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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Hobo is a term that refers to a late 19th and early 20th century subculture of wandering homeless people, particularly those who make a habit of hopping freight trains. The iconic image of a hobo is that of a downtrodden, shabbily-dressed and perhaps drunken male, one that was solidified in American culture during the Great Depression. Hobos are often depicted carrying a bindle and/or a sign asking for money.

The hobo imagery has been employed by entertainers to create wildly successful characters in the past, two of them being Emmett Kelly's "Weary Willy" and Red Skelton's "Freddy the Freeloader".

Hobos, themselves, seem to differentiate themselves as travelers who are willing to do work, whereas a "tramp" will travel but will not work and a "bum" will do neither.

An early description of the hobo is given in a 1898 article titled, Tramps and Hoboes. Lines of Distinction Between Knights of the Road: "...The term "hobo" was not originally of evil significance. It originated in the West, when the great tide of humanity swept in that direction; and it was applied to the many who, failing of their first hopes, were forced to the necessity of tramping from community to community in quest of employment. A hobo is a better sort of man than a tramp, has more self-respect, is usually young, and may, I believe, be called a tramp in the first stage. Many hobos are merely men out of work; who were forced to the road by circumstances which they could not control."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hobo" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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