Galesburg is located at (40.952292, -90.368545). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.1 square miles (44.2 km²), of which, 16.9 square miles (43.8 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (1.05%) is water.
Galesburg was home to the first anti-slavery society in Illinois, founded in 1837, and was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The city was the site of the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate, on a temporary speaker's platform attached to Knox College's Old Main building on October 7, 1858. Knox College continues to maintain and use Old Main to this day. An Underground Railroad Museum and Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum are planned for Knox College's Alumni Hall after it is renovated.
Galesburg was the home of Mary Ann Bickerdyke, who provided hospital care for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. After the Civil War, Galesburg was the birthplace of poet, author, and historian Carl Sandburg, poet and artist Dorothea Tanning, and former Major League Baseball star Jim Sundberg. Carl Sandburg's boyhood home is now operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site. The site contains the cottage Sandburg was born in, a modern museum, the rock under which he and his wife Lilian are buried, and a performance venue.
Throughout much of its history, Galesburg has been inextricably tied to the railroad industry. Local businessmen were major backers of the first railroad to connect Illinois' (then) two biggest cities—Chicago and Quincy—as well as a third leg initially terminating across the river from Burlington, Iowa, eventually connecting to it via bridge and thence onward to the Western frontier. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad sited major rail sorting yards here, including the first to use hump sorting.
In the late 19th century, when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway connected its service through to Chicago, it also laid track through Galesburg, making this city one of relatively few to be served by multiple railroads and even fewer to have multiple railroad depots. (Indeed, it was not until the 1990s that Amtrak finally closed the old Santa Fe depot and consolidated all passenger operations at the site of the former Burlington Northern depot.) A series of mergers eventually united both tracks under the ownership of BNSF Railway, carrying an average of seven trains per hour between them. As of the closing of the Maytag plant in fall of 2004, BNSF is once again the largest private employer in Galesburg.
There were 13,237 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.3% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 100.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,987, and the median income for a family was $41,796. Males had a median income of $31,698 versus $21,388 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,214. About 10.7% of families and 14.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.4% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.
Galesburg will soon be home to the National Railroad Hall of Fame. Efforts are underway to raise funds for the $30 million project which got a major boost in 2006, when the United States Congress passed a bill to charter the establishment. It is hoped that the Museum will bring tourism and a financial boost to the community.
The Black Earth Film Festival has been a part of the Galesburg art community since 2004. Affiliated with the Galesburg Civic Art Center, the festival receives entries from all over the world. The Black Earth Film Festival takes place in September and presents the best in feature length, short subjects, documentaries, animation and foreign films. Awards are given for the aforementioned categories, as well as a peoples choice award for best overall film. Festival highlights include special guests from within the film industry. Past participants have included Director John D. Hancock (Bang The Drum Slowly, Prancer, Let's Scare Jessica to Death,) Filmmakers Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank (subjects of the award Winning Documentary American Movie)and Filmmakers Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos (Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.)
There is also a kite festival every May at Lake Storey Park.
Galesburg has multiple radio stations and newspapers delivering a mix of local, regional and national news. WGIL-AM, WAAG, WLSR-FM and WKAY-FM are all owned by Galesburg Broadcasting while Prairie Radio Communications owns WAIK-AM. The Galesburg Register-Mail is the result of the merger of the Galesburg Republican-Register and the Galesburg Daily Mail in 1928. Those two papers can trace their roots back to the mid-1800s. A daily, it is the main newspaper of the city, and was owned by Copley Press out of San Diego until it was sold to Gate House Media in April 2007. The Zephyr was started in 1989, is published on Thursdays and is the only locally-owned newspaper. There is also The Paper, which is delivered without subscription to all households every Wednesday and is also owned by Gate House Media.