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Only two things are “certain” and “known” about hobo: the word was noticed around 1890, and it emerged in American English. Hobos were migratory workers in the western (perhaps, to be more precise, in the northwestern) parts of the United States. The cruelest definition of hobo appeared in the 1893 edition of The Standard Dictionary (Funk and Wagnalls) and stayed in this reference work for decades: “An idle, shiftless wandering workman, ranking scarcely above the tramp.” ...
The term “hobo” is first attested in print in the late 1800s in the Pacific Northwest, and almost immediately theories arose as to its origin. The English dialect terms “hawbuck” and “hawbaw,” meaning “an unmannerly lout” (Oxford English Dictionary) have been proposed as sources, but England was a world away from the Northwest US in those days. A more logical local source may have been the greeting shout “Ho, boy!” apparently common among railroad workers at the time. There’s also a suggestion that “hobo” is short for “hopping boxcars,” and some maintain that “hobo” is short for Hoboken, NJ, where many rail lines converged in the 19th century, making the city a natural gathering point for vagabonds.
While we may never pin down the origin of “hobo” with absolute certainty, my money is riding on that “Ho, boy!” shout, which was verifiably in use by railway workers at the time and could easily have been adopted as a name for their vagabond passengers. ...
“In the old days when most of the boys were working in the agricultural section of the West, they were referred to as just ‘boys.’ Then, to distinguish them from other workers, the name of one of their tools, the hoe, was applied to them and they became ‘hoe-boys.’ From that it was only one step to ‘hoboes.’ ” ...
It wasn’t just grown men and woman out learning the code. With funding cut, schools were out of session and children were restless. As a way to help their families escape a life of poverty, many 15 and 16-year-olds began adopting the odd job lifestyle. It’s estimated that there were 250,000 teenage hobos zigzagging the rails in America from the late ’20s to early ’40s. ...
In the 1890s a distinct hobo subculture emerged within America's working class. As America industrialized, there was a huge need to create an infrastructure of railroads, bridges, commercial one-crop agriculture, and even new towns out west that would serve as an economic base for the growing cities and their manufacturing. Not only were workers needed to lay and repair railroad track, build bridges, and harvest grain, but those activities created a need for lumber and iron ore to build the tracks and machines, creating even more jobs in unsettled areas. Much of the work was both necessary and inherently temporary. Who was to fill such a vital labor market niche? Most newly arriving immigrants settled in cities, and because the need for xv mobility meant a need for fluent English, the work was left to American-born workers or immigrants from the British Isles; in short, to hoboes. And despite the fact that contemporary social reformers could not see it, there is no question that hoboes were workers; indeed, as Charlie once remarked, "Who else but a hobo would travel a thousand miles to make a dollar a day harvesting wheat?" ...
When hobo codes become commonly known by regulars, it’s a problem. “The codes are for us,” he says, “and if other people see it, they could have clues to our secrets, and the next thing you know, that outlet that was accessible to hobos is now locked up or completely gone.” ...
These stencils can be understood as a covert markup scheme for urban spaces — providing directions, information, and warnings to digital nomads and other indigenterati. We present these as modern equivalents of the chalk-based "hobo signs" developed by 19th century vagabonds and migratory workers to cope with the difficulty of nomadic life. Indeed, our set of QR stencils port a number of classic hobo annotations to the QR format ("turn right here", "dangerous dog", "food for work") as well as some new ones, with a nod to warchalking, that are specific to contemporary conditions ("insecure wifi", "hidden cameras", "vegans beware"). ...
"we smoke old stogies we have found, short, but not too big around..... man of means by no means, King of the Road!
Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to let, fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets, I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but, two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means, king of the road.
originally posted by: DexterRiley
a reply to: blend57
My father was one of those hobos back in the 1920's and 1930's. There's not a lot of information about where all he went, or what jobs he had. But he picked up a lot of skills along the way. He could build or fix just about anything. I was born very late in his life.
originally posted by: angeldoll
"we smoke old stogies we have found, short, but not too big around..... man of means by no means, King of the Road! lol.
For you: zzzzzzzzzzz and lots more ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ's and a snort!
originally posted by: LadyGreenEyes
Very interesting thread, and quite a lot of information, and even humor!
originally posted by: underwerks
I just wanted to add, a lot of people don't believe this world still exists, but it does. For a lot of people it's a choice, and one that's better than the 9-5 grind most people are forced into out of necessity.
It made me think about how many people avert their eyes every time they pass a homeless person and instantly classify them as a druggie, psycho, or worse. When a lot of times that couldn't be further from the truth.
originally posted by: JAGStorm
When I lived in Central Florida there was a village of Hobos living behind the Home Depot. I am not even kidding when I say they had a Hobo mayor!
originally posted by: nonspecific
There are similar stories in the UK about gypsies marking houses letting other traveller types know if the property is friendly, big dog or worth robbing ect.