Carl Sandburg at the Old St. Paul's Rectory
In 1934, Carl Sandburg wrote to Sally Bruce Kinsolving, "The years go by and I don't forget ever the long evening of song with you... at your house and faces and stories and moments out of that visit to Baltimore. I'm hoping to drop in again soon."
On the night of Sandburg's February 1924 visit, like many other nights, the Kinsolving home, Old St. Paul's Rectory, became a sanctuary for poets and poetry lovers alike. As co-founder of the Maryland Poetry Society, Mrs. Kinsolving frequently welcomed a variety of acclaimed poets into her home, allowing members of the society to meet their literary idols. Carl Sandburg, a three-time Pulitzer-prize winner, poet, biographer, historian, journalist, novelist and musicologist, was just one of Mrs. Kinsolving's illustrious guests. Although he visited Baltimore only once or twice, Sandburg and Mrs. Kinsolving maintained a lifelong relationship through correspondence, encouraging each other in their work and exchanging poems and folk songs.
Old St. Paul's Church built the Georgian-style rectory, where Sandburg and the Kinsolvings spent the evening, as a home for the rector in 1791. Once standing at the northern edge of the city with a spectacular view of the harbor, the Old St. Paul's Church and Rectory is a testament to the growth of Baltimore—now located within the heart of central Baltimore, surrounded by contemporary development and its view of the harbor obscured long ago.
Described by H.L. Mencken as "indubitably American in every pulse-beat," Sandburg was born in Illinois in 1878. He quit school at age thirteen, and then worked a variety of odd jobs ranging from a farmhand to a traveling salesman to a milkman to a barber. He traversed the United States as a hobo and served as a soldier in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Through these experiences, Sandburg truly saw the United States, later capturing it both in his own writing and by anthologizing the folk songs he encountered. Sandburg's love of America did not blind him to its problems and he fought passionately against a variety of social injustices.
Sandburg was never a Baltimorean, but was inextricably tied to Chicago, working at the Chicago Daily News and praising the developing industrial city in his work—notably in Chicago Poems. However, his friends in Baltimore were never far from his mind, and their letters never far from his mail box, proving what he'd once written to Mrs. Kinsolving, that "the prairies and Chesapeake Bay are neighbors now."