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This has been put together to give you as much information as possible on a Hobo which was a migratory worker or
homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the western (probably northwestern) United States during
the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike tramps, who worked only when they were forced to, and bums, who didn't
work at all, hobos were workers who wandered.

Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but in their own sight they are sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo
is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but sooner or later he returns to work. A tramp never
works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. The bum is considered less than either of the above, who neither works nor
travels, except when motivated by the police. The population of hobos increased greatly during the Great Depression
era of the 1930s. With no work and no prospects at home, many decided to travel for free via freight trains and try
their luck elsewhere. 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,
who had a reputation for being rough with trespassers. At least 6,500 hoboes were killed in one year either in accidents
or by railroad (bulls), brutal guards hired by the railroads to make sure the trains carried only paying customers. Often the only way hobos could get to work was by hopping on freight trains, illegally. More than two million men
and perhaps 8,000 women became hoboes during this period of time. Finding food was a constant problem. Hoboes often
begged for food at a local farmhouse. If the farmer was generous, the hobo would mark the lane so that later hoboes
would know this was a good place to beg.

Updated 11 Jul 2010


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