Sandburg's Hometown

February 24, 2014

Joseph Jefferson as the young Rip Van Winkle
 Joseph Jefferson playing Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle
by Barbara Schock

The Auditorium Theater opened in November, 1890. The building still stands on Broad Street just north of the Public Square. It is in poor condition, but many hope that repairs and restoration will be accomplished in the near future.

As a boy Carl Sandburg was attracted by the operations of the theater as well as the famous thespians who came to entertain. The railroad connections to Galesburg made the city and its theaters a convenient place to visit. Many actors of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made appearances on the stages of Galesburg.

Joseph Jefferson was a member of the fourth generation of a family of actors. He was also the fourth to bear his name. As an infant, Joe Jefferson made his first appearance on the stage. He was fascinated with the idea of producing sorrow and joy in an audience through the character he was playing.

In the summer of 1859, Jefferson was on vacation in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He happened to be reading a book by Washington Irving, the creator of the Rip Van Winkle story. Jefferson began to think about the character of Rip Van Winkle and how it could be performed on the stage. First, he created the costume to be worn by the character. Then, he secured copies of three older versions of the story as well as several dramas which had been written previously.

He chose to make Rip Van Winkle the only character on the stage. The demons in the story glided across the stage without speaking, which added to the weirdness of the scenes.

By the end of the summer Jefferson was ready to present his play to the public. He continued to play Rip Van Winkle for the next forty years. The public loved Rip Van Winkle and attended performances multiple times.

When Joe Jefferson came to Galesburg with his play, Carl Sandburg and his friends went to see it. Afterward, they liked to repeat Rip’s toast in dialect: “May you lif long and brosper.”

Sandburg didn’t always have the quarter to gain admission to the Auditorium. He helped change scenery, hand out bills advertising the featured play or participate in crowd scenes in exchange for a dime or a seat in the balcony. Sometimes the best he could do was to be at the railroad depot to watch the celebrities arrive or depart on the train.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity