Like a Hobo


- 04/08/2016 -

Made up of travellers without constraints and without limits, the Hobo phenomenon began in the 1920s.

The accumulation of events such as the end of the Civil War, the Great Depression and the profound changes in American society due to industrialization and urbanization put a large part of the population in a delicate situation.

Running out of money and on the verge of expulsion, a Hobo movement was formed.

For the most part it is young, unemployed veterans thirsting for adventure who take to the road and travel far from home. They traveled to the four corners of the United States and began to form groups of several travelers. These homeless travelers take odd jobs in the cities where they make their homes. Working in mines, fields and small structures, they manage to support themselves daily.

Dorothea Lange, 1935
Hobo code
Hobo signs,1870s.

Where there' s hobos, there' s freight trains. Indeed, the main means of transportation for this large community with a very limited budget will be freight trains. With very little supervision, sometimes with just the driver at the head of the train, hobos climb into the cars and sleep under the stars while waiting for the next station. Nicknamed the travelling hobos, they criss-cross the United States. Meeting on roadsides and in abandoned places, the Hobos exchange the latest news and useful directions for their journey.

Unfortunately, they will not be welcomed in the same way in all cities. Thanks to these codes, Hobos could know if they could continue their journey or if they had to turn back. As the Hobo community grew, a code of ethics was also established to ensure the safety and tranquility of all. In literature, there are several works that trace the journey of the Hobos, such as 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac and 'The Hobo' by Nels Anderson.