Sandburg's Hometown

March 9, 2015

George Peck's Grand Revival of Stetson's Uncle Tom's Cabin Poster

Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg was paid ten cents to hand out printed bills advertising a performance of “Uncle Tom's Cabin” at the Auditorium Theater on North Broad Street. He was also given a free ticket to the performance. The intriguing words on the handbill stated there would be two of everything: two Uncle Toms, two Little Evas, two Simon Legrees, two Elizas crossing the Ohio River and two packs of bloodhounds. This curiosity attracted a good crowd to the theater. Needless to say, there was only one of each. The audience felt more than a little cheated.

The performance took place in the early 1890s, more than forty years after the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe had been published on March 20, 1852. She originally wrote the story as a forty-installment serialization in an abolitionist publication.

 Mrs. Stowe was the daughter of Lyman Beecher, a well-known Congregational clergyman. Her brothers, Henry Ward Beecher and Edward Beecher, were also ministers. Edward was pastor of the Brick Church on South Broad Street in Galesburg during the 1860s. Harriet married Calvin E. Stowe, another clergyman, who taught at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, and later at Bowdoin College in Maine.

 The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was one of the inspirations for the book. The law required the return of runaway slaves to their owners. Mrs. Stowe had learned about the Underground Railroad while living in Cincinnati. Kentucky, a slave state just across the Ohio River, was a continuing source of runaway slaves.

 Her goal in writing the serialization was to depict slavery as a uniquely depraved institution. She wanted to show the ugly separation of slave families. Adults and children could be sold individually to another slave owner on a distant plantation, forever dividing families. The ill treatment of slaves brought out the worst characteristics of white owners. The book was written almost as a sermon might have been in those days. It was dramatic and sensational.

The book sold 300,000 copies in the first year. Before the serialization ended, promoters were preparing stage performances of the story. There were even musical versions presented in theaters across the country. The dramatic versions played in theaters until after the turn of the twentieth century. A silent film was produced in 1903. Members of the public flocked to see it. They knew the characters and the story so well, there was no need for spoken dialogue.

Most readers have probably seen the movie “The King and I” by Rogers and Hammerstein, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. “The Small Cabin of Uncle Thomas” is presented before the King of Siam by his children and several of his wives. One of his concubines uses the performance as an opportunity to escape.

 “Uncle Tom's Cabin” still provokes arguments among historians, writers and women's rights advocates. It created stereotypes of African-Americans which still exist today. Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., a Harvard University professor, has called the story “the central document in American race relations and a significant moral and political explanation of the character of those relations.”

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
March 9, 2015 Uncle Tom's Cabin
March 2, 2015 Martha Sandburg Goldstone
February 23, 2015 Devotion
February 16, 2015  Gumbiner's Pawn Shop 
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  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