Social History for Every Classroom


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"Halsted Street Car"

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, to a poor Swedish immigrant family. After leaving home at the age of thirteen, Sandburg drifted, working odd jobs, traveling as a hobo, and serving in the Spanish-American War. A fellow soldier convinced him to enroll in Lombard College, where he attracted the attention of Professor Phillip Green Wright, who published his first volume of poetry. Having moved to Chicago to work as a newspaper writer, Sandburg solidified his reputation as a poet with Chicago Poems (1916), from which "Halsted Street Car," an impressionistic account of an early-morning street car commute, is taken.



COME you, cartoonists,

Hang on a strap with me here

At seven o'clock in the morning

On a Halsted street car.


Take your pencils

And draw these faces.


Try with your pencils for these crooked faces,

That pig-sticker in one corner--his mouth--

That overall factory girl--her loose cheeks.


Find for your pencils

A way to mark your memory

Of tired empty faces.


After their night's sleep,

In the moist dawn

And cool daybreak,


Tired of wishes,

Empty of dreams.

Source | Carl Sandburg, "Halsted Street Car," from Chicago Poems (H. Holt, 1916).
Creator | Carl Sandburg
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Carl Sandburg, “"Halsted Street Car",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 22, 2023,

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