Address of Carl Sandburg Before a Joint Session of Congress, February 12, 1959

On the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, writer Carl Sandburg gave an address before Congress in celebration of President Lincoln’s legacy. Sandburg, arguably best known for his poetry, had published six volumes of a Lincoln biography and was considered, as is mentioned by the Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn in his introduction, “the man who in all probability knows more about the life, the times, the hopes, and the aspirations of Abraham Lincoln than any other human being.”

The address spans only twelve pages and can easily be read in one sitting, yet it expresses clearly something of what made Lincoln the immense figure he is in American history. In the speech, Sandburg includes a few of Lincoln’s most profound quotes from the President’s public speeches and private letters.

This Harcourt, Brown, & Company edition of Sandburg’s address to a joint session of Congress is quite rare, limited to seven hundred and fifty numbered copies on rag paper, and was part of the library of groundbreaking literary critic Cleanth Brooks. In addition to the book itself, Mr. Brooks enclosed a copy of the Carl Sandburg Memorial service (Sandburg died in 1967), which took place at the Lincoln Memorial.

Special Collections at The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries in McCain Library & Archives has a large collection of Cleanth Brooks’ library. Many of the books are inscribed with Mr. Brooks’ notes, and some contain related enclosures.

For more information about the Brooks Library Collection and the Sandburg materials, contact Jennifer Brannock at or 601.266.4347. To see more Items of the Month, click here.

Text for this Item of the Month prepared by Andrew Rhodes