Born in Boston in 1809, Edgar Poe was destined to lead a rather somber and brief life, most of it a struggle against poverty. His mother died when Edgar was only two, his father already long disappeared. He was raised as a foster child in Virginia by Frances Allen and her husband John, a Richmond tobacco merchant.
Poe later lived in Baltimore with his aunt, Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia, whom he eventually married. The trio formed a household which moved to New York and then to Philadelphia, where they lived for about six years — apparently the happiest, most productive years of his life. Of Poe’s several Philadelphia homes, only this one survives.
In 1844 they moved to New York, where Poe briefly owned his own journal. Tuberculosis took Virginia’s life in 1847, drawing it from her slowly after the fashion of this cruel affliction. Poe’s subsequent decline was as tragic as it was rapid. In 1849 Edgar Allen Poe died in delirium of “acute congestion of the brain.”
There is a very bright side to Poe’s life, however, that the rest of us have enjoyed, if not the man himself. His prose and poetry have forever changed the course of storytelling, setting standards that many authors have striven to meet and still do. Poe is widely recognized as the inventor of the modern mystery with his “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (written in Philadelphia). Here detective Cesar A. Dupin solved crimes through a process of rational thinking Poe called ratiocination. Dupin was the predecessor of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
Edgar Allen Poe is probably most famous for his macabre tales such as “The Raven”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” (the latter two written in Philadelphia, along with other famous stories and poems).
Carl August Sandburg was born the son of Swedish immigrants August and Clara Anderson Sandburg. The elder Sandburg, a blacksmith’s helper for the nearby Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, purchased the cottage in 1873. Carl, called “Charlie” by the family, was born the second of seven children in 1878. A year later the Sandburgs sold the small cottage in favor of a larger house in Galesburg.
Carl Sandburg worked from the time he was a young boy. He quit school following his graduation from eighth grade in 1891 and spent a decade working a variety of jobs. He delivered milk, harvested ice, laid bricks, threshed wheat in Kansas, and shined shoes in Galesburg’s Union Hotel before traveling as a hobo in 1897.
His experiences working and traveling greatly influenced his writing and political views. As a hobo he learned a number of folk songs, which he later performed at speaking engagements. He saw first-hand the sharp contrast between rich and poor, a dichotomy that instilled in him a distrust of capitalism.
When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 Sandburg volunteered for service, and at the age of twenty was ordered to Puerto Rico, where he spent days battling only heat and mosquitoes. Upon his return to his hometown later that year, he entered Lombard College, supporting himself as a call fireman.