant, however, in 1837, was an absentee landlord, even 
though a small one, buying cheaply and selling at a profit to new 
settlers, or, while land values increased, renting his land to tenant 
farmers and reinvesting the proceeds. The Jacksonian Democrat 
who publicly advocated cheap western land and the protection of 
settlers from fluctuating land prices, privately engaged in actions 
which compromised his principles, at least when those principles 
were formed in the 1830's when the land around Princeton was a 
frontier. Perhaps in the 1830's it was Bryant's compromise of prin- 
ciple even more than lack of funds that kept his investments so 
modest. The fact remains, nevertheless, that for most of his life 
William Cullen Bryant had a deep personal interest in the growth of 
the state of Illinois. 



William Cullen Bryant's Land Transactions in Illinois. 
Compiled from Bureau County Court Records, Princeton, Illinois. 

July 14, 1835: 

Purchased from the United States Government for $300— the 
Southeast Quarter and also the East Half of the Southwest Quarter 
of Section Number Seventeen, North of Range Nine, Bureau 
County, containing 240 acres. Sold on February 28, 1851, to John 
H. Bryant for $200. 

Sept. 20, 1837: 

Purchased from Cyrus Bryant for $5.00— Lots Number Fifty-two 
and Sixty-nine in the town of Princeton. Lot Number Fifty-two 
was sold on January 16, 1865, to Cyril Rawson for $1,600. Lot num- 
ber Sixty-nine was sold on April 7, 1855, to Dolan P. Bingham 
for $2,500. 

January 10, 1839: 

Purchased from John H. Bryant for $100— the West Half of the 

Northeast Quarter of Section Number Twenty-five in Township 

Number Sixteen, North of Range Six, Bureau County, containing 

eighty acres. Sold on September 14, 1853, to Charles Atkinson for 


March 14, 1844: 

Purchased from John H. Bryant for $500— the East Half of the 
Southeast Quarter and the East Half of the West Half of the South- 
east Quarter of Section Number Five in Township Number Sixteen, 
North of Range Seven, Bureau County, containing 120 acres. 
Sold on August 3, 1846, to Jacob Galer for $450 cash plus mortgage 
terms. As part of this same purchase Galer obtained 120 acres 
from John H. Bryant. Galer's mortgage was held by both William 
and John and required him to pay 1,900 bushels of wheat over 
the next four years. 

March 25, 1851: 

Purchased from John H. Bryant for $200— the Northeast Quarter of 


Section Number Fourteen; the East Half of the Northeast Quarter of 
Section Number Eleven; the West Half of the Northwest Quarter 
of Section Number Twelve; and the Southwest Quarter of Section 
Number Twelve, all in Township Number Eighteen, North of Range 
Nine; and also the Southeast Quarter of Section Number Twenty- 
one in Township Number Seventeen, North of Range Eight, all in 
Bureau County, containing in all 640 acres. Sold the Northeast 
Quarter of Section Number Fourteen to Lyman Pratt on July 24, 
1969, for $6,400. Sold the South Half of the Southwest Quarter of 
Section Number Twelve in Township Number Eighteen on January 
23, 1867, to Dennis Hayes for $2,500, $500 down plus $500 a year 
at seven per cent interest for four years. Sold the Northwest Quarter 
of the Southwest Quarter of Section Number Twelve in Township 
Number Eighteen on January 23, 1867, to J. H. Bonless for $1,500, 
$250 down plus $250 a year at seven per cent interest for four 
years. Sold the Northeast Quarter of the Southwest Quarter of 
Section Number Twelve in Township Number Eighteen on January 
31, 1867, to John McKavitt for $1,250, $250 down plus $250 a year 
at seven per cent interest for four years. Sold the Southeast Quarter 
of Section Number Twenty-one in Township Number Seventeen on 
July 16, 1869, to William Morgan for $4,500, $1,000 down plus 
$875 a year at seven per cent interest for four years. Bryant's 
sales of other tracts in this group have not been recorded. 

June 10, 1854: 

Purchased from John H. Bryant for $200— the Southeast Quarter 
of Section Number Thirty-six in Township Number Nineteen, North 
of Range Eight, Lee County, containing 160 acres. Sold on October 
22, 1868 to James Fuller for $3,200. 

Augusts, 1854: 

Purchased from John H. Bryant for $640— the Northeast Quarter 
of Section Number Twenty-nine in Township Number Eighteen, 
North of Range Eight, Bureau County, containing 160 acres. Sold 
on October 16, 1875, to Thomas J. Westbrook for $4,500. 

October 25, 1858: 

Purchased from William Carter for $3,100— Lot Five on the East 

Half of Ithe Southwest Quarter and the West Half of the Southeast 


Quarter of Section Number Thirty-three; and also the Northeast 
Quarter of Section Number Twenty-one, less twenty acres, in 
Township Number Seventeen, North of Range Eight, Bureau 
County, containing in all 140.5 acres. Sold Lot Five on April 15, 
1878, to Thomas Bowin for $1.00. (Bowin sold this lot a month 
later for $40. It is not clear why Bryant sold the lot for the token 
price of a dollar.) Sold the Northeast Quarter of Section Number 
Twenty-one on July 19, 1869, for $5,000 plus the 1869 taxes on 
the property. John H. Bryant held the mortgage on $1850 of the 
purchase price, payable at $462.50 a year plus seven per cent 
interest for four years. 

July 18, 1860: 

Purchased from William Blake for $3,000— the Southeast Quarter 

of Section NumberThirty-three in Township Number Sixteen, 

North of Range Eight, Bureau County, containing 160 acres. 

"Sold" to his niece Julia Louisa Olds on November 15, 1872, for 


July 21, 1860: 

Purchased from Jones P. Cooper for $4,755— the Southwest Quarter 
of Section Number Eighteen in Township Number Sixteen, North 
of Range Eight, Bureau County, less forty acres from the East 
side, containing in all 117 acres. Sold on April 8, 1868, to William 
Norton for $3,500. 

July 31, 1860: 

Purchased from William Porter for $2,000— the West Half of the 
Northeast Quarter of Section Number Twenty-eight in Township 
Number Seventeen, North of Range Eight, Bureau County, con- 
taining eight acres; and also part of the Northwest Quarter of the 
Southeast Quarter of Section Number Twenty-seven in Township 
Number Seventeen, North of Range Eight, Bureau County, con- 
taining 26.96 acres. For the sale of the West Half of the Northeast 
Quarter of Section Number Twenty-eight, see the entry below for 
March 27, 1861 . Sold the part of the Northwest Quarter of the South- 
east Quarter of Section Number Twenty-seven on October 28, 
1864, to David Warrington for $350. 


August 17, 1860: 

Purchased from Robert Hauck for $3,970— the South Half of the 
Southwest Quarter of Section Number Thirty, less twenty acres, 
and the Northwest Quarter of Section Number Thirty-one, all in 
Township Number Sixteen, North of Range Nine, Bureau County, 
containing in all 264.72 acres. Sold all on December 6, 1867, to 
Robert Kitterman for $6,000. 

October 7, 1860: 

Purchased from H. A. Starkweather for $4,000— the Southeast 
Quarter of Section Number Thirty-three in Township Number 
Sixteen, North of Range Eight, Bureau County, containing 160 
acres. "Sold" to his nephew John H. Olds on November 25, 1772, 
for $1 .00. See entry for July 18, above. 

March 27, 1861: 

Purchased from Thomas Vaughan for $1,600— the East Half of 
the Northeast Quarter of Section Number Twenty-eight in Township 
Number Seventeen, North of Range Eight, Bureau County, contain- 
ing 160 acres. Sold all of the Northeast Quarter of Section Number 
Twenty-eight (see entry for July 31, 1860, above) on September 
28, 1866, to William Morgan for $5,600, $2,400 down plus $800 
a year at seven per cent interest for four years. 



ed. Henry C. Sturges and Richard Stoddard (1903; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 
1969), p. 130. 

2Arthur Bryant to Cyrus Bryant, November 29, 1831. Bryant Family Associa- 
tion Papers, Bureau County Historical Society, Princeton, Illinois. 

3william Cullen Bryant II and Thomas G. Voss, eds., THE LETTERS OF 
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, 1809-1836 (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 
1975), p. 306. 

'^John Bryant to Austin Bryant, October 6, 1833, Bryant Family Association 

SCyrus Bryant to Sarah Snell Bryant, October 8, 1832, Bryant Family Asso- 
ciation Papers. 

6 Keith Huntress and Fred W. Lorch, eds., "Bryant and Illinois: Further 
Letters of the Bryant Family," THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY, 15 (1943), 
p. 639. 

7parke Godwin, LIFE OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (New York: D. 
Appleton, 1883), I, 322. 


9|bid., p. 345. 


"•■•ibid., p. 356. 

TIER (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1973), pp. 52-53. 


J^lbid., pp. 371-72. 

"■^John Bryant to Sara Snell Bryant, December 25, 1833, Bryant Family 
Association Papers. 


^^William Cullen Bryant to John Bryant, September 15, 1846, Bryant-Good- 
win Oollection, New York Public Library. 

■•^-'Bryant and Illinois," p. 642. 

■•Slbid., p. 641. 

20|bid., p. 645. 

2'' Frederick J. Walter, "Some Ohio History of Great Interest," EARLY 
OF OHIO, Scrapbook of the Bureau County Historical Society (Princeton, Illinois, 
n.d.), p. 12. 

22LANDLORDS AND TENANTS, p. 241. Henry Ellsworth (1791-1858), 
lawyer and agriculturalist, was born in Windsor, Connecticut. He became inter- 
ested in western land in 1832 during a tour of the Southwest in his capacity as 
superintendent of the settlement of the Indian tribes forced west of the Mississippi 
by Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Bill of 1830. Ellsworth became the first 
United States Commissioner of Patents in 1835, the year he also began investing 
heavily in the Grand Prairie region of Indiana and Illinois. He eventually took up 
residence in Lafayette, Indiana. At the time of his death he owned over 120,000 
acres in Indianaand Illinois. 

23NEW YORK EVENING POST, 3 Feb., 1837, p. 2. 

24NEW YORK EVENING POST, 1 Feb., 1837, p. 2. 

"THE PRAffilES" 

Edwin R. Booher 

One of the earliest major poems about the Midwest is William 
Cullen Bryant's "The Prairies." Written after a visit to Illinois in 
1832, the poem clearly embodies significant forms of American 
idealism and denotes the emergence of the West as an important 
literary theme. For several reasons— not the least important of 
which is the difference between what Bryant saw on the frontier and 
his poetical treatment of that experience— the poem is an instructive 
excursion into American myth. 

The lengthy journey from New York to visit two of his brothers 
disclosed to Bryant the realities of life in Illinois, and the letters he 
wrote to his wife indicate diverse and conflicting impressions.^ 
In the poem, however, the experience is transformed into a pastoral 
vision of the prairies, a romantic blank verse treatment on the order 
of his famous "Thanatopsis" and "A Forest Hymn" of the sublime 
aspects of Illinois scenery. First published in KNICKERBOCKER 
MAGAZINE in December, 1833, and subsequently included in 
Bryant's 1834 and later collections of poems, "The Prairies" has 
been generally praised and often anthologized. Bryant wrote other 
poems based on the trip to Illinois— "The Hunter of the Prairies" 
and "The Painted Cup"— and visited Illinois again in 1846 after his 
mother and brothers had moved to Princeton; but "The Prairies" 
is unquestionably his most significant poetic treatment of western 

The route Bryant chose allowed him to see much of the Ameri- 
can landscape. Leaving New York on May 22, 1832, he traveled by 
stagecoach, boat, and (briefly) train to the Ohio River. Then, by way 
of Cincinnati and Louisville, steamboats took him down to the 
Mississippi to St. Louis and up the Illinois River to a landing about 
twenty miles from Jacksonville. He arrived on the twelfth of June.^ 



Interestingly enough, Bryant's western journey coincided with 
relevant historical circumstances that are excluded from the poem. 
At various river stops, he heard talk of Indian attacks in Illinois and 
informed his wife that he would have to return by the same route 
instead of crossing the prairie to Chicago as planned. A long- 
standing conflict between whites and Indians had resulted the pre- 
vious year in the use of a volunteer army to drive Black Hawk and 
his Sauk and Fox people from their village at the junction of the Rock 
and Mississippi rivers. On April 5, 1832, Black Hawk and about a 
thousand persons, perhaps half of whom were warriors, recrossed 
the Mississippi and moved about forty miles up the Rock River, 
intending to exercise what they considered was their right to farm 
the land there and expecting to gain support from other Indian 
tribes as well as from the British if again confronted by the militia. 

As preparations were made to send both the Illinois militia and 
the United States Army against him. Black Hawk came to realize 
that aid would not be given and that he could not remain with his 
people and fight. On May 14, a week before Bryant's departure from 
New York, Black Hawk attempted to confer under a flag of truce 
with an advance detachment of the militia. However, the undisci- 
plined militiamen took his messengers prisoner, fired upon those 
who had been sent to watch from a distance, and then murdered one 
of the captives.^ Following that incident and Black Hawk's re- 
taliatory charge, the Indians were pursued through several encoun- 
ters and, several weeks after Bryant's return to the East, were 
trapped as they attempted to cross the Mississippi. On August 2, 
in what is called the Bad Axe Massacre, the troops slaughtered 
men, women, and children who were plunging into the river in 
their desperate scramble for safety. By the time the poem was 
completed for publication the following year, Black Hawk had been 
imprisoned for several months and, still a prisoner, given a "celeb- 
rity's" tour of eastern cities before being freed at Rock Island. 
In September, 1833, most remaining tribes had been evicted by 
treaty from territory in Illinois. 

Nor were conditions in frontier towns idyllic. John Bryant was 
a clerk in Jacksonville, which the poet described to his wife as "a 
horribly ugly village, composed of little shops and dwellings, stuck 
close together around a dirty square, in the middle of which stands 


the ugliest of possible brick court-houses, with a spire and weather- 
cock on its top." Arthur Bryant farmed near the village, living in a 
two-room log cabin with kitchen and parlor separated by an open- 
roofed passage "large enough to drive a wagon through," as Wil- 
liam put it. Arthur was not present to welcome his brother, however, 
having prudently returned to Massachusetts for a suitable wife to 
share his western venture.'* 

Accompanied by John, William enthusiastically explored the 
prairie, with its marvelous stretches of flat lands covered by tall 
grasses and myriad wild flowers. Soon after his arrival, he and his 
brother set out on horseback toward Springfield and rode about a 
hundred miles over vast prairies with scattered settlements near 
wooded groves and rivers. Bryant found the countryside to be "the 
most salubrious" and fertile he had ever seen; "at the same time," 
he added, "I do not think it beautiful. Some of the views, however, 
from the highest parts of the prairie are what, I have no doubt, 
some would call beautiful in the highest degree. ..." Perhaps he 
was thinking of these when he wrote the opening lines of "The 
Painted Cup": 

The fresh savannas of the Sangamon 
.♦ Here rise in gentle swells, and the long grass 

Is nnixed with rustling hazels.^ 

In his letters Bryant was also candid about the people and the 
towns he saw. About thirty-five miles from Jacksonville, he and his 
brother stopped at the federal land office in Springfield to learn 
whether any land was available. He found the houses there "not so 
good" as those of Jacksonville, "and the whole town having an 
appearance of dirt and discomfort." After spending the night in a 
"filthy tavern," he and his brother rode north for several days, 
Bryant himself considering the purchase of a quarter section of land 
not far from Pekin. Once, at nightfall, the travelers found them- 
selves on the edge of an empty stretch of prairie fifteen miles wide 
and sought lodging in the only habitation available, a one-room 
cabin. They found a man sick with fever, a half-dozen or more chil- 
dren, "brown with dirt," and several other travelers. The harried 
woman of the household gave them food about ten o'clock, and they 
slept on the floor— twenty men, women, and children in the same 



Courtesy of Charles Scribner's Sons from William Cullen Bryant, by Charles H. Brown. 
Bryant at the age of thirty. Painting by Samuel F. B. Morse. 


room. At another cabin Bryant asked for corn for the horses and 
saw "a fat dusky-looking woman, barefoot, with six children as dirty 
as pigs and shaggy as bears. She was cleansing one of them and 
cracking certain unfortunate insects between her thumb-nails. 
I was very glad when she told me she had no corn nor oats. " Shortly 
thereafter, however, they spotted a clean-faced youngster and, 
pursuing that sign of civilization, found hospitality to their liking, 
even though the woman had but one spoon with which to serve them 
and that with only half a handle. 

On the return to Jacksonville, Bryant encountered one of the 
thirty-day companies called up in the Black Hawk campaign, 
which introduced him to "a hardlooking set of men" who were 
"unkept and unshaved, wearing shirts of dark calico, and some- 
times calico capotes." The captain of the company was a lanky 
young man who amused Bryant with his clever talk and frontier 
wit. Years later, Bryant learned that the young man he had met 
that day was Abraham Lincoln, whom he would memorialize in 
1865 as "slow to smite, and swift to spare,/ Gentle and merciful 
and just!"® 

The day after Arthur returned from Massachusetts with his 
new wife, Bryant left for New York by the river route, concluding 
one of his letters with the remark that his experience must be 
treated in "the only form of expression in which it can be properly 
uttered." That form was implicit in a letter he wrote in October: 
"These prairies, of a soft, fertile garden soil, and a smooth undu- 
lating surface, on which you may put a horse to full speed, covered 
with high thinly growing grass, full of weeds and gaudy flowers, 
and destitute of bushes or trees, perpetually brought to my mind 
the idea of their having once been cultivated." 

Bryant's supposition that the prairies were gardens in antiquity 
led him to use the agrarian myth, which informs the entire poem. 
As Henry Nash Smith and Leo Marx have shown, the American 
pastoral myth is a significant mode of belief in which the land- 
scape, particularly the Middle West, has long been viewed as a kind 
of garden, an idealized middle ground of nature and art, lying mid- 
way between the primitive forest and populous city.^ "We are a 
people of cultivators . . . united by the silken bands of mild govern- 
ment, all respecting the laws, without dreading their power, be- 



Copyright © 1957 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission 
of the University of California Press. 

William Cullen Bryant. Painting by Frank Buchser, 1868. 


cause they are equitable," Crevecoeur wrote in the eighteenth 
century .^And, as Marx summarizes it, LETTERS FROM AN AMER- 
ICAN FARMER is a classic illustration of the myth: "Instead of 
Arcadia, we have the wild yet potentially bucolic terrain of the 
North American continent; instead of the shepherd, the indepen- 
dent, democratic husbandman with his plausible 'rural scheme'; 
instead of the language of a decadent pastoral poetry, the exuberant 
idiom, verging toward the colloquial, of the farmer. . . ."'° The most 
notable political advocate of the myth was Thomas Jefferson, in 
whose NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA the familiar defense 
of the agrarian society is found: "Those who labor in the earth are 
the chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people, whose 
breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and 
genuine virtue. "^^ 

Many of the settlers who came to Illinois were deeply con- 
scious of their roles in creating a new society on the fertile land, 
and the Bryants were no doubt among them. In the presence of so 
persistent an American belief, it is not surprising that Bryant's 
Illinois experience is assimilated into it. The opening lines of 
"The Prairies" establish his use of the myth: 

These are the gardens of the Desert, these 
The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful. 
For which the speech of England has no name— 
The Prairies.''^ 

Having announced his pastoral theme, Bryant then relates how 

the Creator himself prepared a sublime setting for those who will 

cultivate the prairies: 

The hand that built the firmament hath heaved 

And smoothed these verdant swells, and sown their slopes 

With herbage, planted them with island-groves, 

And hedged them round with forests. (II. 25-28) 

Such natural gardens for a chosen people are "Fitting floor/ For 
this magnificent temple of the sky" (II. 28-29), where the flowers 
below "rival the constellations," and the heavens bend down 
upon the earth in love. The hoofbeats of the horse create a "sac- 
rilegious sound," disturbing the "dead of other days" who built 
great mounds overlooking the Mississippi and "in the dim forests 
crowded with old oaks" (I. 44). 

Although Bryant is not explicit, the ancient inhabitants of the 


prairie are clearly analogous to the Arcadians of old and were "a 

disciplined and populous race" that built the mounds while the 

Greeks were yet quarrying marble to build the Parthenon (II. 46- 

50). Like shepherds of the Golden Age they were rewarded for 

their artful affinity with nature: 

These ample fields 
Nourished their harvests, here their herds were fed, 
When haply by their stalls the bison lowed, 
And bowed his maned shoulder to the yoke. (II. 50-53) 

A race so skilled in the agrarian arts that it domesticated the 
buffalo might well be expected to excel in the other pastoral arts 
of love and poetry, as indeed it did: 

. . . and lovers walked, and wooed 
In a forgotten language, and old tunes. 
From instruments of unremembered form, 
Gave the soft winds a voice. (II . 55-58) 

Implicitly, the gardens of the desert are the physical and 
spiritual legacy bequeathed by that happy people to western 
settlers. Et in Arcadia ego , or in nineteenth-century terms, "thus 
change the forms of being" (I. 86). The civilization of Mound Build- 
ers was destroyed, Bryant relates, by the invasion of hunter- 
tribes, which signify the force of primitivism impinging upon the 
garden. With one exception, the peaceful cultivators were slaugh- 
tered as the prairie fell under the dominion of the red men. 

The treatment of the Mound Builders and red men as two 
distinct races undergirds Bryant's use of the pastoral myth, with 
its counterforce of primitivism, and derives from another nine- 
teenth-century belief generally discarded today.^-' In a popular 
history which Bryant collaborated in writing in 1876, a full chapter 
is devoted to the Mound Builders, who are described as a shadowy 
people "of a singular degree of civilization" antedating the Indians 
found here by discoverers from the old world.^* It was they who 
built "the mighty mounds/ That overlook the river" (II. 42-43), 
which Bryant had seen at St. Louis and which are regarded today as 
the relics of the Mississippian Indian culture. As for contemporary 
tribes, the comment in the history reflects a popular misconception 
that Bryant wrote or allowed to stand, at least, through editorial 
prerogative: "It seems irrational to assume that such a people, 
whose contact for two centuries and a half with the culture of 


another race has been unproductive of any good, can have once 
fallen from a semi-civilization possessed by their ancestors, but of 
which they have neither distinct inheritance nor even dim tradi- 

The force of primitivism, epitomized by the "red man" in the 
poem, does not itself escape the mutability of being nor perhaps 
the gentle breezes of the garden landscape. According to Bryant's 
account, "hunter-tribes, warlike and fierce," savagely destroyed 
the peaceful civilization of Mound Builders. After the plain had 
been heaped with corpses and all but one slain, that lone survivor 
returned to the captured stronghold in despair, expecting nothing 
better than death: 

Man's better nature triumphed then. Kind words 
Welcomed and soothed him; the rude conquerors 
Seated the captive with their chiefs; he chose 
A bride among their maidens, and at length 
Seemed to forget— yet ne'er forgot. . . . (II. 79-83) 

The recent conflict between whites and Indians in Illinois is com- 
pletely absent from the poem. The explanation given for the In- 
dians' departure is that the forms of being change and 

The red man, too, 
Has left the blooming wilds he ranged so long, 
And, nearer to the Rocky Mountains, sought 
A wilder hunting-ground. (II. 89-92) 

Although the prairies have been the scene of earlier conflict 
and sorrow, they remain untainted. The poem concludes with a 
description of a natural garden in which men may live in perfect 
harmony. The birds have scarcely "learned the fear of man," 
and the "sliding reptiles of the ground,/ [are] Startlingly beauti- 
ful" (II. 106-08). For the moment, it seems inevitable that humanity 
will fulfill here in this new Eden its old Utopian dream. Actual con- 
ditions that Bryant had seen are relegated to the prose; no Martin 
Chuzzlewit will suffer the ague in these surroundings.""^ 

Now, as the poet's horse moves over the prairie, in a bucolic 
and prophetic reverie, Bryant envisions an advancing multitude 
to build anew on the foundations of that earlier race of gardeners. 
Listening long to the "domestic hum" of the bee, the poet hearkens 
to still another sound: 


From the ground 
Comes up the laugh of children, the soft voice 
Of maidens, and the sweet and solemn hymn 
Of Sabbath worshippers. The low of herds 
Blends with the rustling of the heavy grain 
Over the dark brown furrows. (II. 117-22) 

Destined to build new lives on prairies across the continent, the 
colonists will doubtlessly be as skilled as their predecessors in the 
agrarian and aeolian arts. Their virtue will be that of the child, the 
maiden, and the Sabbath worshipper. 

The reports of travelers and of pioneers who settled the 
prairies— at first near the timber groves and later on the open 
plain— leave no doubt of the sublimity of the virgin landscape and. 
its capacity to inspire hope. In fact, Bryant poeticizes a thought 
expressed more than once in accounts by early settlers of Illinois: 

I behold [the prairies] for the first, 

And my heart swells, while the dilated sight 

Takes in the encircling vastness. (II. 4-6) 

In "the sound of that advancing multitude" (I. 116) near the end of 
the poem, Bryant evokes a nationalistic theme that received strong- 
er affirmation in years following 1833 and fuller poetical expression 
with Whitman, whose "western youth" of "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" 
carry on the work of progress and regeneration when older races 
droop with weariness: 

All the past we leave behind, 
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world, 
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march. 

Pioneers! O pioneers! ^^ 

Eventually, as Marx points out, the American concept of progress 
made it imperative to introduce the machine into the garden, while 
the myth was assimilated into a literature of the "technologically 
sublime."^® Thus, through technology, Whitman's pioneers are 
enabled to transcend time and space in their spiritual passage to 
India and return 

To reason's early paradise. 

Back, back to wisdom's birth, to innocent intuitions. 

Again with fair creation. ^^ 

By treating the prairies as gardens and the Mound Builders 
as Arcadians, Bryant, like Whitman, defines the nation's destiny 
in the context of a golden age and reveals the significance of the 


western myth to America's spiritual quest. In reality, of course, 
neither metropolitan corruption nor primitive anarchy were ex- 
cluded from the garden. With the machine came the industrial 
city— big business, crowded tenements, and political dishonesty— 
and in the removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi, white 
settlers demonstrated their own savagery; but for a poet of the 
nation's spirit and geography the myth of the garden was a promis- 
ing and powerful theme. 



"• William Cullen Bryant, "Illinois Fifty Years Ago," in PROSE WRITINGS OF 
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, ed. Parke Godwin (1884; rpt. New York: Russell 
and Russell, 1964), II, 3-22. Unless otherwise indicated, Bryant's quoted comments 
about Illinois are taken from this synthesis of private letters. 

2charles H. Brown. WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (New York: Scribner's, 
1971), pp. 204-05. 

3Anthony F. C. Wallace, "Introduction: Prelude to Disaster," in THE BLACK 
HAWK WAR: 1831-1832, ed. Ellen M. Whitney (Springfield: Illinois State His- 
torical Library, 1970), I, 50-51. According to Mrs. Whitney's estimates, the war 
resulted in casualties of between 442 and 592 members of Black Hawk's band and 
72 whites. 

^Brown, p. 205. 

ed. Henry C. Sturges and Richard Henry Stoddard (1903; rpt. New York: AMS 
Press, 1969), p. 196. 

^POETICAL WORKS, pp. 316-17. The poem of four stanzas was written for 
services in New York following Lincoln's assassination. 

1883), 1,286. 

^Henry Nash Smith, "The Garden of the World and American Agrarianism," 
Vintage, 1950), pp. 138-40. Leo Marx, THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN: TECH- 
NOLOGY AND THE PASTORAL IDEAL (1964; rpt. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 
1969), pp. 36-40. 

9st. Jean de Crevecoeur, LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN FARMER, 
Letter III, in THE AMERICAN TRADITION IN LITERATURE, 4th ed., ed. Sculley 
Bradley etal. (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1974), I, 182. 

lOMarx, p. 114. 

■" ■'Query XIX, in THE COMPLETE JEFFERSON, ed. Saul K. Padover (New 
York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1943), p. 678. 

"•^POETICAL WORKS, pp. 130-33. Lines from this edition are indicated in the 

^^Operations at the Koster Site, an archaeological project on the Illinois River 
near Kampsville, Illinois, have revealed evidence of Indian villages dating back 
at least 8,500 years and are expected to indicate the presence of Indians in the area 
before that. 

"•^William Cullen Bryant and Sydney Howard Gay, A POPULAR H ISTORY OF 
OF THE UNION OF THE STATES (New York: Scribner's, 1878), 1,20. 

^^Bryant and Gay, p. 19. 

^Charles Dickens visited America in 1842 and two years later wrote MARTIN 
CHUZZLEWIT, in which he described a dilapidated log-cabin town called Eden 
built on a swampy piece of the American frontier. Chuzzlewit became an investor 
but after nearly dying of a fever was happy enough just to escape. 

"•^LEAVES OF GRASS AND SELECTED J'ROSE, ed. Sculley Bradley (New 
York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), p. 193. 

■"^Marx, pp. 219-21. 

■'9"Passageto India," in LEAVES, p. 344. 


Mark E. Nacknian and Darryl K. Paton 

This is the memoir of a woman whose life straddled the nine- 
teenth and twentieth centuries. Born in 1848, she waited 89 years 
before recording her family's history during the month of January, 
1938. There is nothing remarkable about any of the family members, 
save her grandfather's brother, Samuel F. B. Morse, and the events 
of their lives appear so unspectacular as to hardly require mem- 
orializing. Yet her account is compelling. With openness, warmth, 
and unflagging spirit, she tells what she remembers, and in this 
story of an ordinary American family over five generations, a uni- 
versal chord is struck. Here is a daughter and sister, a wife and 
mother, in her various stages and roles as the years flash by. So 
concentrated is her focus on her family that she fails to mention the 
name of only one person: herself. 

Emma Morse Loomis was the second child and daughter 
of Charles and Abigail Morse, who were living in Wilton, Maine 
when she was born on November 8, 1848. She spent her childhood 
and teens in Waterville, where she attended a private school for 
girls with her two sisters, Mattie and Hattie. A brother, Charles, 
the last child, was born in 1859. These were the blissful years of 
youth, and she recalls with avidity the games and amusements and 
pastimes of a Maine girlhood. A detailed description of her father's 
seven-bedroom house, purchased on a railroad ticket agent's salary, 
reminds us today that the American standard of living may have 
regressed, in some aspects, from Victorian times. History has 
already had its say by mid-century, as she notes the abandoned 
water-powered cotton mills on the Kennebec and the passing of the 
Indian frontier, where an aging block house stands as a monument. 
The Civil War, however, seems to have made no impression; at 




Courtesy of the authors. 

The "Illinois Woman": Emma Morse Loomis. 


least it merits no mention and apparently disturbed Waterville not 
at all. But carefree times are forever at an end when her father must 
seek new employment. He looks to the "growing West" for work 
and finds it in Illinois, on the Chicago & Alton Railroad. The family 
moves to Jacksonville in 1866. 

For the 72 years that will follow, our narrator remains in 
Illinois. Here she completes her schooling in 1869 at the Female 
Academy in Jacksonville, and here she meets John Loomis, whom 
she marries in 1873. Here she rears their five children and provides 
a nesting place for them, their spouses, and her grandchildren 
during the entire 45 years of her marriage. Outside happenings 
scarcely impinge upon their lives; she gives only passing notice 
to such landmark events of national and world history as the Phila- 
delphia Centennial and the 1918 influenza epidemic. Hers is a world 
of familial relationships which transcend, on the individual's level, 
the large events that historians are prone to highlight. The value of 
the memoir is in its revelation of the commonplace and in the very 
timelessness of its subject. 

Yet a picture of middle class society in post-Civil War America 
emerges, and it is not a pretty one. In these years of explosive 
economic growth, America appears to be something less than the 
land of opportunity, even for native-born whites. Jobs are hard to 
come by, and job insecurity and instability is endemic. The self- 
made man does not exist in this family. From the experiences of 
father Morse and husband Loomis, as well as the third generation 
of sons and sons-in-law, it seems that joblessness must often be 
remedied by a well-placed friend or relative. 

Employment possibilities are not limited by immobility. 
Family members are only too ready to leave the hearth in search 
of work (or health) and we find them ranging the full breadth of the 
United States, from New York to California and back again to 
Illinois. Geographic mobility is at least matched by frequent intra- 
state residential movement, but without any accompanying change 
in status. The surprising habit of renting houses or rooms is sympto- 
matic of chronic instability and financial inability. This may explain 
the practice of "doubling up," even in the cramped quarters of a 
boarding house, as the sons and daughters, with their children in 
tow, come home at intervals to stay with father and mother Loomis. 


An extended family it has beconne by 1900, but the parents are never 
deserted. If anything, their grown children still betray a dependence 
in time of need. And they are always welcome to live at home, along 
with their spouses and children, even for years at a time. From this 
account it appears that the American family was not irretrievably 
splintered by national expansion in the nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries, and that the isolated nuclear family of the 
post-World War II era may be a product of unemployment compen- 
sation, pension plans, and social security. 

This handwritten memoir was recorded in two blue Spiral No. 
87 composition books, which came into the possession of a grand- 
son-in-law, Howard Mollestad. They were discovered in 1977 by 
Darryl K. Paton, a student at the University of Washington, who 
was helping Mr. Mollestad clean out and close down his house. 
Mr. Paton brought the notebooks to the attention of his history 
professor, Mark E. Nackman, and then secured the written per- 
mission of Mr. Mollestad to have the contents published. The 
editing has involved transposition of paragraphs and sentences, as 
indicated by ellipses, and minor alteration of punctuation to improve 
readability. The editors of WESTERN ILLINOIS REGIONAL 
STUDIES abridged the manuscript to concentrate on matters 
dealing only with the region. 


This is the 8th day of Jan. 1938. I am 89 years old. While my 
mind is clear and my eyesight good, for which I thank God, I am 
going to write my family history for my dear children and grand- 
children. It is all I have to leave them for a legacy. 

The Morse Family 

My Grandfather, Charles Morse, was born in Maine in the year 
May 27, 1785. He lived in the town of Wilton. He was quite a promi- 
nent man in that village and owned some property there. He was 


twice married. After the death of his first wife he married Abigail 
Scales: they had three sons, Samuel, Charles Moody, and Moses 
Leiand. Charles Moody was my father. 

My father was not a college graduate as was his brother Leiand 
but he attended an Academy which was probably about the grade 
of our present day High School. In his "teens" he went to Augusta, 
Maine and clerked in the Post Office. My mother Elizabeth Bickford 
was living there at the time. Father was born July 21, 1820, my 
mother Nov. 16, 1820. In August, 1841 , they were married. They left 
Augusta and went to Wilton where they lived with his parents. 
Not till May, 1844, was their first child born, my sister Martha. 
After I was born Nov. 8th, 1848, they moved from Wilton to Skow- 
hegan where another sister ["Hattie"] was born on Oct. 8, 1850. 
["Mattie"] was a little over a year old grandfather passed away. 
The next move was to Waterville, a college town on the Kennebec 
river. Father's position there was a ticket agent in the office of the 
Maine Central R. R. 

During our last year in Waterville father acted as Supt. of the 
R. R. The reason of it was that the Supt. had disappeared: He was 
found in Canada, brought to New York and put in the Tombs. He 
had been caught stealing from the R. R. After a trial he was free, 
and for what reason I don't know, he was reinstated in the Co. and 
had his Supt. office given back to him. My father was expected to 
resume his same office under him; but no, my father refused to work 
under a man of that character, so he resigned. 

About that time there was oil discovered in Canada. Father 
went there hoping he might be lucky enough to strike "ile"; he was 
not successful and came back home. His brother Samuel was living 
in Wis. He had been connected with the R. R. a long time as engi- 
neer and conductor. Father went west thinking he might find a 
position in the growing West. Through the influence of friends 
he obtained a position on the Chicago and Alton R.R. as division 
Supt. on a branch that ran to and, later beyond, Jacksonville. He 
came back to Waterville, sold his property, pac [sic] out household 


goods, shipped them to Jacksonville, Illinois and we embarked for 
a new home in the West. Our route was by the way of Canada; 
we stopped off a day in Montreal, then on to Chicago and down to 

We stayed in a hotel until a house was found and made ready 
for occupation. The last family who had lived in this house were very 
poor housekeepers. They had left much to be done before my tidy 
neat mother would live in it; plenty of soap and water and fresh 
paint and vermin to be exterminated: rats, mice, and bugs! Jack- 
sonville was a college town; this house was on the college campus. 
It was formerly a dormitory; part had been burned and the rest 
arranged for a family residence. There was a basement; in it was the 
dining room, kitchen and a servants sleeping room. (Mother didn't 
think it a fit sleeping place so she had the servant use a room in the 
attic.) The first floor had double parlors and a hall, upstairs three 
bedrooms and two finished attic rooms. I forgot, there was also a 
bedroom off the back parlor at the end of the hall. It was Sept., 
1866, when we landed in Jacksonville and many years passed before 
the last of the family left there for homes in different states. Some 
still in Illinois, in Penn. and some in Alabama. 

There was three schools for girls in Jacksonville. The Athe- 
neum, Female Academy, Methodist College. The latter is still 
used and is now called McMurray College. Hattie and I attended the 
Atheneum first year, then we went to the Acadamy from where 
we were graduated, June, 1869. I studied music, both instru- 
mental and vocal. Hattie took drawing and painting. One of the 
pictures was the head of the Madonna. It was quite a large 
picture and in later years she used to smile and say the work 
on it was so much of her teacher's touching up that she felt it was 
not her work and she ought not get the credit of it. At the com- 
mencement graduating exercises each girl stood up and read her 
own composition. It was discovered sometime after that the vale- 
dictorean [sic] had copied hers from some former graduate. She had 
more courage than the rest of— no, had to brazen the face of the 
audience with a lie. The rest of us may not have been credited with 
much nor any literary talent but our effusions were at least honest! 
There was music on the program furnished by the music pupils 
of the school. I played with three other girls a selection on two 


pianos. The following year I sang an aria from some opera, some 
nerve that. It was not my selection by my teacher's. She must have 
thought and felt confident that I'd get through without failing and 
that would show her ability as a vocal teacher. 

After leaving school I was governess to three little girls in their 
country home. Their mother preferred that way, did not like to send 
them to the country school. Their father was a dealer in 
cattle; he was called a "cattle King" as he raised large herds of 
beef and fattened them on his many acres of grassland for shipment 
to the eastern markets. He owned a comfortable home on one of 
his pastures. It was a short distance from Jacksonville by rail. 
The station where the train stopped was named for this man Alex- 
ander. I was recommended to the mother of these little girls— 8, 
10, 12— by my profesor [sic] of the Academy. I taught there two 
years. I used to go home week ends about every two or three weeks. 
There were two boys in the family about 16 and 18. One of them 
would drive me to the station Friday evening and when I returned 
Monday morning I was met by a carriage and a saddled horse. 
I had learned to ride horseback in the country and old "Ben" was a 
safe horse for an amateur to ride. The road was across the front 
[of] the depot to the house. There were no cattle in the pasture when 
I had to cross it. The little girls had ponies so we had many rides 
together around the country. They were dear little girls and their 
mother was so kind to me that I enjoyed my two years with them. 

While I was teaching in Alexander, Hattie was giving music 
lessons in another country town of the R. R. and Hattie had a few 
pupils in drawing. All this after we had left the house on the campus 
and now lived in town where we were nearer all were engaged 
in. . . . 

While Hattie and I were in the Academy, Mattie, when she was 
about 20, went to a boarding school in Worcester, fs/lass. The pro- 
prietors were a Dr. Pattison and his wife. He was formerly the 
president of Waterville College. (This College was not co-educa- 
tional then; it is now and is called Colby University.) Mattie was in 
that school two years. Her roommate the second year was a girl 
from New Rochelle, N.Y. Her name was Essie Davids. During the 
vacation she visited Essie in her home; she met her brother Ed. 
After a few months they became engaged, and he followed us to 


Jacksonville. He boarded and lived with us. Our house was in the 
west end of the city; the R. R. office where father worked was in the 
extreme eastern end so it was a long walk between home and 
business. Father had given Ed a position in his office. Our friends 
and acquaintances were among the families of the college faculty 
and church. It was not a gay crowd and Mr. Ed wanted livlier [sic] 
evenings than these people could produce so he moved nearer the 
center of the city. He came out to see his sweetheart often at first 
but soon became intimate with the city men and girls and his visits 
were fewer and far between till Mattie's eyes were opened and she 
realized that she was no longer "all in all' to him. She broke her 
engagement and he left for New York. . . . 

My sister Mattie, after her engagement was broken, had many 
friends among the young men and girls in town and she was well 
liked and included in all their social life. She still kept up her paint- 
ing and joined a class conducted by a professor in art who taught 
in the Academy. He had outside pupils besides the inside pupils. 
He was the son of the former President of Waterville College who 
conducted the boarding school in Worcester, Mass. where Mattie 
was one time a student. He had been abroad for several years 
studying in Paris and other art centers; his name was James Wm. 
Pattison. After he left Jacksonville he lived in Chicago and was 
connected with the Art Institute there. Mattie, besides being a pu- 
pil also assisted him with the younger members of his class. My sis- 
ter carved on wood one piece of her work she did for her brother 
[Charles]. It was a bookcase and writing shelf combined: there is 
a long shelf at top and bottom, narrow ones at one side and on the 
other the writing compartment, pigeon holes and small drawer; 
a door which let down by small chains to support it forms a space for 
writing. She carved a design on each of the long panels and quite 
an elaborate one on the door, also the words as follows: "A few 
friends and many books both true." This case is in this house, a 
part of the family heirlooms which fell to me after the death of all 
my family. 

There was a young lawyer in town who was fond of drama: 
he formed a club of amateur players. I was one of them; Mattie and 
John [Loomis] and most of our crowd belonged. We put on several 


plays, not very difficult at first. This man was so enthused with his 
hobby that he decided he [would] try one of Shakespeare's plays. 
He chose THE MERCHANT OF VENICE; he took the part of Shy- 
lock. I was not cast in that, but played leading lady in one or two oth- 
er plays. No more of Shakespeare's were attempted. The people 
enjoyed our performances as the house was well filled whenever 
we put on a play. There was a very good opera house with a stage 
equipped with scenery where we performed. I think we all enjoyed 
that winter. I know I did and did not find it hard to learn the parts 
I was assigned. 

Sol Smith Russel was an actor on the real stage, a professional. 
His home was in Jacksonville; he came home for visits with his 
family at times. On one occasion he was urged by his friends to put 
on our stage one of his repertoires. He consented but had to 
have assistants selected from our club. He chose a play that did 
not require many actors. I was one he chose, among others. I was 
rather dubious about appearing on the stage with a noted actor 
but as I was not the only one I concluded I 'd not be very conspicuous 
and agreed to take part. The morning of the evening selected for 
the play I awoke with a sick headache. I was subjected to them 
for many years when I was young. By keeping quiet and dosing 
remedies I was relieved by night and ready to do my part, altho' 
rather weak and shakey; but I got through the performance without 
showing what the day had been for me. Mr. Smith congratulated me 
and thanked me for assisting him to make his play a success. 

This was my last winter as a care-free maiden. John and I 
decided to be married: he was 30 and I 24. We chose May 8th, 
1873 as our wedding day. We were married at home, the house was 
small so we could invite but a few of our most intimate friends. 
We would have liked to invite all of the young folks we had had so 
much good times with the past winter. The wedding was in the 
evening: my dress was white organdy with a train. I wore a tulle 
veil which reached to the bottom of my train. This was the age 
when women's dresses were elaborate with flounces, ruffles, puffs, 
tucks and bows. It required many yards of the lighter weight mate- 
rials to make a dress; but the dressmakers had enough sense to 
leave the heavy brocades, satins and silks without all these furbe- 
lows; and our undergarments were made of muslin and cambric 


(cotton cloth, full petticoats— no slips— drawers below the knee, 
chemises and corset covers). When I see my grandchildren dress 
in their short shorts, slips, and brassiers made of soft dainty colored 
silk and simply made dresses I wonder how the women and girls 
of the 1800's survived under the lbs. of clothing we wore. 

The year 1876 was centennial year celebrated in Philadelphia. 
Father and Mattie went; mother could have gone but she would not 
leave me as another baby was expected that month, August. She 
felt she must be with me and take care of George [our first-born]: 
he was two years and 5 months old when Leiand was born on the 
27th of Aug. 

For nine years my mother was kept busy watching her grand 
babies come into the world. My sister Hattie was married the year 
after I was: her wedding day was in June. Her babies came every 
two years as mine did. The last one oefore mother died was my 
little boy who lived but one day. A month before John was two 
years old I was not well, sort of run down and depressed. Mother 
said I needed a rest and change. She took George, Bess and John 
and grandmother Loomis took Leiand ([grand] father Loomis was 
teaching in the town of Virginia near Jacksonville). I went to St. 
Louis where my brother [Charles] was living at that time. I took the 
Swedish movement cure. It consisted of machinery which rolled, 
and massaged all parts of the body. I suppose it was to stir up the 
blood and slugish [sic] muscles. I was there six weeks and took 
the cure every day. It did help me, that and the complete rest 
from care, and when I went home I felt able to take up my duties 

When Leiand was nearly one year old my husband had to give 
up his position in the bank where he had been employed since 
before we were married. The son or nephew [of] some director of 
the bank needed a position so one of the clerks had to retire to make 
room for him; and it was my husband who had to step out! Now to 
find another bread-earning job to be sought. A new Post Master had 
just been appointed; John knew him well and applied for a clerkship 
in the office; he was given a place; the salary was very small but 


"beggars" can't be choosers so he was glad to take it instead of 
being idle, while keeping his eyes open for something more re- 
miniative [sic]! 

We could not keep house, pay rent and keep up with the cost 
of living, so we broke up and went to board in one room in a large 
house with a woman we knew, who rented this property and was 
keeping boarders. The room we had was one of the parlors; we 
took the back one as it had a southern exposure and a fireplace 
which made it very cheerful. We furnished it ourselves; and to help 
out our board we allowed our landlady to have the use of our cow, 
also our dining room table and chairs and a small cottage set of 
furniture— bedroom— which mother gave me. We lived there a 
year and a few months. John was on the look out for a position 
that would give him a salary large enough for us to rent a house 
and keep house again. A friend of John's was running for county 
clerk. He told him that if he was elected he'd appoint him deputy. 
He won and we felt we could live on the salary he'd receive, so we 
rented a five room cottage and moved in. 

After the twelve years in this house John had to seek another 
job as a change in administration occurred and he must leave the 
Court house. My brother Charles and John's brother were both 
living in the West, Charles fy/lorse in Kansas City, and Charles 
Loomis in Omaha where he was in partnership in the dry goods 
business. John took a trip to both cities hoping he might find 
something to do there; nothing doing so back he came to old 
Illinois. He had [a] friend in politics— a young man [Richard Yates] 
who was later the Gov. of Illinois— whose influence was enough to 
secure a political job in the Revenue service as Rev. collector for 
the two distilliries [sic] in Pekin. His work required his presence 
right away in that city; he went but did not take his family with him 
at first. . . . When John went West to seek for work my father said 
I'd better come with our 5 children and live with him and Mattie 
and save paying rent until we had to go to Pekin. I did not feel right 
to bring so many into their quiet life, but he insisted and we moved 
in on them bag and baggage, where we lived 4 years until John felt 
he had a permanent position and we could get settled again in 
home making. . . . 


At the end of our living four years with father and Mattie we 
moved to Pekin. We lived in a big house across fronn the distillery 
where John's office was. It was too large for us; it needed a lot 
furniture to make it homelike and we had not enough. The kitchen 
was immense and it seemed a mile from the cookstove to the dining 
room. I think father [John] was satisfied with it as he was happy 
to have his family with him again. But Bess and I were lonesome; it 
was too far from town for us to have neighbors and we were strang- 
ers. John was in high school and walked in every day; it was too 
far for Emma, altho' she was just the age to begin. Bess didn't 
want to enter a strange school to finish her last [year?] so she stayed 
at home and helped me. 

Before we went to live with father and Mattie, George left 
school. He was in the preparatory school for the college. He felt he 
ought to be earning money to help pay expenses. He got a minor 
position in one of the banks. Within two years after we were living 
in father's home he became very unhappy; the bookkeeper under 
whom he worked in the bank was very indifferent and didn't assist 
him as he might have done as this was new work for him. George 
was very sensitive and it hurt him; that and with worrying over our 
situation (he felt we must be a burden on father and Mattie altho' 
they didn't feel so) made him despondent. One gloomy dreary day 
in Feb. he left the house for the bank feeling terribly blue. He was 
the first one to arrive after the janitor. For an instant he lost his 
mind, and didn't realize the sorrow he'd bring to his family, nor the 
wrong he was about to do. He saw a pistol on the desk and used it! 
He shot himself in the head! He must have been insane just then. 
Poor boy, only eighteen. O, if someone had come in before he 
touched that pistol he would have been saved. He was burried 
[sic] beside his grandmother [Morse] and baby brother in the 
cemetery at Jacksonville. There was left our beloved son and 
brother. He had been our pride and hope, for he had always been 
thoughtful of his parents and would not do such a dreadful act 
when he was himself. . . . 

Father had reached the age when he could retire from business 
activity: he received a pension from the R. R. where he had been 
Supt. so long. After we moved to Pekin he and Mattie gave up the 


house they were living in and rented a few rooms in a friend's 
home and did light housekeeping. They lived that way a year or 
two then Charles [who had moved from Kansas City] wanted 
them to come to Philadelphia and live with him. They broke up the 
light housekeeping, shipped the household goods to Philadelphia 
and spent the summer with us in Pekin before they left for the 
home which was the last one for all three of them. I don't recall 
just how many years they lived there before father died; he was 
81. They brought his body to Jacksonville where he was buried. 
Charles and Mattie went back to Philadelphia and within a year she 
died and Charles had to bring her body to be buried beside her 
father and mother. Charles never married. 

The first winter we lived in Pekin on New Years day it was very 
cold; the river had frozen solid so Bess and John decided to go 
skating. It had snowed and then thawed furiously so the ice was not 
clear. As they were skating towards town planning to go as far as 
the bridge and then back, they came to an air-hole, but not realizing 
in time what it was they both fell in. The ice around it was strong so 
John managed to climb out still holding on to Bess and succeeded 
in pulling her out in spite of her heavy clothes. They were frighten- 
ed, almost speechless, they got to shore at last, and of course their 
clothes froze, which caused them difficulty in walking and they 
couldn't help laughing altho' they had just escaped an awful death. 
They reached the house and came in the room where I sat reading 
and said "we fell in the river." I did not at first grasp what they 
meant. As soon as I did, it dawned on me what a narrow escape they 
had had. I was so shocked that I came near fainting. If that accident 
had been fatal how different would have been my life; but God was 
good to us; the lives of those two children were spared to be a 
comfort to us for many years After the tragic death of our oldest 
son we were not asked to suffer another. For years the thought of 
what might have been made me shudder. 

Leiand worked in the distillery for a few months then went to 
Chicago where his uncle Sam Loomis lived. He got a position there 
in a meat market. His uncle had married a French girl whose father 
was a photographer and Sam worked with him. Through them 


Leiand met her sister; they fell in love and were married. They were 
too young and he was not earning enough to support a family, and 
after the baby came they had a hard time to meet expenses, and the 
baby was not getting enough nourishment. So John wrote them to 
come home to us. He got work again in the distillery and they lived 
with us. We called a Dr. to examine the baby and he told us what to 
do for her; we were to rub her daily with warm olive oil and give her 
good rich milk. We followed directions and the baby soon began to 
show the results, and grew plump and pretty as she should look. 
They remained with us and Leiand wanted to be back in Chicago 
again; then another daughter was born. After a few years in Chicago 
they moved to Trenton, N. J., and finally to Brooklyn where Leiand 
had a small meat market. He and Sara disagreed and finally sepa- 
rated; she took the two little girls and went back to Chicago where 
her relatives lived. 

As soon as we moved in town from the distillery Emma entered 
school; she was way behind girls her age as she had never been to 
school. She was 9 yrs. She learned rapidly and was soon promoted 
and in two years had caught up with her class. She went three years 
to the High School and instead of going back to finish the 4th yr. 
she began the study of music, both instrumental and vocal. 

Our new home was in a neighborhood of people who owned 
fine, comfortable homes, quite a distance from the business center 
of the city. . . . We lived about five years in this house; father had 
bought a horse and cow when we moved to this place. . . . Our 
nearest neighbor was a German family named Friederich. One son 
[Walter] was Bess' age; he was living at home at the time we 
moved. He soon became very friendly with our children. Walter's 
father was formerly sheriff but now retired from active service as 
he was in poor health. He was a prisoner in Libby Prison during the 
Civil war; that was enough to ruin any man's health. Walter had a 
cousin living in New York. He went there shortly after we became 
acquainted with the family. One day Mr. Friederich was sitting in 
the Court House lawn talking and joking with friends when he 
suddenly put his hand over his heart and exclaimed, "My God," 
and died instantly. Walter came home to be with his mother and 
aunt, his mother's sister who lived with her. . . . After Mr. Fried- 
erich 's death Bess and Walter became engaged. 


The man we rented this place from wanted it himself so we 
must move again. We rented a small house down town; after a year 
Bess and Walter were married. Walter's aunt Mrs. Frings owned a 
little house of five rooms and bath. They rented this and began 
housekeeping. Within two years a baby came. Bess was dreadfully 
sick during the birth and when the baby was born it was dead; she 
was a very large, beautiful child. She almost caused her mother to 
die: only the quick attention of the nurse saved her. Bess never 
had another child. Her sister Emma's children were especially dear 
to her as she loved them so much. 

When they were married Walter had an electrical stove; he was 
an excellent electrician. After a few years he gave up his shop and 
they stored their furniture and went to New York City. Walter 
ventured several things but did not find any that he could or cared 
to make permanent. He was interested in slight-of-hand magic, 
he had read considerable about it and privately experienced some 
in it. 

The movies were beginning to start so Walter was in for that, 
something new again! He rented a room and began showing pictur- 
es; he was successful from the start and when the time was ready for 
another change he had bought the building he now exhibited in. 
It was a large building, formerly the town hall where all the out-of- 
town and home shows were given. He sold the house and business 
to a woman who owned another movie house. Soon after Mr. 
Friederich's death his wife and her sister moved into the cottage 
where Bess and Walter began housekeeping. Mrs. Friederich 
sold her property. After her death Walter fell heir to all the pro- 
perty. He now had a good income so he and Bess could live without 
having to be tied down to steady work. . . . 

When Walter and Bess came back from New York he bought 
a car; he made two or three changes before he got the one he owned 
when he died and which came to Emma in his will. The last was a 
7-passenger Buick, that seemed a large car for four people. He said 
he wanted one roomy enough to bring the whole Crumbaker family 
[Emma, Ed, and their five children] to Pekin when they could come. 
Ed had not yet bought a car; he got one later on. We all loved to 
have this family with us as often as possible. Bess and Walter loved 


to do things for them and was [sic] very fond of Emma's child- 
ren. .. . 

Soon after Ed and Emma moved to Abingdon we moved to a 
house across the street. It was a two story house; it was for sale and 
considered a good bargain. Father was advised to buy it. He had no 
money to buy it at once but terms for payment were made easy so 
he took it. We moved in the month of May and were not thoroughly 
settled when poor sick Leiand and his family came. I have already 
written of his sickness and death that summer [1917]. Father had 
not been well for some time; he had sinking spells when he [would] 
fall unconscious. The Dr. who examined him said he had hardening 
of the arteries. He had to give up working in the fall after Leiand's 
death and on January 15th, 1918, he died. 

Walter assumed the payments on the property and all was 
transferred to him. I was to have a home there as long as I lived; 
now all is gone, the two children dead and the house burned to the 
ground. I am here with Emma and John [my son] alone in Pekin. 
So we four— Walter, Bess, John, and I— were settled in a perman- 
ent home; we lived there 15 years until Bess died. That made 
another change in our lives. . . . 

In the year 1918 a Co. of Home Guards was formed in Pekin. 
Walter was elected Capt., John a private. One night in the summer 
they were called, awakened from sleep, by telephone to come on 
duty immediately as there had been a terrible boat disaster on the 
river a short distance above Pekin. An excursion boat loaded with 
people from Pekin and towns below had been to an Amusement 
Park above Peoria. On the way home the boat had struck a snag 
which tore a hole in it and it was sinking. As soon as word could 
reach Pekin aid was rushed to them. Many were on the lower deck 
dancing; these were in the greatest danger and many drowned. 
As bodies were recovered they were brought to a temporary 
morgue. The Home Guards and others spent the night rescueing 
[sic] all those who survived. The Guard remained on duty as long 
as needed for protection and to keep order. It was a terrible shock 
to the community and there were no more excursions on the river 
that season. Following this, during the fall and winter, there was an 
eperdemic [sic] of "flu" and many cases were fatal. Many new 


graves were added to the cemetery. When we bought a lot at the 
death of Leiand there were many vacant lots around the one we 
bought; after these two disasters there was not one left. This 
showed what a great loss of life there was in the months between the 
summer of 191 7 and 1918. 

Within the next few years Bess and Walter took a trip to 
Macinac [sic] Island and one to Kansas City. In 1929 Bess had to go 
to a hospital for a serious operation. It was an anxious time for us 
until we knew the operation had been successful and she was out 
of danger. I wonder if one is just the same after an internal opera- 
tion. Bess seemed to be, but in Feb., 1932, she was sick enough to 
go to bed with a feeling of lassitude and slight cold; she was never 
down stairs again, and on March 19, Walter, John and I were left 
desolate. How could we live without that dear one? 

I had become more and more dependent on a cane as this 
arthritis I am afflicted with crept on me. I could no more walk far 
from the house and going up and down stairs was a slow tedious 
effort. We all realized that now I could not be able to keep house any 
more. Emma said I should come and make my home with her and 
here I am. I left the old home for this new one on the 1st day of May 
following the death of my dear Bess in March. 

When I came here to live I was able to be of some use. I took 
upon myself the job of ail the darning and mending. Could do 
everything for myself and take care of my room, help sew for the 
children, Emma, and what clothes I needed; occasionally washed 
and wiped the dishes when the girls were in school and Emma 
washing. About the fourth year of my residence here I began to fail 
in my activities; this insideous [sic], creeping arthritis was getting 
more and more of a hold on me. I had to have help in dressing and 
undressing and had to have my cane handy all the time. Then that 
was not enough support and someone had to help me go from one 
room to another until I couldn't walk at all. Now I am perfectly 
helpless, spend my days and nights alternately in bed and chair. 
I have not had any clothes but a nightgown and bathrobe on for over 
a year; not even stockings as my feet are swollen [so] that they don't 


look like human feet any more. I can't move myself in bed and as I 
can't lie on one side more than two hours or 2V2 at a time I have to 
call for help, and I have to be lifted from bed to chair just like a baby. 
In addition to this affliction my hearing has completely gone from 
one ear and one has to be very close to my other and speak rather 
loud in order to make me understand what they say. I keep a scratch 
pad on the table with a pencil where one can carry on any long 
communication with me. Thank God I still have my eyesight so I 
can pass my weary hours with books. John got a rack to hold the 
book which I keep on the table in front of my chair. My hands are 
too crippled and tender to hold [a] book; holding the pen does not 
strain them. I have best of care and all is being done for me that can 
be. I don't suffer excruciating pain often but always have discomfort 
and my joints are so tender and sore that every move hurts. Emma is 
a wonderful nurse. It grieves me to have her so confined but she 
never lets me feel that I am a burden; but it does seem too bad 
now that her children are grown and she could have more freedom 
that I have to take so much of her time. I do not demand attention 
oftener than absolutely necessary. Whenever she does get a chance 
to go away from the house she sees that I am not left alone. Ann 
[my granddaughter] can attend to my wants almost as well as her 
mother; she has the strength, and knows how to use it, in lifting 
me. Patricia [her sister] has it as much as Ann and doesn't use 
what she has so well. I think that she is so afraid of hurting me that 
she is shy of using what she has. I have much to be thankful for 
so grit my teeth and try to bear my affliction with fortitude. 

This is all up-to-date of my family history. I am the last child 
of Charles Moody Morse. 


Richard H. Crowder 

In 1914 critical readers (as well as uncritical) found in Sandburg 
some disturbing departures from the poems they were accustomed 
to enjoy. Stephen Crane, it is true, had experimented, but he was 
dead. That eternal sophomore, Richard Hovey, had written in- 
nocuously of wanderers, lovers, and comrades, but he too was dead. 
James Whitcomb Riley had long before run out of steam with a few 
stilted sonnets commemorating his departed friends, and he too 
would be dead in two years. Lizette Woodworth Reese, Louise 
Imogen Guiney, Edith Matilda Thomas, Anna Hempstead Branch, 
Josephine Preston Peabody— all these three-named ladies and more 
like them had been providing devourers of verse with their fare: 
moods of gentility, second-hand emotions, sterile and hackneyed 
line structure and stanzaic patterns. Like the snows of yesteryear, 
where are they now? An exception was E. A. Robinson, a stickler for 
classic rhyme, rhythm, and stanza. He was an original with several 
published volumes which nobody was reading much except Teddy 
Roosevelt, for, in spite of their conventional appearance, they were 
out of the accepted rut. Robert Frost had needed to go to England 
to find a publisher and was only now beginning to be mentioned in 
his home country, and possibly for the wrong reasons. 

Small wonder that readers were shocked by the raucous "Chi- 
cago" and were puzzled by the typographical arrangements of 
"Lost" and "Jan Kubelik." These were in a cluster of poems in the 
opening pages of Harriet Monroe's POETRY: A MAGAZINE OF 
VERSE for March, 1914. Two years later they were in Sandburg's 
first book (not counting the earlier privately printed works). The 
contents of CHICAGO POEMS were distasteful, puzzling, in- 
vigorating—depending on what critic's comments one read. The 
reviewers were being called on to suspend reliance on the iambics 



and trochees of Richard Watson Gilder, the expected enclosing 
rhymes of John Banister Tabb, the neat structures of Madison 
Cawein, the philosophic abstractions of George Santayana, the un- 
surprising subject matter of Robert Underwood Johnson. 

When young poets started reading this new collection, what did 
they find? For one thing, there was a free verse modified from the 
poet's beloved Walt Whitman. More often than not, Sandburg's 
lines were shorter than his mentor's, and his unity was generally 
achieved not in the line itself (for he often divided clauses in the 
middle or even into thirds and fourths), but through frequent 
rhetorical repetitions— sometimes exact, sometimes with incre- 
ments—and through modestly climactic conclusions. Younger 
readers also found in Sandburg's poetry the Populist point of view— 
the idea that the people are the central resource in the American 
experience. Other poets too found that this new man was free in his 
use of the idiom of the streets and factories— words and phrases 
uttered by what he called "the mob," in the purlieus of the city. 
They found unabashed expression of anger, of pride in strength, 
of tender compassion, but not the pointed ironies or the bookishness 
of William Vaughn Moody. Edgar Lee Masters and Vachel Lindsay 
may have been leading the way, but Sandburg was actually to take 
up the part of the American bard, to break completely away from the 
genteel tradition. 

Meanwhile, ever since those first pieces in POETRY, Ezra 
Pound and Sandburg had been exchanging poems and compliments. 
Pound said he liked the way Sandburg had kept "down to brass 
tacks," though he missed the restraint that rhyme would have given 
the verses; he said, typically, that another urban poet was superior 
in this regard— the fifteenth-century French chronicler of the seamy 
side of Paris, Francois Villon. Pound also criticized the use of gutter 
language, which he said was often the easiest way out of a problem 
of communication and not always the best. In turn, Sandburg testi- 
fied that Pound had "done most of living men to incite new impulses 
in poetry." Yet, when Pound tried to induce Sandburg to join the 
new movement of Imagism, Sandburg expressed preference for 
going his own unaligned way. 

The next year following the publication of his book, it appeared 
certain that Wilson was not going to keep America out of war. In 



order to demonstrate their basic loyalty to American ideology, 
Carl and his wife Paula left the Social-Democrat ranks in which they 
had served for years. To avoid any hint of association with the Bol- 
shevik point of view, they declared themselves Independents, 
though their daughter Helga assures us they were in truth Demo- 
crats.^ The change in part was parallel with the poet's gradual 

Courtesy of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. from SANDBURG: PHOTOGRAPHERS VIEW 
CARL SANDBURG, copyright © 1966 by Edward Steichen. 

Carl Sandburg, about age 35. 


turning away from what Amy Lowell said had been too much propa- 
ganda in his writing. Always there would be traces of his Populist 
provenience. From this time on, however, beginning with CORN- 
HUSKERS in 1918, there was a noticeable shift from efforts delib- 
erately to change the face of the country. More and more, Sandburg 
was showing acceptance of what he found. 

Was he a loner at the beginning of his career? He may have 
been an innovator in the matter of poetry, but think of Dreiser's 
Carrie Meeber, who, like some of Sandburg's young women, leaves 
the prairies for the city. Her portrait could be an extension of the 
poet's vignettes of the adventurous girl in "Red-Headed Restaurant 
Cashier," a restless Chick Lorimer in "Gone," a bored "Mamie" 
up from a dull Hoosier hamlet and finding no more in life in a 
Chicago bargain basement.^ Think of Frank Morris's Sam Lewiston, 
who is ripped off by the wheeler-dealers of the grain market. How 
like a Sandburg character he is, but without hope. Sandburg in all 
fairness must be read in quantities if the reader is to see that he 
goes beyond Dreiser and Morris in ultimate trust even in the face 
of adversity. The point here is, however, that Sandburg was not 
alone in making the common people the center of his interest. 
It is another point that he showed them to be a complex of pride, 
bravery, stoicism, humor, hard work, and eternal expectation. 

CHICAGO POEMS gained some converts. So did CORM- 
HUSKERS, and two years after that so did SMOKE AMD STEEL, 
which appeared in October, 1920. Earlier that year, in January, 
Sandburg had made a platform appearance at Cornell College, 
Iowa, the first of many, many college performances during the next 
forty years. His public readings, which conveyed his warm personal 
traits, helped a great deal to enhance his popularity and to sell his 
books, just as James Whitcomb Riley's road trips had done for him 
in the preceding generation. Again after another two-year interval, 
Sandburg published his fourth book of poems, SLABS OF THE 
SUMBURMT WEST. It was now 1922, a mountainous year in the 
history of American and British literature. Most important for my 
focus, it saw Eliot's THE WASTE LAMD published in both England 
and the United States. 

Here let me indulge in a quotation from something I wrote 
years ago: "Sandburg's techniques were the same as they had been 


in 1914. He was no longer a revolutionist in prosody and language, 
for his revolt had now beconne habit and had lost its novelty. Sand- 
burg had in his beginnings elbowed out John G. Neihardt, George 
Sterling, and Madison Cawein. Now he was giving way to a new 
generation; he belonged to the status quo and was himself an old 
boy. It is significant that Malcolm Cowley's review of SLABS OF 
THE SUNBURNT WEST appeared in the same issue of THE DIAL 
as the first momentous publication of THE WASTE LAND. The 
tide had turned."^ I wrote that in the early 1960's; now in 1978 we 
can say that temporarily the tide had turned. 

Sandburg had succeeded as no other poet had in the first 
quarter of this century in loosening the poem's structure, making it 
more flexible: in freeing the line endings of the restriction of rhyme, 
in broadening the scope of the language to include words and 
rhythms of the streets and factories, in speaking out as one of the 
people both from his own view and in the voices of others with 
whom he was sympathetic, in vivid description of urban detail 
as well as rural, of broad landscape as well as intimate garden. 
But we must admit that Sandburg's first burgeoning as poet was 
indeed over. His poetic influence would not be felt again for another 
twenty years or more. 

Though the elitist DIAL had published the Eliot poem gladly 
and had admitted Cowley's comments on SLABS OF THE SUN- 
BURNT WEST, it had with right good will in general given short 
shrift to the writings of Sandburg. Oddly, the work of the two 
poets had certain similarities, but critics did not acknowledge 
them. The first poem in Sandburg's book was "The Windy City," 
obviously using Chicago as its scene, just as THE WASTE LAND 
was also urban, centered in the exile's London. The poets had 
developed their themes in works of similar length: THE WASTE 
LAND is 434 lines long and "The Windy City" only 70 lines shorter. 
Line lengths are irregular in both poems, even though Eliot resorts 
to rhyme whereas Sandburg's verse is totally free. Both poems 
use a river bridge as an image central to the theme— an idea I 
will discuss shortly. 

These may appear to be superficial likenesses. The differences 
between the two works are more profound. They reflect the attitudes 
of personalities poles apart. THE WASTE LAND is freighted with 


irony. It pictures a fragmented world broken up by a sense of futility 
and an alienation of men from each other and from the power, 
beauty, and fulfillment of past civilizations. It reflects the fashion- 
able attitudes among sophisticates toward contemporary social 
reality. Its thought is cosmopolitan, derived from the cultures of 
western Europe, from Homer to Baudelaire. 

On the other hand, in "The Windy City" Sandburg's tone is 
Inclined toward the matter of fact, toward acceptance. His world 
Is built on the solidarity of the laboring classes. Most of his people, 
while independent, have a sense of belonging together. Whereas 
Eliot's view envelops a pointlessness, a lost spiritual community, 
Sandburg's attitude leans toward hope. His thought comes chiefly 
from his long-time Social-Democratic connection, from the pub- 
lications of the Populists, from the folk wisdom of his subjects, 
and from his reading of Whitman and Emily Dickinson (with a nod 
to Stephen Crane). He does not condescend to the "people": he 
accepts them and enters into their life as participant-observer. 

Eliot's technique, then, is formed out of reference to his 
favorite authors of the past, near and far. He echoes and quotes 
them in passages placed next to slang, scraps of words from pop- 
ular music, parody, and scenes from London life, both working- 
class and aristocratic. His is a complex of culture and style, but 
always a blend of theme and meaning in delivering fundamental, 
profound commentary on the state of today's world as it appears 
to him. 

Sandburg's technique, also juxtaposing contrasting manners 
of speech, draws on the common man's vocabulary with more 
sympathy, more daily familiarity than does Eliot. A good exercise 
here would be to contrast the monologue in the pub about Lou and 
Albert in part II of THE WASTE LAND with the breezy dialogue 
overheard in part 3 of "The Windy City." One sees, here, how 
Sandburg's lines are shaped by the common man's aphorism as 
well as his humor and pathos, born of experience which Sandburg 
had shared from childhood. If he is not so consciously literary in 
his imagery and suggestion, he nevertheless makes his earthy 
commentaries neighbor to the gossamer and somewhat mystical 
fabric of moonlight and leafy trees, a practice he claimed again and 
again was central to all poetry. In the opening pages of GOOD 


MORNING, AMERICA (1929) his thirty-sixth definition of poetry 
calls it "the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits." 
Likewise, in 1963 he published a last book of poems before his 
death, which he called HONEY AND SALT. His lyrics (hyacinths, 
honey) are as important to us as his realistic pictures (biscuits, 

To underscore further the differences in attitude between Eliot 
and Sandburg in 1922, let us examine specific passages. About 
half way through part III of THE WASTE LAND, "The Fire Ser- 
mon," is tucked a brief section describing the camaraderie of some 
Thames workmen: 

O City city, I can sometimes hear 

Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 

The Pleasant whining of a mandoline 

And a clatter and a chatter from within 

Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls 

Of Magnus Martyr hold 

Inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold. 

In Eliot's view the nearness of the hustle and bustle of a midday 
rendezvous for laborers and the gorgeous glories of a Christopher 
Wren church only emphasize the marvels of civilizations past and 
the vulgarity of life present. For Eliot the fellowship of these men 
only draws attention to the alienation from society of a man of 
cultivated tastes. 

It is just such a situation that Sandburg would reverse. For him, 
he says in more than one place, "The past is a bucket of ashes." His 
interest is in the vitality, the common purpose, the optimism of 
the fishmen. The man in his poem "Fish Crier" (p. 9) "dangles 
herring before prospective customers evincing a joy identical with 
that of Pavlowa dancing." For Sandburg there is no separation 
from life; there is only the likeness of emotions of fish dealer and 
prima ballerina assoluta . Instead of hearing in passing the jollities 
of a pub at noontime, Sandburg joins his own kind, "the little 
Family of Man hugging the little ball of Earth" (p. 471). In the 
poem "Neighbors" (p. 169) Sandburg hears not just a general 
"clatter and a chatter" from the ""Greek coffee house" he ob- 
serves. Instead, 

. . . men at tables 
Spill Peloponnesian syllables 
And speak of shovels for street work 
And the new embankments of the Erie Railroad 
At Painted Post, Horse's Head, Salamanca. 


He hears not just a noise but the actual words they are saying, 
the sense they are making about their daily living, what Wallace 
Stevens frequently called the"quotidian." Sandburg is not an out- 
sider: he hears and appreciates the intimate details of the work- 
men's conversation; it is not just raucous racket for him, but the 
communication of his neighbors, the very stuff of life, of survival, 
of fruitfulness. In contrast, if Eliot had "neighbors," they were 
historical literary figures like Juliana of Norwich, George Herbert, 
Lancelot Andrewes, and John Donne. 

To return to the differences between THE WASTE LAND 
and "The Windy City," let us examine bridge and water in each 
poem as setting and as metaphor. In the Eliot work, London Bridge 
is overflowing with citizens and world-wanderers, mostly spirit- 
ually dead and unconcerned with the life around them. ("London 
Bridge is falling down," the poet reminds us.) In "The Windy 
City" the Michigan Avenue Bridge, too, accommodates great 
crowds of people, but they are communicating with each other, if not 
through ideas born of theoretical and philosophical meditation, yet 
through folk wisdom and street slang. They are interested in each 
other on a familiar, daily basis. Whereas the Londoners only look 
down at their feet, the Chicagoans look at each other. If Eliot's 
bridge is falling down, Sandburg's bridge, with the alertness of a 
jackknife, opens to let the boats of thriving commerce through and 
then closes to allow the crowds to flow again, alive, aware. 

Near London Bridge is King William Street, where the clock of 
the church of St. Mary Woolnoth announces the time, but is most 
binding for the listener when it is mysteriously silent on the stroke 
of nine. This is one of Eliot's gnomic references: it suggests com- 
plexly the hour of Christ's death and, in converse, the ninth month 
of the fertility process. At the north end of the Chicago bridge is 
the clock in the tower of the Wrigley Building, a structure openly 
related to business and a vigorous, on-going life, in contrast with 
St. Mary Woolnoth, a church structure which attracts very few 
worshippers, because faith and morality are falling apart. Once in 
a while, on the other hand, a passing Chicagoan admits that the 
imagination, planning, and execution that went into the building of 
the Wrigley skyscraper is at least worth remarking. In Eliot's 
London scene, night is just that— despair, separation, despair. 
At night in Chicago, however, the "lights" and "dots" of the 


bridges make a "gray and yellow" show— an entertainment, a 
diversion, a lively performance for a lively crowd of onlookers. 

Sandburg is accepting what he has found. 

Because of the literary modes and the philosophic moods 
of the 1920's, then, the Eliot poem became the prototype. Its 
tone was despair, its subject was loss of impulse toward the re- 
finement of life, its method was highly referential, placing classical 
and Elizabethan poetry next to contemporary street argot and jazz 
rhythms in, I must say, a condescending way. The mood of the 
poets, the writers of fiction, and the critics in general was toward the 
esoteric, the tragic view, and, in a plain word, the "difficult." 
Sandburg, of course, had his readers and his audiences, but, with 
few exceptions, in the main these were the people of his audiences, 
members of what he called the "Family of Man," "the Mob," Whit- 
man's "en masse." They did not read Hart Crane, Archibald Mac- 
Leish, Marianne Moore, or Wallace Stevens as did the younger 
practicing poets. 

After World War I the writers and the academics of Sandburg's 
poetic prime were inclined to be of closed minds about Sandburg's 
achievement. Some of them had left America for the cultural 
thicknesses of Europe, as Eliot and Pound had done earlier, though 
possibly not enough emphasis has been placed on the fact that, 
except for occasional visits, the poets in the main did not follow 
Pound and Eliot. Frost stayed in New England; William Carlos 
Williams was in Rutherford; Wallace Stevens was in Hartford; 
Marianne Moore was in Brooklyn; Robinson Jeffers was in Carmel; 
and so on. Sandburg had gone abroad on a newspaper assignment, 
but he stayed firmly rooted in the States, studying and writing on 
American subjects, developing themes based soundly on the 
American dream. The 1920's and even the '30's of F.D.R., how- 
ever, seemed to be no time for Sandburg's poetry among critics 
and fellow writers. They apparently wanted to luxuriate in self- 
pity and despair and thought they needed their version of the 
tragic outlook. 

Sandburg's people, let it be said, can suffer, but the suffering 
is not an Eliotic "ai, ai!" It is experience in a life cycle, to be borne 
and transcended, to be used as a stepping stone, an upward-bound 
ladder rung. Let us hear Sandburg himself in THE PEOPLE, YES 
in 1936: 


The learning and blundering people will live on. 

They will be tricked and sold and again sold 
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds, 

The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback, 
You can't laugh off their capacity to take it. 

I n the darkness with a great bundle of grief 

the people march. 
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for 

keeps, the people march: 

"Where to? What next?" (pp. 615-17) 

This is the conclusion of the poem. It is that "shovel of stars" in 
the sky that keeps them going. Contrast the people on London 
Bridge in THE WASTE LAND, where "each man fixed his eyes 
before his feet" — "each man," alienated, mind you, not "the 
people"; "his eyes before his feet," not lifted up to "a shovel of 
stars for keeps." 

Like the poets, not all novelists followed Hemingway and 
Fitzgerald to the despair of post-war Europe. James T. Farrell, 
John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, for example, were attached 
to their native soil. Farrell 's Chicago is Sandburg's Chicago in many 
ways; Steinbeck's pilgrims and California little people are the 
poet's "common man"; Saroyan's ethnics are his ethnics, though 
more gushing. Like the French Impressionist painters at the turn 
of the century (recall Renoir), these writers preferred the material 
of everyday life, the non-epic, the unimportant. Theirs were the 
scenes and voices of Sandburg's poems too. Nearly always, when he 
wrote of headline makers, of "big shots," he wrote as a debunker or 
as a satirist. He was related in this attitude to such muckrakers as 
Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell, who in the first decade of the 
century had pictured Philadelphia and the Standard Oil Company no 
better than they deserved. Sandburg's explosion in the face of Billy 
Sunday was in the same vein. His straight-faced comment in 
"Limited" actually was satirizing the middle-class smoking-car 
traveler whose only goal was Omaha. 

In the other arts American subjects and motifs also interested 
the craftsmen of the period. Many composers worked with Amer- 
ican ideas that were reflected in their rhythms, melodies, and 
moods, though, like Sandburg, they were often of a new kind in 
exploring and expressing their own harmonies. A list of Charles 
Ives's orchestral works in the decade of the Steffens and Tarbell 


exposes reads like a chauvinist's catalogue (ANTI-ABOLITIONIST 
mained exuberantly American to the end. Aaron Copland invented 
the music for the ballets BILLY THE KID and RODEO. In 1944, 
the year Sandburg began work on his novel, REMEMBRANCE 
ROCK, Copland produced the lovely APPALACHIAN SPRING 
and a composition Sandburg surely would have applauded— FAN- 
FARE FOR THE COMMON MAN. The poet, then, was not left 
standing alone by the composers of the music as he explored 
American themes, scenes, and people in his own pioneering idiom. 

Likewise, painters and graphic artists were absorbed by the 
same Americana that fascinated Sandburg and gave him inspira- 
tion, theme, and subject matter. Thomas Eakins drew from two 
sides of his personality to paint the athletic JOHN BIGLEN IN A 
SINGLE SHELL (Yale) and the aesthetic THE CELLO PLAYER 
(Pennsylvania Academy). We are here reminded jf, on the one 
hand, Sandburg's muscular poems "A Tall Man" (pp. 42-43) 
and "Plowboy" (p. 68) and, on the other, of the fine long lines of 
"Kreisler" (p. 125) and "Jan Kubelik" (p. 33): "Your bow swept 
over a string, and a long low note quivered to the air." George 
Luks's THE SPIELERS (Phillips Andover) is a joyous picture of 
two little girls dancing, daughters of laborers. They could just have 
stepped off Sandburg's "Picnic Boat" (p. 10) still responding to 
the Polish brasses sounding out "a folk-song for the home-comers." 
The row of houses in winter snow in Charles Burchfield's SIX 
O'CLOCK (Syracuse) parallels the "six hundred porches" the milk- 
man visits in Sandburg's "Psalm of Those Who Go Forth before 
Daylight" (p. 116). Reginald Marsh's WHY NOT USE THE L? 
(Whitney, New York) could be the scene of Sandburg's "Poems 
Done on a Late Night Car" (pp. 61-62). George Bellows' DEMPSEY 
AND FIRPO (Whitney) has all the strength and motion of Sand- 
burg's "The Shovel Man" (p. 9). There are more, but these show 
that, in spite of Eliot's ascendancy, Sandburg was not a loner in 
his American creativity. 

Parenthetically, in 1976 I published an article on "Sandburg's 
Chromatic Vision in HONEY AND SALT," which might have been 
subtitled "The Poet's Painterly Eye," for I focussed attention on 
the vivid colors in the 1963 volume.^ My conclusion was that because 
of his unrestrictive use of tints and shades and primary colors he 


had, unlike most of his contemporaries in their old age, retained a 
youthful verve and awareness not only in his view of the externals 
of nature but in his observance of life as a whole. Whereas poets 
like Stevens, Frost, and Eliot had turned to blacks and grays or to 
actual colorlessness in many instances, Sandburg had still pictured 
his world in reds, blues, pinks, yellows, as well as steels, bronzes, 
and grays— a riotously kaleidoscopic experience. The result was not 
altogether unlike a pointilliste painting. All the separate spots of 
color had to be absorbed by the reader to understand ultimately 
the unities of the poet's world. In technique, then, as well as in 
theme and subject matter he was neighbor to the artist. 

Sandburg has been accused of lacking depth, of giving us 
nothing but noncontinuous, immediate images with no past or 
future. ("The past is a bucket of ashes" needs to be examined in the 
context of the complete poems.) His unity, however, is of a remark- 
able sort, born of his unchanging emotional center. If one must read 
many poems to conceive the whole range of color, so he must read 
many poems to recognize the single-mindedness running through- 
out. If the later poems are less pounding in propaganda, there is 
no slack in underlying anger at injustice and hypocrisy, in com- 
passion for the ordinary person and the underprivileged, and in 
loving acceptance of natural and man-made objects. He maintains 
his controlled ecstasy rising from his absorption in the colors and 
moods of nature, and he shows constantly his love for family, 
friends, and humanity— especially the American masses, who had 
almost totally engaged his concentration during the early years of 
this century. We say it again: the cataloguing of details does, after 
all, add up to a total and steadily glowing image, the expression of 
the sturdy emotional experience of a very sane man, gifted with 
resourceful insight. 

There are critics who say that no one has yet stepped into the 
role that Whitman outlined for the future poet of his America. 
It seems to me, however, that, the more I read Sandburg, the more 
he appears to have come close to filling the bill as Whitman's truly 
American poet whose country has absorbed "him as affectionately 
as he has absorbed it." There have been other roads to follow than 
the one Sandburg chose, but he has succeeded in giving shape on 
the page and permanence through his books to the words, the 


rhythmic phrases, and the received symbols of everyday American 
life. Often with notable subtlety he has given memorable expression 
to the ideals of the American masses, his beloved "mob." As Frost 
has encouraged us to achieve moral insight and maturity through a 
Republican individualism in appreciating nature ourselves with 
sharpened sensitivity, so through Sandburg's eyes we see the 
Democratic point of view, our moral responsibility for society— 
both individuals nearby and crowds afar— enriched by a cherishing 
of the shapes, sounds, and colors in the natural world in which that 
society pursues its upward march. Sandburg's poems embrace all 
of life in a way Frost's do not attempt, through street slang, bluster, 
populist support, love poems, nature lyrics, city descriptions, and 
outbursts against hypocrisy. The scenes of America remain through- 
out all the books— city, the farm, the lakes and rivers, the moun- 
tains, the sea— and the people remain, the common people, the 
family, the friends, both modest and distinguished. And always the 
themes are there: love of humanity and of nature, the need for 
sympathetic understanding, the indignation at evil and deceit. 

Almost alone of the well-known scholars who wrote reviews 
twenty-seven years ago of the first edition of COMPLETE POEMS, 
Louis Rubin was thorough and sympathetic, bringing balance and 
justice to earlier reviewers' opinionated myths. ^ Recently, in com- 
menting on BREATHING TOKENS, the 1978 book of Sandburg 
poems edited by the poet's daughter Margaret, Rubin says that 
Sandburg will be remembered for his first book, CHICAGO 
POEMS, and for several dozen additional lyrics.^ He sees Sand- 
burg's reputation as high for his poetry up to 1926, making a strong 
contribution to the break-up of the legacy of the mauve decade. 
Then public attention was turned to his Lincoln biography and his 
skill as platform performer. In fact, his next major book of poetry, 
THE PEOPLE, YES (1936), did not come out for ten years, by which 
time it was obvious that he had taken a different road from the 
Imagists, whom Pound had futilely urged him to join in 1914. He 
had written over the years many small impressionist poems, but his 
techniques and subject matters had ranged far beyond the limita- 
tions imposed by the little band of poets first under the guidance of 
Pound and then of Amy Lowell. Rubin calls attention to the attitudes 
expressed in current college anthologies, that Sandburg's poems 


may be unpolished and lacking in intensity, but they make vigorous 
and immediate response, especially to the experience of the city. 
Rubin says that there is more to Sandburg's poems and that the 
truth will come out eventually, because not only did Sandburg use 
our vernacular with skill and sophistication, but his poems are 
indeed unique and sometimes spectacularly beautiful. 

Eliot, Pound, and the New Critics were powerful influences to 
the end of World War was modish to be difficult and existential 
and especially aware of subtleties of meter and rhyme, to be cor- 
ralled in the kennel of European culture. Then the war was over and 
a new breed appeared. True, fine poets like Richard Wilbur con- 
tinued to be loyal to their heritage; Robert Lowell and Theodore 
Roethke emerged. But others found nourishment in another direc- 
tion. Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were among the 
foremost spokesmen for a new freedom, back to Emerson— at 
least to his dictum if not to his praxis— with Emerson, Whitman, 
and then Sandburg as its pioneers. Even when not acknowledging 
Sandburg, poets began to feel that Sandburg-like liberation was 
perhaps closer to the American temperament of the time than Eliot 
and Pound, than Brooks and Warren would ever be. Ginsberg was 
shocking with his four-letter words and his explicit evocations, but 
he was in the long run honest and forthright. He was a founder of 
that seemingly footloose movement, the Beat Generation, marked 
by a freedom and mobility that Sandburg might have identified 
with. Listen to the first two lines of Ginsberg's "Howl": 

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed 

by madness, starving hysterical naked, 

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn 

looking for an angry fix. ... ^ 

The lines are generally longer than Sandburg's, more like Whit- 
man's in their self-containment. But the Sandburg release has 
returned: freedom of diction, of subject matter, from linear re- 
striction. Karl Shapiro in a recent review finds little distance be- 
tween Sandburg and Ginsberg: says he, "both are political dream- 
ers, idealists, impractical, joyous and outraged by turns, full of 
high seriousness and just plain bull."^ 

A different quotation from Ginsberg will show another side. 
"In Back of the Real" is an effort on the poet's part to see through 
ordinary ugliness to spiritual loveliness. These are the closing lines: 


Yellow, yellow flower, and 

flower of industry, 
tough spikey ugly flower, 

flower nonetheless, 
with the form of the great yellow 

Rose in your brain ! 
This is the flower of the World 

Does this not recall the Sandburg of "Nocturne in a Deserted Brick- 
yard," "Moonlight and Maggots," and "Lumber Yard Pools at 

Without specific data it is difficult to assess the influence of an 
older poet on a new generation. I am going to quote from an early 
Sandburg poem and from a late one, and then follow that with 
excerpts from other poets born after the publication of THE WASTE 
LAND to show they are not far from the Sandburg vein in many 
ways. The first lines are from the close of "Old Woman" (p. 69), 
Chicago realism in the customary unrhymed verses of irregular 
length, the last line a climactic single word of two syllables. The 
observer is on the last streetcar of the night schedule. 

The headlight finds the way 
And life is gone fronn the wet and the welter- 
Only an old woman, bloated, disheveled and bleared 
Far-wandered waif of other days, 
Huddles for sleep in a doorway. 

The second example is the first section of "Contemplation 
Basket" from the latest volume, BREATHING TOKENS. Note how 
colors are still in this poem of an older writer. 

The flamewash swim of five scarlet fish 
gives eyes a deed of motion and light. 
One fast line of a redbird flight 
can hold the heart of a sunrise cry. 

A basket of yellow corn, 

a bowl of black-and-gold pansies, 

may feed hungering blood and thirsting eyes. 

The slide of a spotted snake to a slant of sun 
or the f lagrance of the June bloom of peonies 
or the laughter of a bushel of new potatoes— 
they may speak to the eyes and the blood. 

The hushed rituals of gold and shadow 

move over summer oats, over harvest corn. . . .■" 

The first of the parallel poems appeared in THE NEW YORK- 
ER for January 23 of this year, and is by Louise Gluck, a thirty-five- 
year-old New York poet much in vogue. The poem is her reaction to 
a painting in a museum. The lines are short, irregular, unrhymed. 


The language is uncomplicated, apparently naive, for there are 
many monosyllabic words. Comparison with Sandburg can be made 
in line structure, diction, mood, theme. Called "The Sick Child 
(Study in Oils)," it reads, in part: 

A small child 

is ill, has wakened. 

And the child 

relaxes in her mother's arms. 

The mother does not sleep; 

she stares 

fixedly into the bright museum. 

By spring the child will die. 

Then it is wrong, wrong 

to hold her— 

let her be alone, 

without memory. . . .""^ 

And now, excerpts from several poets born in the mid-1 920's. 

First, three men, friends at Harvard, leaders in the group in the 

fifties called the "New York Poets." Their urbanism links them to 

Sandburg as does their imagery, drawn from the little acts of daily 

life that add up to significance for the unpretentious and unpres- 

tigious man. Here is the first stanza of "A Step Away from Them," 

by Frank O'Hara: 

It's my lunch hour, so I go 

for a walk among the mum-colored 

cabs. First, down the sidewalk 

where laborers feed their dirty 

glistening torsos sandwiches 

and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets 

on. They protect them from falling 

bricks, I guess. Then onto the 

avenue where skirts are flipping 

above heels and blow up over 

grates. The sun is hot, but the 

cabs stir up the air. I look 

at bargains in wristwatches. There 

are cats playing in sawdust. ''^ 

Could not Sandburg have collected these details, adding up to a 
summer noon in the city? 

The second in this group, by John Ashbery, is the sestet of 
the first of "Two Sonnets," in which you will seek in vain the rhyme 
scheme set down by Petrarch or Shakespeare. Intimacy, color, 
and popular culture crowd into these six lines: 

The iodine bottle sat in the hall 

And out over the park where crawled roadsters 

The apricot and purple clouds were 

And our blood flowed down the grating 

Of the cream-colored embassy. 

Inside it they had a record of "The St. Louis Blues." '^ 


In Kenneth Koch's poem called "Thanksgiving," the first two 

stanzas are marked by Sandburgian colors and fantasies: 

What's sweeter than at the end of a summer's day 
To suddenly drift away 

From the green match-wrappers in an open pocket-book 
And be part of the boards of a tavern? 

A tavern made of new wood. 

There's an orange-red sun in the sky 

And a redskin is hunting for you underneath ladders of timber. 

I will buy this tavern. Will you buy this tavern? I do.^^ 

Now we move to the countryside. David Wagoner is, like 

Sandburg, of Midwest origin. Like Sandburg he has a keen eye for 

the phenomena of nature. Moreover, his lines are unrhymed, his 

diction plain. Like Sandburg he can make nature strange, a cause 

for wonder. Here is part of a poem Wagoner has called "The Poets 

Agree to Be Quiet by the Swamp" : 

strokes of light like heron's legs in the cattails, 
Mud underneath, frogs lying even deeper. 
Therefore the poets may keep quiet. 
But the corners of their mouths grin past their hands. 
They stick their elbows out into the evening, 
Stoop, and begin the ancient croaking."'® 

The next poet is Galway Kinnell. He here addresses a chief 
American poet to champion the challenges of rhyme and of high 
discipline in the classic sense. The colloquial style would be close to 
Sandburg's heart. This is the first of five sections: 

Why do you talk so much 
Robert Frost? One day 
I drove up to Ripton to ask. 

I stayed the whole day 
And never got the chance 
To put the question. 
I drove off at dusk 

Worn out and aching 

In both ears. Robert Frost, 

Were you shy as a boy? 
Do you go on making up 
For some long stint of solitude? 

Is it simply that talk 

Doesn't have to be metered and rhymed? 

Or is gab distracting from something worse? ^ ^ 

The last excerpt is again from THE NEW YORKER, January 
30, this year. The poet, much older than the others I have been 
quoting, was seventy-three on April 24. A leading proponent of 
the New Criticism, he is editor of a new and monumental anthology 
of A-merican literature. Robert Penn Warren has been inclined to 


patronize Sandburg, yet he can sound like this (the last eight lines of 
"Heart of a Backlog"): 

Has the thought ever struck you to rise and go forth— yes, lost 
In the whiteness— to never look upward, or back, only on. 
And no sound but the snow-crunch, and breath 
Gone crisp like the tearing of paper? Listen! 

No, no— just a tree, far off, when ice inward bites. 
No, no, don't look back— oh, I beg you! 


I beg you not to look back, in God's name. 

Possibly someone is warning Lot's wife here, but don't I catch the 
echo of a familiar voice: "The past is a bucket of ashes"? 

I am firmly convinced that these seven poets I have quoted 
would not sound as they do if Sandburg, beginning In 1914, had not 
made those initial explorations. 

Now let me quote, finally, from a poem in BREATHING TO- 
KENS. It is called "Poplars" and will remind us once more of how 
our poet sounds. Note, in the three-line song of the trees at the end, 
the beautiful word "loaf" that Whitman loved so much. 

A few poplars standing to the west 
And one star and two stars and three, 
And a sky changing every so little 

And to this a few poplars singing, strumming 
Steady to the wind their music: 

This fills an evening hour. 

Here we loaf an hour, half a night. 

Here we find who keeps our memory. 

If this new volume neither adds to nor subtracts from Sand- 
burg's status as a poet, it nevertheless does give us a further 
opportunity to feel his emotions, envision his scenes, flavor his 
diction, absorb his themes. Reading the reviews, one senses that the 
condescensions of the Eliotic era are fading before the important 
truth that Sandburg has been a vital element in the history of 
twentieth-century poetry. Karl Shapiro makes no bones about it. 
Himself a poet of no mean reputation, he sees Sandburg as being 
as strong an influence on American verse as Pound or William 
Carlos Williams. Today's poets have in him a model for their own 
free verse, language experiments, street argot. He could indeed 
be called "the first American Street Poet," such as one sees and 
hears nowadays in city taverns and campus hangouts. Sandburg 
would appreciate the current drive for equality. He would applaud 
the loud, corny sentimentality. If we can judge by his letters and by 


anecdotes about him, he would be amused and diverted by the 
vulgar epithets and the obscenities that go beyond frankness. 
If Sandburg lacks the gifts of prophecy claimed for Whitman, the 
master craftsmanship ascribed to Frost, and the "subterranean 
spirit" associated with Poe, heat least has not been relegated to the 
arid theories of the academics who are tearing Pound and Eliot 

V. S. Pritchett said recently, "To end not with a bang but a 


whimper may have suited the twenties, but it is useless now." 
We might add that it was always useless to Sandburg. The poets of 
the present generation (beginning with the tiny tyros of the public 
elementary schools on through college to Warren himself) are 
nearer to him at this moment than they may realize or are willing to 
admit. He continues to loom large and serene as a major poet in our 



(This essay was adapted from an address delivered at The Sandburg Synnposium, 
Cornell College, April 13, 1978.) 

■"See Helga Sandburg, A GREAT AND GLORIOUS ROMANCE (New York: 
Harcourt, 1978). 

Harcourt, 1976), pp. 166, 64, 17. All quotations from Sandburg's poems are from 
this edition, and hereafter page numbers will be given in parentheses. 

^Richard Crowder, CARL SANDBURG (New York: Twayne, 1964), p. 87. 
(New York: Harcourt, 1952), p. 45. 

^Richard Crowder, "Sandburg's Chromatic Vision in HONEY AND SALT," 
in THE VISION OF THIS LAND, ed. John E. Hallwas and Dennis J. Reader 
(Macomb: Western Illinois University, 1976), pp. 92-104. 

^Louis D. Rubin, Jr., "Chicago Revisited," HOPKINS REVIEW, 4 (Winter 
1951), pp. 63-69. 

'Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Review of BREATHING TOKENS, THE NEW RE- 
PUBLIC, 28 Jan. 1978, pp. 35-36. 

^Allen Ginsberg, "Howl," in AMERICAN POETRY AND PROSE, 5th ed., 
ed. Norman Foerster, et al. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), p. 1471. 

Varl Shapiro, Review of BREATHING TOKENS, Chicago TRIBUNE, 1 Jan. 
1978 sec. 7, p. 1. 

^^Ginsberg, "In Back of the Real," in AMERICAN POETRY AND PROSE, 
p. 1479. 

"•■•Carl Sandburg, "Contemplation Basket," in BREATHING TOKENS, ed. 
Margaret Sandburg (New York: Harcourt, 1978), p. 170. Copyright 1978 by Mau- 
rice C. Greenbaum and Frank M. Parker, Trustees of the Sandburg Family Trust, 
copyright 1978 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. Reprinted by permission of 
the publishers. 

■•^Louise Giack, "The Sick Child (Study in Oils)," THE NEW YORKER, 23 
Jan. 1978, p. 46. 

■"^FrankCHara, "A Step Away from Them," in THE VOICE THAT IS GREAT 
WITHIN US, ed. Hayden Carruth (New York: Bantam, 1970), p. 586. 

I^John Ashbery, "Two Sonnets," in THE VOICE THAT IS GREAT WITHIN 
US, p. 593. 

ISKenneth Koch, "Thanksgiving," in THE VOICE THAT IS GREAT WITHIN 
US, p. 545. 

"•^David Wagoner, "The Poets Agree to Be Quiet by the Swamp," in THE 

■•^Galway Kinnell, "For Robert Frost," in THE VOICE THAT IS GREAT 
WITHIN US, p. 600. 

"1 8 Robert Penn Warren, "Heart of a Backlog," THE NEW YORKER, 30 Jan. 
1978, p. 34. 

I^Carl Sandburg, "Poplars," in BREATHING TOKENS, p. 73. 
20v. S. Pritchett, "An Exile's Luggage," THE NEW YORKER, 20 March 
1978, p. 146. 


John E. Hallwas 

In 1918 Carl Sandburg said in "Prairie"— his most extensive 
poetic interpretation of the Midwest— "The land and the people 
hold memories. . . ."^ By this, he meant that a slowly changing land- 
scape and people who are reluctant to let go of the past make 
remembrance an important aspect of midwestern life in the non- 
metropolitan areas. A few years earlier Edgar Lee Masters had 
demonstrated as much with his SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY 
(1915), in which the dead residents of a western Illinois town 
(and its rural environs) recall their lives. But Sandburg's comment 
now also applies to another regional literary achievement: the 
essays of Jerry Klein. The latter is a Peoria newspaperman who has 
written a number of feature articles about the landscape and people 
of western Illinois during the past several years— articles in which 
the past is a deeply felt aspect of the present. Taken together, his 
essays represent the most thorough literary examination of regional 
life since SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY appeared. Moreover, 
Klein's prose has much in common with Masters' poetry, as it does 
with Sandburg's, and there are also some thematic resemblances 
to Vachel Lindsay's work as well. Hence, his achievement is re- 
gional by virtue of its literary associations as well as its subject 

A true native of the region, Klein was born in Peoria on Decem- 
ber 19, 1926, and grew up in the East Bluff area of the city. He 
attended St. Bernard's parochial school and Spaulding Institute, 
graduating from the latter in 1945. However, he entered the Navy 
in December, 1944— before receiving his secondary school diplo- 
ma—and served as a radioman in the South Pacific during World 
War II. In 1950 he received his Bachelor of Music degree from 



Bradley University, which was followed by two years of graduate 
work in music at the University of Illinois. 

He liked his home town well enough to want to stay in the area, 
but Peoria held few opportunities for a young concert pianist. 
After a one-year stint as a "rod man" and surveyor for the state 
highway department, he responded to a Peoria JOURNAL STAR ad 
for an editorial writer. That was in September, 1953. 

Fortunately, the managing editor, Gomer Bath, did not insist 
on much by way of experience— for Klein had none. Instead, he 
offered the tall young man a chance to prove he could fill the posi- 
tion. "Bring me in three editorials tomorrow," Bath said.^ Klein 
went home, looked at some editorials, wrote three of his own, and 
brought them in the next day. He got the job. 

On June 4, 1955, he married Mary E. Dudas, who had also 
been raised in Peoria, and in the years that followed the Kleins had 
seven children. ^ They now live in Lourdes, about nine miles east 
of Peoria. 

Klein's writing for the JOURNAL STAR during his twenty- 
five-year career falls roughly into three categories. Criticism of the 
performing arts in Peoria has been his main assignment. Also, for 
a few years he wrote a humorous column called "Once Over Light- 
ly," which appeared in the newspaper's WEEKENDER supple- 
ment. However, his literary achievement resides in the occasional 
feature articles that he has written during the past several years, 
virtually all of which deal with Peoria and its hinterland in west- 
central Illinois. 

Regional essays became a prime concern for Klein early in 1973 
when he got the idea of reviewing the area's communities "like you 
do a concert." That is, he decided to "just walk in and be totally 
impressionistic about a town," to try to simply "get the flavor of it 
and write about it." He soon expanded his focus to include Peoria 
itself and the rural landscape of the region. For most of these essays 
he worked with photographer Jack Bradley, who recently left the 

Of course, their success in responding to a community in this 
way depended, in part, on what happened when they got there. 
In one place, as Klein put it, "it seemed like the whole town was 
standing there waiting for us," and "the sense of time and place and 


character was so interwoven that it was kind of amazing" — but in a 
couple of other locations "the stories never turned out." 

In those essays that did turn out, Klein brought to the task a 
regional native's sensitivity to the people and places he wrote about, 
an often poetic style of writing that is almost unique in the world of 
journalistic prose, and a conviction that "there Is something of in- 
finite value" in the life of the region. The best of his articles power- 
fully communicate that view. 

During the past several years Klein has also had articles and 
stories published in REDBOOK, READER'S DIGEST, and FORD 
TIMES. The last of these magazines carried a regional piece called 
"Steamboat A-comin'," the story of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN, in 
1977. He has also written several articles that have been carried In 
the New York TIMES. 

That Klein has been influenced by Edgar Lee Masters there is 

no question. In a 1968 article called "Along the Spoon"— which 

preceded by a few years his more systematic attempt to survey the 

region— he quotes several lines from "The Hill," the opening lyric 

in SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, and all of "Hare Drummer," 

the most nostalgic epitaph in the volume. The essay, in which Klein 

records his impressions along the newly opened Spoon River Drive, 

is in perfect keeping with the spirit of the latter poem: 

It [the Spoon River] passes through sleepy valleys and under 
bridges where cars seldom cross any more. Trees in places 
bend almost to the water, the maples, elms and willows, and 
sometimes they meet across the middle. There are still clam- 
shells buried in the soft mud along the banks, and the water 
occasionally splashes with the jumping of a fish. In the fields 
there is the ceaseless sound of the crickets, and the old cem- 
eteries along the hillsides with their crooked tombstones are 
immensely peaceful in the chill wind of an October afternoon.'* 

Much more recently, in July of last year, Klein wrote about the 
upper Spoon River Valley in a beautiful piece of descriptive writing 
called "The Other End of the Spoon." Although he claims that the 
upper Spoon is quite different from the area "which Edgar Lee 
Masters made forever famous," he closes the essay by saying, 
"There are the weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the 
boozer, the fighter sleeping on their hills up here too. "^ 

But undoubtedly the essay that reveals most about Masters' 
influence on Klein is "Lewistown," written in 1976. The author's 



Photo by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of Peor/a JOURNAL STAR. 
Spoon River Bridge south of Wyoming. 

theme, announced in the opening sentence, is the elemental nature 
of small town life: "Life goes slowly here, geared almost to the great 
ebb and flow of the seasons and the even greater coming and going 
of life and death. "^Moreover, the high point of the article is Klein's 
visit to Oak Hill Cemetery— "generally regarded as The Hill'" 
of the ANTHOLOGY— where he clearly relates his theme of con- 
tinuity amid slow seasonal change to the work of Masters: 

The old graves here go back a hundred years and more 
and there is at this time of year [spring] a sense of deep peace. 
The wind in the newly leafed trees takes on a new sound. It 
is not the dry and scratchy rustle of winter, but a warmer, 
full-throated, urgent plea. And the ground is soft, springy. 
Bird songs and stirrings. Lichen on the headstones. 

Some of these more prominent graves are surrounded 
by wrought iron fencing, partly fallen now, the gates with 
rusted hinges. . . . 

But Masters' hill and Masters' people range all along the 
valley of the Spoon, the merchants, the bankers, the brawlers, 
in quiet little cemeteries where crickets sound on warm autumn 
afternoons and tall grass bends in the wind. 

Of course, Lewistown is a thriving community, but Klein can not 
help but view the residents as slowly departing toward the hill with 



their memories. Referring to the boom years during World War II, 
he says, "All that happened over thirty years ago. Third of a 
century. And the memories are partly gone, out on the hill now, 
beneath the soft spring turf of Oak Hill. Lots of people die in 30 
years' time. Lots of people born, moving in." It is not surprising 
that the article closes with the author again at the cemetery, 
meditating on the people who lie there— "Each one a story that 
has been edited down so tightly that there are only names and 
dates left." 

Clearly, the fact that "The land and the people hold memories" 
in the writing of Jerry Klein is partially the result of the influence of 
Masters' ANTHOLOGY. Indeed, several of his essays find him 
meditating on the gravestones in some western Illinois cemetery. 

If the Spoon River poet captured the essential life of the west- 
ern Illinois town of a century ago (Masters grew up in the 1870's 
and 1880's), Klein has managed to reflect the unique character of 
various towns in his recent essays. The best of his articles on 
regional communities view the present and past of the town through 

Photo by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of Peona JOURNAL STAR. 

Upper Spoon River. 



a combination of Klein's own impressions and carefully selected 
comments by local residents. The effect is both penetrating and 

"Beardstown" is a good example. The article opens with 
Klein's own view of the community: 

Mention Beardstown and the mind will sketch a series of 
quick and lasting impressions: a sleepy river town that still 
has the melodious notes of the packet boat whistles ringing in 
its ears; the river forever rolling past, bankfull and treacherous 
in the spring, more lazy come July; memories of stage coaches 
clattering off to the east, to Springfield, and a tall, circuit- 
riding lawyer, boots thick with prairie dust, riding into town to 
defend Duff Armstrong; a boy sitting along the levee watching 
the river and waiting for a catfish to strike the hook at the other 
end of his bamboo pole.^ 

It also contains one of his best regional characterizations, "Happy" 

Jamison, Jr., a 79-year-old resident who leads the author to his 

home, "opens a voluminous scrapbook, and begins talking about 

the old days on the river" : 

One can almost hear the faint hiss of steampower as he goes 
on, feel the decks trembling, and see the long corrugated wake 
rolling out astern. 

Photo by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of Peoria JOURNAL STAR. 
Lewistown cemetery. 


He talks about old boats and old days and the sharp mennory 
keeps dredging up names and places — the barge PEARL, Tread- 
way Lake, Mascoutin Bay, the Meredosia bridge, Little Beards- 
town, Throckmorton's Button Factory, the DAVID SWAIN, 
the Clendenin Slough, Little Field Spreads, and on and on. 
"Had lots of pecan trees along the river in the old days, 
before they cut that Chicago canal. Hundreds of 'em. Water 
killed all that stuff off. I've fished and hunted all my life. Had a 
hundred ducks lying on that kitchen floor one time. You get on 
that river and you just love it." 

It would be hard to find a better literary illustration of Sandburg's 
comment, "The land and the people hold memories," than Klein's 

The same could be said for "Havana: The Memories Linger 
On. . . ." which appeared in April, 1974. Of course, the subject 
here too is an old Illinois River town. At the beginning of the essay 
Klein offers his own impressions: "The fishing is only an echo of 
the great days, the steamboat whistles and cries of the drovers have 
all died away, and the sounds of the slot machines— cherries 
clicking into windows and the silvery gush of coins— are only 
memories now, but Havana still has the flavor of a rugged town out 
of the Twenties, maybe earlier."^ The first characterization he 
presents is probably the essential Havana resident, an old fisher- 
man with memories of the "great days": 

They once took a carload of fish out of here every day for 
30 days straight. That was back about 1915 or so, and there was 
20 to 25,000 pounds in each car. 

We had Thompson Lake to fish in then. And Spring Lake. 
Now they're all levied into farms, and the fish have got no place 
but the river. The traffic takes care of them there. 

We used to see boats once in a while, the Bald Eagle, 
the Golden Eagle, the Commanche, and so on, but now we 
get up to 15 boats a day, and it tears hell out of the river." 

This is Bill Riley talking, 79 years old now, sitting in the 
back room of Foster's Fish Market, where a few pitiful buckets- 
ful of buffalo and catfish are gasping and twitching. 

"I helped make the last haul at Thompson Lake. The dredge 
boat was waiting for us to get out, and when I got out, he 
closed the levy. Took 40,000 pounds of fish. We worked two 
nights and three days to get 'em out of the seine." 

The wonder and the tragedy of Bill Riley's life is summed up in 

this carefully constructed memory sequence— which resembles 

the epitaphs in Masters' ANTHOLOGY. But the Havana essay also 

has another fine characterization, through which Klein offers a very 

different view of the town's past. Bud Cullinane is a wealthy man 

who lives in a house "right out of the great days of Natchez, with an 


interior like a Parisian salon and a garden from 'The Great Gatsby , ' " 
and he is as obviously cosmopolitan as Riley is regional: 

Bud Cullinane, a local landholder, sits . . . near his grand- 
father's roll-top desk. Old Irish, from settlers who canne over 
impoverished from the potato famine, found land, and ultimately 
wealth. On his desk is a copy of Strunk's "The Elements of 
Style" and Stephen Birmingham's "Real Lace." 

Cullinane lives in the house built by Maj. Fullerton of 
Natchez; Lincoln once stayed in it. And Cullinane has a hunting 
lodge in the country where pianist Arthur Rubenstein was 
once a guest and was served his favorite wine— Mouton-Roths- 

Cullinane is equally at home in Paris, which he loves, or in 
Havana, which he also loves. "An exceptional town," he says, 
and he waves at people as he passes. He has friends in high 
places and in low and talks with ease about Baccarat crystal or 
a sagging farm gate. 

This remarkably detailed characterization conveys enormous in- 
formation about Cullinane's outlook and style of life— much of it 
through implication. In short, the three carefully put together 
paragraphs— each beginning with the man's name and ending 
with a reference to some object of wealth— have poetic density. 
If Havana reminds Klein of a town "out of the Twenties," 
Canton reminds him of the Thirties — and hence, of the days he 
remembers so vividly from his own childhood. "Canton— The 30's 
Stay" appeared in August, 1973, and it opens with one of the 
author's most nostalgic passages: 

Driving into Canton late on a summer evening brings the 
feel of going backwards in time into the 30's, when kids played 
kick the can on quiet streets or roller-skated in the lingering 
dusks, when the soft summer nights folded themselves around 
little towns, leaving long echoes of familiar sounds. Car tires 
whining on brick streets. Bugs swarming around street lights. 
Distant voices crying, "You're it" or "oily oily ox in free." 
Porch swings creaking. The slam of a car door. Mothers calling 
their children across darkened yards. Radios all tuned to Fibber 
McGee and Molly or the Joe Louis fight. The whirr of electric 
fans, the far-off wail of a train rushing through the night to 
some far-off place. ^ 

While in town, Klein visits the establishments where memories 
are bound to linger— such as the Hotel Canton, where "long car- 
peted halls creak with the echoes of over 60 years of footsteps," 
and the turn-of-the-century drugstore of Edward Lewis, who 
"has the kind of memory that begs to be picked." He also stops at 
the oldest grocery store in town: 

Along the square there is one of the last of the old-time 
grocery stores. Tony's Fruit Store. It is run by 73-year-old 


Tony Pusatere. The store has been there since 1901 and he 
has run it since 1930. Inside is a dark and savory clutter, with 
high shelves stacked with a bewildering array of food. "There 
used to be forty, fifty stores like this in town," Pusatere says, 
"Now I'm the only one left. The rest is big nnarkets. People will 
be sorry one day." 

Before the author leaves the old store he sees a boy come in for 

candy, looking like a vision from his own childhood: "It seems 

strange that he is not wearing knickers." By the close of the article, 

he is caught between two realities— the Canton of the 30's and the 

present-day town: 

it is when night falls that the feeling of having retreated 
in time becomes strongest. Dusk lingers and then fades. There 
are crickets, then fireflies. 

From a television set comes an eerie glow and the sound of 
laughter. It is not Edgar Bergan and Charley McCarthy, or 
Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, but something newer. Car tires 
whine across the brick and lights wash across curtained win- 
dows. A motorcycle tears into the night and then it is silent 
again. It is a deep and peaceful silence that has worn so well 
and lasted so long that it is hard to realize that it is 1973 and not 
1937 all over again. But it is. It is. 

Although "Canton— The 30's Stay" is well unified, Klein's 
most carefully structured article about a town is probably a 1975 
work called "There's No Rush in Rushville. ..." In this essay he 
deliberately avoids lengthy recollections in order to focus on a 
summer day in the life of the community. The opening very subtly 
introduces the article's main theme, the slow but relentless passage 
of time— which is the adversary of the old men who sit on the 
benches in the square: 

Mid-morning and already hot. The cornfields begin to melt 
into a watery haze far across the prairie, and the thermometer on 
the bank blinks into the 80's. 

It will reach 90 before this day is past, and the men sitting 
on the green slat benches in the square will slide backwards 
toward the shade as the sun burns its way across the sky above 
and the lawn at their feet.''^ 

Throughout Klein's description of the summer day a circus is 
referred to as setting up in town, and for one of the old men- 
Donald Juett— it brings memories of the distant past and an accom- 
panying sense of how old he's getting: 

Donald Juett, retired farmer and "retired just about every- 
thing," leans on a thick square yardstick that he uses as a cane 
and watches the proceedings. "Used to be some pretty decent 
circuses here in the old days," he says. "Barnum and Bailey 
were here, but never Ringling Brothers." He says that he goes 
around every day now and "stirs up the neighborhood." He says 
that he will be 77— if he makes it to fall. 



Photo by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of Peoria JOURNAL STAR. 
Men on benches in Rushville's square. 

After describing several aspects of the town, which convey a sense 
of "peace and stability" mingled with "vitality," the author returns, 
at the article's end, to his central theme. He indicates various 
ways in which the passage of time is measured in Rushville on 
this early summer day: 

The men in the square lannent that Friday and Saturday 
nights are not what they used to be, when crowds of people 
surged along the streets and filled the grassy square, and when 
there was band music and a sense of the festive life. "Lot of 
that gone now" says one of the men. "Lot of those people gone 
too, planted out in the cemetery. Maybe some of us will be, too, 
next time you come by. Be a whole new bunch here. " 


The sun pushes on to the west, and the shade from the 
trees dapples the grass. The flag uncurls slowly in the hot 
breeze. Ninety degrees now. Two girls in short skirts climb 
into an Oldsmobile and drive away, noisily. The McShane Bell 
in the courthouse tower clangs again, once, twice. 

Almost time for the circus matinee. Barefoot boys with 
dollar bills crumpled in their jeans pockets begin to head toward 
the fairgrounds, down the wide street, past the houses with the 
deep lawns, on sidewalks set far back from curbs. 

Step right up. Time to start the music. Time to start the 
show. Time to start the summer that has, in Rushvile, the gentle 
and easy flow of cool water through a meadow creek, a cloud 


drifting across a hot sky, the talk of old men beneath the trees 
in the square, or that of the women on the benches along the 
sidewalk or in the cafe. 

Tomorrow the circus will be gone. For the young, summer 
will stretch away endlessly, like the great shimmering prairie. 
Fall, for the older ones, comes far too soon. 

There is a subtle but effective contrast here between the young- 
sters—hurrying to the circus, living thoroughly within the present 
moment, starting a summer that "will stretch away endlessly" — 
and the old men on the square, who measure the day's activity 
in relationship to the past and who are concerned with making it 
to the fall. 

Also written in 1975 is Klein's essay on Goofy Ridge, the most 
unusual community he visited in the region. As he says at the out- 
set, "It is a chaotic collection of old and new trailers, pig houses, 
shacks, sheds, cabins, outhouses, permastone cottages, garages 
and old buses. . . . "^^ As this perhaps suggests. Goofy Ridge is 
really not a town at all, but "a non-town, listed on no highway maps 
and possessing no governmental entity," a place where the people 
"have achieved and stoutly defend an individualistic democracy of 
near Jeffersonian proportions." Located along Lake Chautauqua 
on the Illinois River, it developed as a unique sort of resort area: 
"Gabby Hartnett and other big people from Chicago used to come 
here for something different. Drink and fish with the local folks 
down along the Illinois. A midwestern Dogpatch." 

Klein once commented that "the real soul of a town is in 
bars."^^ Of course, people in bars also usually have the time and 
inclination to talk to a visiting writer, but his remark certainly 
applies to Goofy Ridge, which has four taverns for only 400 people. 
Indeed, he comments at one point that the community's social 
life "centers largely around the taverns." In one of them Klein runs 
across someone who is as close to the soul of the community as any 
resident. Elizabeth Buchanan, who runs the Goofy Ridge Tavern, 
keeps "clippings from old newspapers in the drawer behind the 
bar" and tells "stories about the crowds that used to gather for 
Ditch Day, a political and social celebration held in honor of the 
dredging of the Goofy Ridge ditch." 

As one might expect, Klein's description of the rustic commun- 
ity is appropriately serio-comic, right down to his closing medita- 
tion, which depicts outhouses in a late winter dusk: 


Quiet now. No one out in the yards yet. Dusk settles slowly 
through the woods. Lights conne on in the old pre-war trailers. 
Stoves glow. The door bangs on an outhouse. One has polka dots 
on the outside and the sign, "Sapphire Beanery." Another 
appears to be made of brick. One has a screened-in porch. 
There are new moons carved into the doors. 

Ice breaking up along the river. Soon the long lines of geese 
going north again. Fishing. Warm days. And the easy, easy 

But as this also indicates, even in Goofy Ridge life somehow has 
a quiet splendor, attuned as it is to the slow pace of seasonal 

Klein has written so many articles on western Illinois towns- 
more than two dozen— that it would be impossible to deal with all 
of them in the present study, but the few which have been discussed 
should indicate that the best of them are very fine essays. Not 
since SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY has regional community life 
been so thoroughly examined or native characterizations so vividly 

It would perhaps be overstating the case to say that Klein's 
essays show the influence of Carl Sandburg, but there are some 
remarkable similarities between the former's prose and the latter's 
poetry. The resemblances are primarily thematic, but Klein's 
style in a few articles is also reminiscent of the poet's free verse. 

"Galesburg" was published in April, 1973, the first of Klein's 
proposed series of feature articles on towns in the Peoria vicinity. 
It is not one of his finest literary achievements, but it does indicate 
that he has been exposed to Sandburg's continuing presence in 
the region. While in Galesburg he visited the poet's birthplace 
and spoke with Lauren Goff, who offered "endless stories about 
Sandburg and his family and how the house was saved and re- 
stored. "^^ He also read some copies of Sandburg's poems that 
hang on the walls of the home, and he stopped in the back yard 
at Remembrance Rock: "Out in the back, flanked by evergreens 
that whisper softly in the spring wind, is the rock under which 
Sandburg's ashes lie. '. . . for it could be a place to come and 

The theme of remembrance is one great similarity between 
the achievements of the two authors. For example, in November, 


1975, Klein wrote an article called "Armistice Day 1975," and 
although it does not deal with the region, it clearly displays his 
literary kinship with Sandburg. The latter often wrote about remem- 
bering the dead of American wars— in poems like "Shenandoah," 
"Grass," and "The Long Shadow of Lincoln: A Litany." "Grass," 
in particular, written during World War I, evokes the dead on the 
Western Front: 

. . . pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. 

Shovel them under and let me work. 

Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor: 

What place is this? .. 

Where are we now? 

Klein makes the very same point in "Armistice Day 1975" after 

visiting the battlefield at Verdun: 

The fallen dead still lie here— at Verdun, where the very earth 
is a massive graveyard, in scores of neatly trimmed cemeteries 
with row upon row of orderly white crosses, in silent ossuaries- 
all of them dating from that war which has scarred our century 
much as it has scarred the land here with these inerasable 
trenches of the Western Front. 

They are rather like quiet, ghostly parks, symmetrical and 
orderly and sadly desolate. One has the feel of men and deeds 
too much forgotten. ^^ 

One of Klein's finest essays, "Armistice Day 1975" was reprinted 
in the New York TIMES the next year as "The Poppies, The Still- 
ness" and in READER'S DIGEST (abridged) the year after as 
"All Quiet on the Western Front." 

Remembrance of the dead is also the theme of a regional 
essay, "'Lost in the Cherry Mine,'" which appeared in April, 
1977. One is reminded of Sandburg's compassion for the American 
workingman — "The Sayings of Henry Stephens" is about a miner— 
as Klein tells the story of Illinois' greatest disaster: "They say it 
was a cold day that Saturday with a hard, icy rain falling in the 
pre-dawn darkness as the 481 men assembled at the tipple of the 
St. Paul mine for another day's work. And another day's pay. 
$1.56. Payday would be Monday. But only for some of them."'^ 
And at the close of the §irticle, his insistence on the permanence 
of the event in human memory is even expressed in a Sandburg-like 
style: "the memories will never pass, not as long as stone lasts, 
or life. There will be those tombstones, those words, 'Lost his 
life in the Cherry Mine. ' " 


It is also interesting to note that Klein has written essays 
about Chicago and the Illinois prairie— surely the most famous 
poetic subjects in the Sandburg canon. "Chicago ... A Visit in 
Urban Purgatory" appeared in February, 1976. In it the author 
stresses the same sort of mixture of positive and negative aspects 
that Sandburg brought out in his CHICAGO POEMS (1916)— and 
he also sees Chicago as the essential American city: "in many ways 
this has become the quintessence of the American megapolis, 
embodying the best and worst of what this country has been, of 
what it is coming to. The extremes of splendor and squalor, hope 
and despair, sanctity and corruption. "^^ On the one hand, he 
celebrates the city's achievements— "It has the world's finest 
symphony orchestra, the biggest hotel, the busiest corner, the 
highest building, the biggest convention center, the most active 
airport . . ."—but on the other, he acknowledges its ugly realities: 
"It is crowded, deteriorating, violent, dull and gray, locked be- 
hind its deadbolts at night, depressing and morally and culturally 
deadening." And like Sandburg the Socialist of the CHICAGO 
POEMS era, Klein sees "a gulf of . . . yawning infinity between 
the rich and the poor, between the haves and the have-nots, 
between those who live amid pneumatic playgirls and those who 
are surrounded by cockroaches. ..." 

"The Vanishing Prairie" appeared a year later. It is a state- 
ment about the changes that are evident on western Illinois farms. 
Wind is used in the essay as a motif that represents change itself: 

In the tall grass of an abandoned farm house, the wind 
seems to rustle, like scurrying mice. It hurries through the 
windowless house, flapping across loose pieces of wallpaper 
and whistling through a thousand cracks. The heavy blue jeans 
on the farm line stretch out in their mad ballet. Dust, black and 
rich, sifts imperceptibly through the remains of an old fence, 
and across the road . Who has seen the wind? ' ^ 

One is reminded of Sandburg's use of the wind to represent tran- 
sience in many poems— although it is not a motif in "Prairie," 
his long lyric about cultural change in the rural Midwest. 

In September, 1975, Klein wrote an entire essay on aban- 
doned farm houses much like the one described in the above quo- 
tation. "This Old House" is one of his finest achievements. It 
too resembles Sandburg's poetry— and for a variety of reasons. 
The themes of transience and remembrance are evident, and the 



Photo by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of Peoria JOURNAL STAR. 
Black soil sifting through a fence. 

wind motif, but the author also attaches great significance to 
the common events of life, and he even repeats his opening line 
at the end— two other Sandburg trademarks. The following passage 
is approximately half of the brief essay: 

They are empty now, these old houses, finished, like the 
chapters of a book that has been read and put aside and no 
more will be taken down or opened. They dot the countryside, 
rising ghost-like at the edges of corn and soybean fields, win- 
dows gone, doors gaping, alive now only with the sounds of 
birds and the wind passing through with its ancient song. 
Sometimes the door bangs, a shutter bumps against the siding, 
a scrap of curtain waves and the haunting echoes and whispers 
stir again. 

Once there might have been birth and death, new sounds 
and new cries and the stiff and quiet bodies lying in wooden 
caskets and in parlors and banks of flowers, farmers mumbling 
their sympathies, gnarled hands clasping, and the women 
bringing in casseroles. 

Once these houses were new and it was all promise. Excite- 
ment over the new curtains and shades, the men delivering the 
new stove, children gathered around the Arvin radio listening to 
the Kellogg Singing Lady and Eddie Cantor. 

And other times came when the people left the houses 
and moved off the farm, away from the wind, the long fields 
and the little schools. Lives passed and the echoes became 
softer. Curtains frayed, windows were broken and poison ivy 
wound up the porch posts. The siding turned weathered, then 
gray and seamed, like the hands of the tough old men. The 
pump rusts, the wind blows and time passes. All things do. 

The houses are empty now.^' 


More than just another essay on some minor facet of the region, 
"This Old House" is a requiem for a way of life that is disappearing: 
the family farm. 

There is also something broadly meaningful about the subject 
matter of "'No Kicks, No Regrets,'" an essay that appeared in 
August, 1977. It is one of Klein's few articles that focus on an 
individual. The opening is a description of cars going past Leslie 
Ellen wood's old gas station on Route 81 between Cambridge and 
Kewanee: "Outside, the incessant August rain turns the surface 
of Rt. 81 into a glistening black ribbon, like plastic electrician's 
tape. Traffic whines past, tires hissing in the wetness. Not many 
cars stop here any more. . . ."^°Ellenwood, who is 76, opened his 
station forty-five years earlier, and now the man and the place 
have very little function. The pumps don't work, and so there is 
no gas to sell— just an occasional oil change or grease job. As is 
true of all men who live long enough, Ellenwood is a victim of 
change. But he still comes to the station, not so much to operate it, 
perhaps, as to remain there for awhile with his memories: 

The place is full of memories. Flat tires in the night. 
People running out of gas. The daily, unspectacular interchange 
that marks a man's years in a business such as this. 

"I've got no kicks against what we've done at all," Ellen- 
wood says. "Wouldn't have done it any other way." 

Noon. He puts the closed sign up in the window, bangs 
the door and walks through the rain to his house, right next 
door. No regrets. The road is still a glistening black ribbon. 
Another car passes, tires hissing in the wetness. Not many of 
them stop here any more. 

Here, too, Klein repeats some phrases from the beginning of the 
essay, phrases which stress that almost no one stops to enter into 
Ellenwood's world any more, and which convey a sense of finality 
about this segment of his life. The cars hissing along are appropriate 
symbols of the world that is passing him by. Also worth noting 
here is the author's effective use of words and phrases that are 
disconnected from whole sentences. This aspect of his style is 
evident in a number of essays and contributes considerably to the 
emotional impact of his writing. 

Ellenwood's perspective on his career— which Klein sum- 
marizes in the article's title— gives him a certain stature: he is 
satisfied with his life's work, even though it has been unspectacular 


and has led to a period of inactivity. He has the kind of quiet 
strength that Sandburg admired in the American workingman. 
Moreover, the old worker with memories is portrayed by the poet 
in such poems as "Jack," "Waiting," and "The Sayings of Henry 

In fact, Klein's vision of life as a whole is rather like Sand- 
burg's. He does not see a world of tragically frustrated people, 
where only a few truimph over the problems of life, as Masters 
does in SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY. Rather, his is a world where 
transience is the central factor and memories are a natural response 
to that condition, and where the everyday realities of life, along 
with the great struggles and disasters, have enduring significance. 

Vachel Lindsay's poetry certainly did not have an influence 
on Klein's regional essays, but the latter's achievement is rem- 
iniscent of the Springfield poet's work in a couple of ways. First, 
Klein displays an awareness of Lincoln's lingering presence in 
the state capital, and second, he celebrates his own home town in 
some of his articles. 

Klein visited Springfield in 1976 and wrote about it in an 
essay called "Abe Lincoln Sleeps Here." Lindsay is not mentioned 
in the piece— even though his home is preserved on Fifth Street— 
but the author deeply responds to the presence of Lincoln in the 
city, just as the poet did in "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight." 
As Klein puts it, "Lincoln's presence is that of a hallowed martyr, 
a secular saint, and his myths and legends go straight to bed- 
rock. "^^ Lindsay certainly felt that way, and he also believed that 
Lincoln and the state government— to quote Klein again — "have 
converged in a unique and permanent fusion, even though the 
one is past and the other always present." Lindsay felt that this 
fusion made Springfield a unique governmental center, one that 
had national implications— and Klein says as much when he 
comments, "This rare combination of historical presence and gov- 
ernmental power makes Springfield in its way like a small Wash- 
ington. . . ." 

But the state capital is not the newspaperman's home 
town— as it was for Lindsay, who celebrated its past and its poten- 
tial in such poems as "On the Building of Springfield," "The Town 


of American Visions," and "The Springfield of the Far Future." 

However, Klein takes a similar approach to Peoria in articles like 

"The Best Place in Town" and "Downtown Peoria." The former 

appeared in March of last year, and it is based on the author's 

visit to the section of the city where he grew up. As one might 

expect, most of the essay is composed of his memories: 

We thought this was the best place in town. This East Bluff. 
There were the hills and playing fields of Glen Oak Park where 
we practiced football in the autumns and skated on the lagoon 
in the wintertime, clumping into the coal stove heat of the 
warming house on our tubular hockey skates. There were 
woods along the bluffs, intriguing and mysterious with their 
narrow footpaths and their vague and nameless fears about the 
gangs from down in the valley. There were a hundred alleys 
to explore where we sometimes unearthed such spectacular 
treasures as an ironing board, a brass lamp, a broken wagon 
with ball bearing wheels. 

We thought this was the best place in town.22 

Masters, Sandburg, and Lindsay also looked back nostalgically 
to the days of their youth— in the farming community of Peters- 
burg, with its pioneer atmosphere (Masters's THE SANGAMON), 
in the rugged little prairie town of Galesburg, with its 
mixture of immigrant groups (Sandburg's ALWAYS THE YOUNG 
STRANGERS), in the state capital of Springfield, with its political 
activity (Lindsay's "Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan"). Although 
Klein spent his youth In a much larger city, the East Bluff section 
of Peoria had a certain small-town atmosphere about it: "Families 
sat on the porches and called back and forth to one another. The 
mailman knew everybody by name. And there were peddlers 
selling vacuum cleaners, brushes, Watkins products, and in the 
summertime, corn and beans off the backs of their trucks. There 
was a sense here almost of the village. ..." 

But Klein also remembers downtown Peoria, and like Lindsay 
in THE GOLDEN BOOK OF SPRINGFIELD (1920), he has high 
hopes for the future of his city. "Downtown Peoria" appeared In 
November, 1975, and it includes the author's recollections of the 
city's center as a place of fun and excitement: "There were crowds 
downtown until late at night. There were drug stores and candy 
shops and places where the high school kids bought malteds and ice 
cream. There were little taverns in the alleys and winking signs at 
night and crowds of people waiting to get into these theaters." 


But the downtown of present-day Peoria has enough empty build- 
ings to create a depressing effect, and Klein sees the situation as 
"a reflection, perhaps, of a social order so eager to embrace that 
which glitters brightest that it abandons the old at the first sign of 
decline." He is anxious to save the center of his city because, as 
he puts it, "The roots of the city are here, in all these stores, and the 
memories. ..." Hence, with an enthusiasm that would have 
made Lindsay— the artist of "The Village Improvement Parade" 
— overjoyed, he proposes some changes: 

A farmer's market. Yes. Sculpture. Yes. Fountains and 
benches. Yes. 

But something more: maybe a real sidewalk cafe, or two 
of them. Street vendors with hot pretzels or bagels and cold 
drinks, as they have in New York. Music downtown, not canned, 
but concerts by jazz bands, string quartets, quintets, guitarists. 
A bakery where people can buy good bread and pastries. A wine 
shop. Intriguing taverns and restaurants. . . . 

This optimism, too, is characteristic of Lindsay. In fact, the 
latter not only envisioned a better future for Springfield, in "The 
Illinois Village" he urged all those who were disenchanted with 
America, "Turn to the little prairie towns,/ Your higher hope 
shall yet begin. "^*Sixty-five years later, Klein is able to report, 
with evident satisfaction, that such a trend is under way. At the 
opening of a 1976 essay called "Lacon . . . Where the Livin' Is 
Steady," he says. 

People keep coming back to these small towns along this 
vital river, amid these fertile green prairies. More than ever 
now, they say. Part of a national trend. People beginning to 
get out of the big cities with their smog, traffic, crime and 
chaos. Back to towns where people know other people, where 
they are individuals with names rather than numbers, where 
they can walk the quiet, shaded streets and feel a part of some- 
thing. 25 

As this remark indicates, in spite of his attachment to Peoria, he 
is, like Lindsay, an advocate of the small town. 

Thus, in many ways Jerry Klein is the legitimate heir of 
Masters, Sandburg, and Lindsay in midwestern literature. He 
probes into the life of western Illinois communities, and he is sen- 
sitive to those who lie gathered together in the small-town grave- 
yards. He expresses compassion for the soldier and the working- 
man; he is a witness to the contrasts of the city and the cultural 



changes of the prairie. He feels the continuing presence of Lincoln 
in the Illinois state capital, and he identifies closely with his home 
town— recalling its past, envisioning its future. 

While the kinship between these three poets and Klein is 
undeniable, it is not the result of conscious imitation of their work. 
After all, they were primarily poets; he is an essayist. Rather, the 
real source for most of the resemblances is Klein's sensitivity to 
the western Illinois region— a region which Masters, Sandburg, 
and Lindsay also thoroughly absorbed and reflected, and which 
now has absorbed them. In the process of examining the land and 
the people of his native region, the newspaperman has naturally 
come to reflect their perspectives in his own work. More impor- 
tantly, he has, at the same time, raised journalistic prose to the 
level of significant literary art. 

Photo by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of Peoria JOURNAL STAR. 

Western Illinois prairie. 



(New York: Harcourt, 1970), p. 83. 

^Interview with Jerry Klein, October 12, 1977. All of the quotations in the 
next five paragraphs are fronn this source. A tape recording of the interview is 
available in the Jerry Klein Collection at the Center for Regional Authors, Western 
Illinois University Library. 

^Letter from Jerry Klein to John E. Hallwas, January 9, 1978, in the Jerry 
Klein Collection, op. cit.. 

^"Along the Spoon . . . ," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 13 Oct., 1968, p. C-1 . 
Since nnost of the articles quoted from in this study appear on a single page of the 
newspaper, subsequent quotations from the same article are not footnoted. Copies 
of all of Klein's feature articles are in the Jerry Klein Collection, op. cit.. Per- 
mission to quote from the articles has been granted by the author. 

5"The Other End of the Spoon," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 17 July, 1977, 

6"Lewistown," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 9 May, 1976, p. D-1 . 

7"Beardstown," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 17 June, 1973, p. E-1. 

^"Havana: The Memories Linger On . . . ," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 14 
April, 1974, p. C-1. 

9"Canton— The 30's Stay," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 5 Aug., 1973, p. C-1. 
■•O'There's No Rush in Rushville . . . ," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 29 June, 

1975, p. E-1. 

1"'"Goofy Ridge, Where the Livin' is Easy," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 16 
March, 1975, p. C-1. 

''2|nterview with Jerry Klein, op. cit.. 

13"Galesburg," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 15 April, 1973, p. A-1. 
■•5"Armistice Day 1975," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 9 Nov. 1975, p. A-1 . 
■'^"'Lost in the Cherry Mine,'" Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 24 April, 1977, p. A-1. 
■'^"Chicago . . . A Visit in Urban Purgatory," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 22 Feb., 

1976, p. A-1. 

18"The Vanishing Prairie," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 8 May, 1977, p. E-1. 

■•^"This Old House," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 14 Sept., 1975, p. D-2. 

20"'No Kicks, No Regrets,'" Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 14 Aug., 1977, p. D-1. 

21"Abe Lincoln Sleeps Here," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 25 April, 1976, p. A-1. 

22"The Best Place in Town," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 27 March, 1977, p. A-1. 

23"Downtown Peoria," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 16 Nov., 1975, p. A-1. 

24"The Illinois Village," COLLECTED POEMS, rev. ed. (New York: Mac- 
millan, 1925), p. 72. 

25"Lacon . . . Where the Livin' Is Steady," Peoria JOURNAL STAR, 22 Aug., 
1976, p. D-1. 


One of the first decisions of the editorial board of this journal 
was that, in each of the initial issues, information would be included 
concerning various regional resource collections existing in Western 
Illinois. It is hoped that various of these collections at places such 
as Knox, Augustana, Illinois, and other colleges might be des- 
cribed, as well as those being gathered by other active historical 
organizations in the area. 

Since time has rushed by so quickly since the establishment 
of this journal, it was decided that the work being done in regional 
studies by Western Illinois University Libraries might merit one of 
the earlier descriptions. Much of the work completed here is in the 
Archives and Special Collections. A recently acquired collection of 
materials relates to the life and work of Virginia S. Eifert (1911- 
1966), a well-known nature writer and biographer from Springfield. 
Altogether, Eifert wrote nineteen books, including RIVER WORLD 
(1959), LAND OF THE SNOWSHOE HARE (1960), and LOUIS 
JOLIET, EXPLORER OF RIVERS (1961). She also produced paper- 
back guidebooks to Illinois flora and fauna, such as BIRDS IN YOUR 
THAT BLOOM IN THE SPRING (1947). Mrs. Eifert wrote special 
pieces as well for such periodicals as AUDUBON MAGAZINE, 
most well known in Illinois, however, for her work with the journal 
of the Illinois State Museum, THE LIVING MUSEUM, which she 
not only founded but edited for over twenty-five years. The Virginia 
S. Eifert Collection at Western Illinois University came into exis- 
tence mainly through the work of Orvetta M. Robinson, a close 
friend of Mrs. Eifert and a former student at W. I. U. (1939-1941). 

The Eifert Collection is only one part of the Center for Regional 
Authors, which is devoted to materials by and about writers from 
western Illinois and immediate areas. The primary focus has been 
upon Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, and Mark 
Twain; but with the help of various members of the faculty and 
the library staff, the three-year-old Center for Regional Authors is 



continuing to develop collections of material dealing with John 
Hay, Don Marquis, Floyd Dell, and others. In fact, Mrs. Gordana 
Rezab, University Archivist, has built up a rather large file of 
reference cards treating authors long since forgotten by western 
Illinois, and even by the communities in which they lived. Individual 
items in the Center for Regional Authors now number in the hun- 
dreds, and include some unpublished poems and correspondence 
by Masters and Sandburg, many of the scarce issues of the 
REEDY'S MIRROR, POETRY, and other magazines, and a large 
number of first editions. 

The library has also acquired the papers of Congressman 
Thomas F. Railsback. These cover his official activities from 1967 
to 1974, including the work of the House of Representatives 
committee which investigated the Watergate scandal. The files 
contain studies of economic and social conditions in west-central 
Illinois, juvenile delinquency, prison reform, gun control, and 
self-government for Washington, D. C.The papers of Railsback's 
first two years are presently being processed by Mrs. Sheila Nollen, 
a graduate student in the Department of History. 

One of the new activities of the Archives and Special Collections 
Department is in the area of historical music and music education 
materials of Illinois. The library has an almost complete collection 
of the respected journal ILLINOIS MUSIC EDUCATOR from 1947 to 
the present, many tape recorded interviews and stories of Illinois 
leaders in music, old music, and various other music publications. 
Though the library has not moved in the direction of actually record- 
ing folk music as it might still exist in western Illinois, it is to be 
hoped that, someday, if the General Assembly is generous enough, 
such recordings might be made. 

The one-half millionth volume accessioned to the library 
holdings was received during the spring commencement exercises 
of 1977. A leather-bound volume of DUCKS, GEESE, AND SWANS 
OF NORTH AMERICA, by Frank C. Bellrose, Jr., was presented 
by the author to library director Pearce Grove. Also included in 
Mr. Bellrose's gift was a substantial collection of the author's 
personal correspondence, notes, drafts, and manuscripts. Dr. 
Bellrose worked for many years with the Illinois Natural Survey 
in Havana, Illinois. 


Of particular interest to historians is the Illinois Regional 
Archival Depository (I.R.A.D.). Beginning in the summer of 1976, 
under the auspices of the Secretary of State, county records from 
the sixteen counties of western Illinois began to be transferred to the 
university Archives. Western Illinois University, along with five 
other senior universities in the state, is now an ever-growing official 
center for local historial records. Mainly nineteenth-century 
accessions, the collection includes, among others: court records 
collections books, reports of highway commissioners, poll books, 
tally sheets, supervisor's financial reports, school district reports, 
chattel mortgages, county clerk's minutes of meetings, treasurer's 
reports, and township assessed evaluations. In addition to these 
county records the university's I.R.A.D. houses special collections 
of public records, such as microfilm copies of deed books, federal 
and state census manuscripts (population schedules complete from 
1820 to 1880), and Military Tract warrants. All of these collections 
are now being transferred to magnetic tape for computer output 
programs under the direction of Robert P. Sutton. Finally, the 
department has on magnetic tape the complete election returns 
for every Illinois county, for every election (federal and state), for 
every party and candidate from 1824 to 1974. A tape dump of the 
data is on file and available to the public. 

Separated from the activities of the library at Western is the 
Western Illinois University Museum. Begun several years ago 
as a student-sponsored activity, the museum has grown to such size 
that its sponsors and directors must soon decide about the necessity 
of spacial expansion. The fall open house for 1977 included displays 
in tole painting, Indian workmanship, and woodworking skills. 
The spring open house for 1978 was centered upon the theme of 
"Early American Life Styles." Students from McDonough County 
were asked to conduct projects in areas such as: soap making, 
canning, cooking with early recipes, quilting, butter making, and 

A recent addition to the museum's holdings in the "Eph" 
Mercer collection of store antiques and Civil War relics. The Mercer 
antiques include an old drugstore counter, with commercial soap 
and medicine bottles from fifty years past, and remnants and odds 


and ends from the Civil War era. Mercer evidently had a great 
urge to collect items related to the 84th Illinois Infantry Regiment, 
and these pieces are now on display In the museum. 

We must congratulate Knox College for their fine celebration 
of the centenary of the birth of Carl Sandburg. Held on four week- 
ends through January, 1978, the programs included such names as 
Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate of Illinois; Howard K. Smith, long 
time commentator for the American Broadcasting Company; 
Margaret Sandburg; Robert Johannsen, Department of History, 
University of Illinois; Stephen Gates, Lincoln biographer and 
historian; and numerous members of the intellectual community 
throughout the state of Illinois. The Chairman of the Carl Sandburg 
Centenary Committee was Douglas L. Wilson of Knox College, and 
assisting him was Rodney G. Davis, also of the Knox faculty. 

Victor Hicken 


By Howard I. Kushner and Anne Hummel Sherill. Boston: Twayne, 
1977. Pp.217. $9.95. 

The traditional view of John Hay has long been that he was 
a man of several talents, some of them bordering on genius, but 
one who, for whatever reasons, could never bring himself to follow 
though sufficiently in any area, be it poetry, history or diplomacy, 
to make the major contributions seemingly well within his capacity. 
He lacked whatever it took— drive, discipline, desire— to capitalize 
fully on brilliant beginnings. The result, so runs the prevailing 
argument, was that although he contributed some to American 
literary history, national political life, and international relations, 
his contributions were always more modest, and therefore less 
significant, than they could and should have been. 

Not at all, insist Howard Kushner and Anne Hummel Sherrill, 
AND POLITICS, their contribution to Twayne's World Leaders 
Series. To support their provocative argument that Hay, intensely 
ambitious, was fully aware of his talents and keenly attuned to the 
main chance, the authors establish as the two formative influences 
on the very young Hay the examples of his father and of his uncle. 
Attracted to both models. Hay at first found himself torn between 
conflicting ideals. While his father Dr. Charles Hay was content to 
cultivate his own small Illinois garden, Milton Hay, a lawyer, was 
attracted to the possibilities of outward success and great public 
power. The conflict was resolved when Hay, through the offices of 
his uncle, met Abraham Lincoln. In the rail-splitter-lawyer he found 
his beau ideal, a model that combined neatly both his father's 
and his uncle's roles. In choosing Lincoln, however. Hay was 
repudiating, probably unconsciously, the modest, less ambitious 
aspects of the model offered by his own father, a village physician 
wholly unattracted to the possibilities of upward mobility character- 
ized by material gain and public visibility. Indeed, in a revealing 
document not quoted by Kushner and Sherrill, Dr. Hay once wrote, 



in his cautious way, of Benjamin Franklin's life: it "has been produc- 
tive perhaps of almost as much harm as good," for, in an argument 
that anticipated, in the year of his son's birth, the latter's stance in 
his novel THE BREADWINNERS over four decades later, he pro- 
posed that "every muddy brained, stupid boy, who might have made 
a tolerable farmer, or mechanic, imagines after having read the life 
of Franklin, that by reading and studying as he did, that he will one 
day become a great philosopher, a great orator or a great man of 
some kind. But after many years trying at the professions of law, 
medicine, divinity ... he finds at last, that it is necessary to have 
the talents as well as the industry of Dr. Franklin, in order to be- 
come a great man."^ No wonder that while reluctantly putting be- 
hind him the homely example of his somewhat colorless, docile 
father. Hay should turn willingly and, finally, enthusiastically to 
Ben's most dramatic nineteenth-century avatar. Never mind that his 
enthusiasm for the successful presidential candidate was not 
immediately abated, although from the beginning it should be 
noted, he did recognize the potential for exercising great power 
inherent in the presidential office itself. Consequently, Hay's 
diary entries for the early years of his four-year stay in the White 
House invariably refer to Lincoln as "the Tycoon," as the authors 
note. What should be emphasized, however, is that when at a later 
date Hay went over these diaries, he often crossed out the term, 
replacing it usually with "the President." He did so either because 
his attitude toward the memorialized Lincoln had changed or 
because the sobriquet "Tycoon" had become contaminated in the 
Gilded Age, as the authors suggest. The full explanation for the 
change, I would venture, would incorporate both elements. 

That Hay's early White House experiences colored everything 
that he would attempt in the next four decades, the authors assert 
time and time again. "Thus, John Hay increasingly viewed the 
Civil War as a revolution which had redirected the course of Amer- 
ican history. Hay would spend a good deal of his life protecting and 
affirming both the results of that revolution and the image of its 
greatest hero, Abraham Lincoln. He also would use his relation 
to both to advance his own career" (p. 43). 


Working from this base— Hay's whole-hearted adoption of 
Lincoln's democratic views and his commitment to the ideal of the 
American republic— the authors go on to describe the unity of Hay's 
thought and life. That his thought and life— at least after the early 
1860's— did possess such unity is a notably revisionist position in 
Hay studies. Indeed, taking on Hay's most distinguished biographer 
to date, Tyler Dennett, Kushner and Sherrill insist in no uncertain 
terms that their central argument is that "John Hay's political 
career was not at war with his literary career" (p. 44). He did not 
break away from "poetry to [embrace] politics" (as Dennett would 
have it), but in his life there is a successful "union of poetry and 
politics" (as Kushner and Sherrill have it). It was misleading, 
they insist, to say that Hay was a revolutionary when young (and 
poetical) and a conservative when older (and political), unless one 
notices that the revolution Hay advocated in his early poetry and in 
CASTILIAN DAYS was not for the United States but for countries 
in which republicanism had not yet asserted itself. Whenever he 
did write about the United States he wrote conservatively, in 
accordance always with Lincoln's republican ideals. One agrees with 
the main thrust of this argument, although it should be noted that 
the writers nowhere mention Hay's quiet decision to omit In the 
later editions of CASTILIAN DAYS those chapters advocating 
revolutionary change for Spain. That decision may well be ex- 
plained within the terms of the authors' overall argument, but it 
should not have been bypassed. 

This study questions still other received views of Hay's life and 
work and, I think, largely upsets them. For instance, they demon- 
strate clearly that throughout his career— especially in the years 
1865-70, 1875-81, and throughout the 1890's, and contrary to his 
protests, particularly to his literary friends— Hay was a vigorous 
and persistent office-seeker. Earlier students have too readily taken 
Hay at his word on the matter, perhaps because Henry Adams 
in the EDUCATION presented Hay in that same diffident way, 
choosing to characterize his life as one fully controlled by the 
"strong god circumstance." Again not so. Hay's clear purpose in 
life, they insist, was marked by his single-minded adherence to his 
perception of the keys to "upward mobility and political success," 
namely "association with Lincoln, party regularity, and industrial 


wealth" (p. 84). The important consequence of their seeing Hay in 
this way is that they can detect the hitherto unexpected coherence 
and efficacy of his life of public service, beginning with his appoint- 
ment as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1897 and ending 
only, after seven years as Secretary of State, with his death in 1905. 
Indeed, the Hay who emerges from these pages is a fully responsi- 
ble, highly astute, generally efficacious and, until the onset of 
illness in the last years of his tenure as Secretary of State, quietly 
energetic world leader. The case, as made, is both appealing and 
cogent. From now on, I would venture, the burden of proof lies 
squarely with those who would question it. 

^Ms letter, Charles Hay to Milton Hay, 17 April, 1838, A. E. Beston Collec- 
tion, University of Illinois. 

George Monteiro 
Brown University 

JOHN HAY. By Robert L. Hale. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Pp. 164. 

The critical treatment of John Hay's literary work is prob- 
lematic from the start because it is the product of a famous diplo- 
mat. In addition to reflected glory from the diplomatic sphere 
there is the problem of perhaps undue contemporary fame, for John 
Hay was the author of two very different and very popular literarv 
successes, the quaint-but-earthy dialect poems, PIKE COUNTY 
BALLADS, and the anonymous anti-labor novel, THE BREAD- 
WINNERS. To further complicate matters, he is still 
best known and most respected for the solid, serious, ten-vol 
ume product of his collaboration with John G. Nicolay, ABRA- 
HAM LINCOLN: A HISTORY. Finally, it might be said that John 
Hay's literary importance was partly achieved by association, as 
friend and correspondent of Henry Adams, Henry James, William 
Dean Howells, and Mark Twain, among others. 

By the very structure of his book, Robert Gale gives these 
facts their due. Two chapters are devoted to biography (one of 
which begins in 1890, the year Hay effectively ended his literary 
career), one to "Literary Friends," and one each to Hay's poetry, 
his fiction, his travel book CASTILIAN DAYS, his LINCOLN, 


and his addresses. Gales's assessment of Hay's proper place 
in American letters is perhaps the most useful insight his book 
has to offer. His account of the particular kinds of influence Hay 
exerted in his many and varied literary relationships is an excellent 
case in point. "He merited Henry Adams's respect, exchanged 
laughs with Mark Twain, and was friendly with William Dean 
Howells, saw worth in Henry James well before the critics did, 
and befriended the most robust poet of the century— Walt Whit- 
man. These friends and others may have differed with Hay about 
questions of substance and style, but all of them agreed that Hay 
was a cherished comrade" (p. 53). 

When it comes to specific criticisms of Hay's work, the book 
is less useful. Following the Twayne format, Gale gives a generous 
summary of each book, but he offers little original critical commen- 
tary, except in the matter of style, which he submits to the finest of 
scrutinies. After recording a few grammatical howlers in the 
LINCOLN, for example, he goes on to complain that in the ten- 
volume work, "the historians use three idioms that grate slightly" 
(p. 117), and proceeds to enumerate them. 

On the whole, JOHN HAY is useful as the most general in- 
troduction to its subject. Gale's portrait of Hay as a man of letters 
is accurate, though it is not new. His final assessment of Hay's 
adumbrated literary career, "Hay had the means and talent to 
become part of that intellectual ferment [of the nineties], but he 
failed to do so" (p. 126), echoes that of Howells in 1905: "He 
avouched his ability to have done what he wished in literature, 
if only he had wished it enough." ^ 

■•"John Hay in Literature," NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, 181 (September 
1905), 351. 

Brenda Murphy 

St. Lawrence University 

Chicago:Northwestern University Archaeological Program, Scien- 
tific Papers, No. 2. 1977, $5.25 

stra applies a research perspective to the study of Middle Woodland 


skeletal remains that is long overdue. Her approach diverges from 
many previous, more traditional osteological studies in two impor- 
tant ways. First this analysis is regional in scope and holistic in 
design. Archaeological information from an intensively studied 
portion of the lower Illinois Valley is evaluated along with a detailed 
osteological analysis of human skeletal remains from the area, in 
an effort to produce meaningful statements about human culture 

Second, Buikstra applies a range of contemporary bioanthro- 
pological methods and techniques to her data to create a model of 
epigenetic variability for all available Middle Woodland skeletal 
series within the study area. Two widely debated hypotheses relat- 
ing to Hopewell biological relationships are evaluated. One hypo- 
thesis (Willey 1966) characterizes Hopewell as a single genetically 
distinct group. Another (Caldwell 1964) views the Hopewell phe- 
nonomen as an ideology or "interaction sphere" participated in by 
numerous regionally distinct populations. A lack of integration of 
archaeological, environmental, and osteological data has reduced 
the utility of many earlier studies attempting to address similar 
problems (Neumann 1952, 1960, 1966; H. Neumann 1960). 

An excavation strategy emphasizing total exposure of cemetery 
and mound areas was employed at the Gibson Mound complex in 
an attempt to gain an accurate idea of variability within a Middle 
Woodland skeletal population. This produced information on in- 
dividuals often not included in earlier studies, including the young, 
the cremated, the female and the artificially deformed. This ap- 
proach is in marked contrast to more traditional excavations which 
concentrated on recovery of artifacts or high status burials. 

Chapters two and three present a clear and concise description 
of the methods employed in age and sex determinations of the 
skeletal series, and a well supported discussion of estimates of 
such paleodemographic factors as mortality rates and population 

In chapter four status differention and social complexity is 
examined. Five key variables, including mortuary unit, mound 
group membership, position within a mound, post-mortem hand- 
ling, and type of associated cultural materials, are isolated and 
evaluated. The evidence supports a view of a markedly nonegal- 
itarian Hopewell society, where key males and their dependents 


had access to an inordinate amount of wealth and preferred burial 
areas. Status appears to have been inherited rather than achieved. 

Chapter five presents a well-documented analysis of biological 
distance within Middle Woodland skeletal series, utilizing discrete, 
nonmetrical traits. A picture of stable, long-term local occupations 
emerges, providing some support for the Caldwell position. A ten- 
dency towards a selection of tall individuals in high status burials, 
long noted by many archaeologists, is viewed here as a function 
of nutritional differences rather than as a genetic quirk reinforced 
by class endogamy. 

Buikstra's study has added new dimensions to our formerly 
artifact-oriented view of the Hopewell phenomenon, and has offered 
useful directions for further research. The employment of some 
rather awkward terms, such as "burial program," or the difficulty 
of duplicating her total excavation strategy in light of current 
research funding difficulties, does not detract from her study. She 
presents a convincing statement of what can be accomplished when 
a bioanthropologist is not confined to the study of bones for their 
own sake, and a well-designed holistic research strategy is em- 

Michael R. Beckes 
Section of Anthropology 
Dickson Mounds State Museum 

Daniel T. Johnson. Aledo, Illinois: Mercer County Bicentennial 
Commission, 1976. Pp. 820. $25.00. 

Daniel T. Johnson had less than 20 months to prepare this 
volume, and this basic time constraint suggests many other 
limitations under which he must have labored. What he was 
obliged to produce was a book that is, in its basic format, quite 
similar to the Mercer County History of 1882, a book likewise 
commissioned on the occasion of a national anniversary, the national 
centennial in that case. 

Yet in spite of the obvious handicaps, Johnson's book rises 
above some of the disabilities of the nineteenth-century genre of 
county histories. The author is able to show temporal continuities 


and institutional change in a way that was beyond the capacity of 
the nineteenth-century compilers; and his book shares the dominant 
advantage of the earlier volumes: a wealth of names and biogra- 
phical information. Genealogists will be pleased that it has a com- 
plete index of names. 

Professionally most satisfying are the long chapters on agri- 
culture and education in Mercer County. Though dependent on 
submitted material, they nonetheless convey to the reader a clear 
notion of changes over time. The education chapter delineates the 
impact of changing social priorities, of community prosperity and 
decline and rural depopulation, and of school consolidation; and the 
chapter on agriculture reveals the force of technological change, 
changes in crops and livestock and methods of cultivation, and 
ultimately in the very quality of rural life. 

Two chapters of the book are merely annalistic, and elsewhere 
the selection of material seems necessarily to have been unsyste- 
matic. Much of the content of the volume is episodic, but some of 
the brief treatments of special subjects are quite valuable; Western 
Illinois readers will be grateful to Johnson for making accessible 
a reasonably complete sketch of Aledo's William and Vashti 
College, for example. 

Naturally one might wish for a more thorough treatment of 
such matters as the development and decline of Mercer County's 
once-flourishing Mississippi River trade and river towns, of conflicts 
within the county (though Johnson makes more of this than a 
nineteenth-century county historian would), of the interaction of 
ethnic groups, or even a more conceptual treatment of the twen- 
tieth-century "modernization" of the county such as Richard Jensen 
has just rendered for the state as a whole. 

But given the definition of his project, Johnson has given us 
a valuable work, much better than most recent, similar Sesquicen- 
tennial or Bicentennial efforts, and it will be a useful reference for 
along time. 

Rodney O. Davis 
Knox College 


BREATHING TOKENS. By Carl Sandburg. Edited by Margaret 
Sandburg. New York: Harcourt, 1978. Pp. 177. $8.95. A GREAT 
AND LILIAN STEICHEN. By Helga Sandburg. New York: Harcourt, 
1978. Pp.319. $12.95. 

A generation ago, Carl Sandburg was accounted one of Amer- 
ica's major poets. The 1942 edition of Louis Untermeyer's MODERN 
AMERICAN POETRY gave twenty pages to Sandburg's poems, a 
number surpassed only by Whitman, Robinson, Frost, and Eliot. 
After a thin sheaf of idol-breaking lyrics appeared in Harriet 
Monroe's new monthly, POETRY: A MAGAZINE OF VERSE, 
early in 1914, the reputation of the young poet-socialist grew 
steadily through many volumes, culminating with COMPLETE 
POEMS in 1950. A critical response to that climax volume by 
William Carlos Williams, ironically appearing in Miss Monroe's 
by then venerated magazine, marked the beginning of a toboggan 
slide of Sandburg's reputation that has continued to the present 
day. Williams charged his colleague with the lack of a poetic theory 
and with a resulting formlessness, a judgment that has prevailed 
among readers ever since. Now we are invited to take another 
look at this prairie poet in books produced by two of his daughters 
and timed to appear in the centennial year of his birth. 

BREATHING TOKENS, edited by the eldest daughter, 
Margaret, has 118 previously unpublished poems, carefully gleaned 
from hundreds remaining in manuscript, and written during all 
phases of Sandburg's career. The familiar roles are there: the poet 
of prairies, sea floors, and the Indian past; the poet of the people 
and the fighter against cruelty and indifference; the Lincoln bard; 
the old dreamer, idealist, and "moonshooter." Also there is the 
Sandburg who was perpetually haunted by loss, death, and evan- 
escent beauty, a man baffled by the mystery of existence, who 
longed for oblivion and dwelt with fog, mist, ashes, and cool tombs. 
"Others," subtitled "Fantasia for Muskmelon Days," shows the 
poet's rush from ripeness: 

Ivory domes . . white wings beating 

In empty space.. 
Nothing doing . . nuts . . bugs . . a regular 

absolute humpty-dumpty business . . 
pos-i-tive-ly . . falling off walls 
and no use to call doctor, lawyer, 


priest . . no use, boy, no use. 

O Pal of Mine, O Humpty Dumpty, 

shake hands with me. 
O Ivory Donnes, I am one of You: 
Let me in. 

For God's sake— let me in. (P- 14)^ 

Not everything in this volume maizes such exhuberant fresh use of 
the venacularand has the controlled images that we find in the best 
Sandburg lyrics. Louis Rubin may have exaggerated a bit by sug- 
gesting that at least a dozen of these poems stand up to the best 
Sandburg ever wrote, though many are clearly superior to whole 
masses of poems— long and short— published in his lifetime. Those 
that so qualify, I believe, include several brief nature lyrics in which 
emotions are implied through sharp color images and sounds, as 
in "Bronzed Grackles" and "Bird Cries and Burnt Flowers"; a few 
poems of wit and philosophy, the best being, perhaps, "Two 
Commentaries on Humpty Dumpty"; and the haunting "Heaven Is 
a Valley of Cool Timber," with its lullaby-like refrains. BREATHING 
TOKENS adds to the poet's total canon, which can be impressive, 
but it will not greatly enhance his reputation in the long run. What 
might is a volume of selected poems that fans away the chaff and 
retains the essential Sandburg, likely to be found among the hun- 
dreds of shorter lyrics that make brief powerful statements on life 
and are controlled by simple vivid imagery. 

the youngest of the three daughters, lias told of the early years of 
a long successful marriage between her father and the remarkable 
Lilian Steichen. The author's method is interesting. She combines 
impressionistic memories and dreams of childhood with the old 
Victorian practice of inserting into the text large numbers of family 
letters and papers, many of which we are seeing in print for the first 
time. What emerges are vividly sketched pictures of the muck- 
raking journalist and incipient poet, his Phi Beta Kappa socialist 
wife and homemaker, and a third person, Lilian's brother, the future 
photographer, Edward Steichen. Also emerging is a strong flavor 
of the intellectual life led by Midwesterners in the first two decades 
of this century. It is unfortunate that Helga Sandburg has omitted 
an index, for the list of names moving in and out of her book is an 
encyclopedia of the era's literati, political liberals, and artistic 
folk, a few being Elbert Hubbard, Ole Rolvaag, Amy Lowell, 


Isadora Duncan, Eugene Debs, Floyd Dell, Sinclair Lewis, Frost, 
and Sandburg's western Illinois friends. Masters and Lindsay. 
As to the love affair of Carl and his "Paula" (which is regret- 
tably defined by the book's title), can any of us ever hope to locate 
the mainspring of our parents' life together? The impression is 
given that the Sandburgs' union flourished best when they were 
apart, through letters; for the child Helga loses contact with her 
father and mother when they cease writing intimate things that 
can be studied and cited by the grown-up daughter. This helps 
perpetuate the feeling that Sandburg the man was not unlike 
what he is in his poems— a restless, dreaming questioner, uncertain 
of life's purposes and unable to find a center. When he was home, 
everything spun about him "like a great wheel" (p. 314); but, 
though he is presented as a great family man, he was on the road 
much of the time, always coming from a lecture tour or starting out 
on a correspondent's travels abroad. We see him before he became 
a part of the Lincoln legend and a public entertainer (never held 
against Dickens and Twain), and still we come away with the sense 
of something deeply sensitive but curiously impersonal in the man, 
a quality that everywhere marks his poetry. From afar, he writes 
tender love letters, always to Paula, and with a note left behind 
he escapes direct confrontation with his little girl, after a scene: 
"Dearest Helga— Please forget it— then I won't need to be forgiven" 
(p. 10). The elusiveness is what the daughter catches. Helga Sand- 
burg is a pro— a novelist, and, like her father, an author of child- 
ren's stories. A GREAT AND GLORIOUS ROMANCE is much more 
than the flowery tribute we learn to expect from a child of famous 

^From BREATHING TOKENS by Carl Sandburg, copyright 1978 by Maurice 
C. Greenbaum and Frank M. Parker, Trustees of the Sandburg Family Trust, 
copyright 1978 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.. Reprinted by permission of 
the publishers. 

Charles W. Mayer 
Western Illinois University 


DAVID J. BAXTER is an Assistant Professor of English at Walsh 
College in Canton, Ohio. 

EDWIN R. BOOHER is an Instructor of English at Lincoln Land 
Community College in Springfield, Illinois. 

RICHARD H. CROWDER, Professor of English, Emeritus, at 
Purdue University, is the author of books on James Whitcomb 
Riley (1957), Michael Wigglesworth (1962), and Carl Sandburg 
(1964), as well as over fifty articles on American poets. He was a 
Fulbright Lecturer in American Poetry at the University of Bor- 
deaux, France, from 1963 to 1965. 

JOHN E. HALLWAS, an Associate Professor of English at Western 
Illinois University, has published articles on several Illinois authors, 
and in 1976 he co-edited THE VISION OF THIS LAND (on Masters, 
Sandburg, and Lindsay). He is editor of ESSAYS IN LITERATURE 

MARK E. NACKMAN is an Assistant Professor of History at the 
University of Washington, Seattle, and DARRYL K. PATON is a 
senior history major at that institution.