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Hoboes and Tramps

analytical Essay
1131 words
1131 words
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Hoboes and Tramps

Hoboes and tramps represented significant figures in America’s history. The phenomenon of “Hobohemia,” the world of hoboes that was subject to its own indoctrinations, tells us much about the social and cultural climate of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Moreover, in examining the “others” of society, we gain a far better perspective of what circumstances modernist writers were working under.

A hobo is defined as a migratory worker who is usually unskilled. Although a tramp is basically defined in the same manner, a certain distinction exists. It is often said that the difference lies in the fact that a hobo wandered and worked, a tramp wandered and didn’t work, while a bum, another similar term, neither wandered nor worked. Becoming widespread in the depression of the 1890’s, the term hobo may have come from the slogan for farmhand, “hoe-boy,” or the phrase for “good man,” “homo bonus,” or from simply yelling “Ho! Boy!” while on the road.[1]

The most important aspect of the rise of hoboes and tramps was the advent of railroads and the ability to move to different parts of the country. After the Civil War, many veterans were out of work, restless, and displaced; thus, they set out to travel and find new means for a better life. Described as a “tramp army,” these early vagrants were not viewed positively by the general public. Many Americans were unfamiliar with the problems associated with wage labor, mainly unemployment. Therefore, the tramps were not regarded as people who were simply out of work and looking for a new job, but at times as savages and symbols of evil.[2]

As the nineteenth century came to a close, many of the tramps had already been on the road for close to twenty years. Their endless pursuit for a better life became in itself a way of life known as “Hobohemia.” Another distinction between tramps and hoboes is seen at the turn of the century. Tramps represented the earlier migrants in the post-Civil War times, while hoboes were tramps who had lived a large part of their lives as vagrants, thus interacting with other hoboes and forming a type of sub-culture that was independent, organized and at times political.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how hoboes and tramps represented significant figures in america's history. the phenomenon of "hobhemia" tells us much about the social and cultural climate of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.
  • Explains that a hobo is defined as migratory worker who is usually unskilled. a tramp is basically defined in the same manner.
  • Explains that the rise of hoboes and tramps was the advent of railroads, and the ability to move to different parts of the country. these early vagrants were not viewed positively by the general public.
  • Explains the distinction between tramps and hoboes at the turn of the century. tramps represented the earlier migrants in the post-civil war times.
  • Explains that the industrial workers of the world (iww) was formed in the early 1900s to take advantage of chicago's hobo population.
  • Explains that america plunged into the great depression after wwi, with 250,000 teenagers roaming america. hobohemia became romanticized and reflected in popular culture.
  • Explains that the 1920's saw the decline of hobohemia. the us was undergoing a modernization in terms of its job market and the automobile was on the rise.
  • Analyzes the social conditions of america at the turn of the century by analyzing the era of hoboes. many americans were disturbed by white migrants who could not find work, while others were fascinated.
  • Describes the works of nels anderson and todd depastino on hobos and homelessness.
  • Explains the hobo terminology and todd depastino's interview with todd.
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