Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A hobo is a member of a distinctive sub-culture of homeless, travelling workers in the United States. Hobo culture was most popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is particularly associated with the railroads, as hobos have the reputation for freighthopping—hitching free rides from place to place in the baggage cars of trains.
Hobos generally apply the term hobo only to itinerant people who work. In contrast, they define a tramp as a itinerant person who does not work, and supports himself by other means e.g. begging or theft. A bum is a homeless person who neither travels nor works. Both are terms of derision within the hobo community.
The population of hobos increased during times of economic trouble, and their numbers increased greatly during the Great Depression. With no work and no prospects at home, many decided to travel and try their luck elsewhere.
Nowadays there are few railroad-riding hobos left, though there are still small numbers of them. Some itinerant individuals today travel by car rather than rail, but still identify themselves as hobos.
Life as a hobo was a dangerous one. In addition to the problems of being itinerant poor far from home and support, and the hostile attitude of many train crews, the railroads employed their own security staff, often nicknamed bulls or dicks. These showed little mercy to hobos they found. If that wasn't enough, riding on a freight train is highly dangerous. One can easily fall under the wheels or get trapped between cars, or freeze to death in bad weather. When freezer cars were loaded at an ice factory, any hobo inside was likely to be killed. Hobos tended to band together for protection and formed an informal "brotherhood".
To cope with the difficulty of hobo life, hobos developed a system of symbols. Hobos would write these symbols with chalk or coal to provide directions, information, and warnings to other hobos. Some signs included "turn right here", "beware of hostile railroad police", "dangerous dog", "food available here", and so on. Naturally, hobo symbols would vary from place to place around the country.
Hobos in media
- James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice
- John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men
- Upton Sinclair: The Jungle (the part where Jurgis escapes from Chicago)
- Ted Conover: Rolling Nowhere
- Jack London: The Road
- Woody Guthrie: Bound for Glory
- Jack Black: You Can't Win
- Jim Tully: Beggars of Life
- Eddie Joe Cotton: Hobo
- WH Davies: The Autobiography of a Supertramp
- Errol Lincoln Uys: Riding th Rails
- Todd DePastino: Citizen Hobo : How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America
- Dr. Ben Reitman: Sister of the Road: The Autobiography of Boxcar Bertha
- Anonymous: Evasion
- Bound for Glory: 1976 biographical drama about the life of Woody Guthrie
- Catching Out: 2003 documentary about modern hobos IMDB
- Danger Lights: 1930 movie about a hobo who becomes a railroad engineer
- Emperor of the North (also known as Emperor of the North Pole): 1973 film starring Lee Marvin, Keith Carradine and Ernest Borgnine
- Long Gone: a 2003 documentary
- Riding the Rails: 1997 documentary about Great Depression hobos
- Wild Boys of the Road: 1933 drama about runaway youth, intended to scare kids away from hopping freights but had quite the opposite effect
- Hard Travelin' by Woody Guthrie
- Hobo's Lullaby by Woody Guthrie
- Only a Hobo by Bob Dylan
- Hobo Blues by John Lee Hooker
- The Hobo by John Lee Hooker
- I Am a Lonesome Hobo by Bob Dylan
- Hobo Bill by Cisco Houston
- Mysteries of a Hobo's Life by Cisco Houston
- I Ain't Got No Home by Cisco Houston
- Big Rock Candy Mountain by Harry McClintock
- King of the Road by Roger Miller
- National Hobo Convention , held in Britt, Iowa by the Hobo Foundation
- Fran's Hobo Page, by Fran DeLorenzo. Includes hobo history and a glossary of hobo signs.
- Slackaction: Hobo Signs & Symbols
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details