Working Class Hobos Ally Butler Stevens ENG 237 12/01/09. The great crash of the stock market on October 29 th, 1929 left an unprecedented number of American businessmen in financial ruin and more than 3 million working-class men and women without so much as a dollar to their name.
Working Class Hobos
The great crash of the stock market on October 29th, 1929 left an unprecedented number of American businessmen in financial ruin and more than 3 million working-class men and women without so much as a dollar to their name.
American laborers, unable to support themselves or their families, found themselves in line after line, begging for work, bread, or shelter in cities across the nation. Most would find themselves walking the streets all night or sleeping in the open air.
Some 6,000 men too ashamed to beg sold the 1930 apples harvest, one apple at a time, In New York City the following year.
Be It union or IWW members, fruit pickers, or domestic help - American men, women and teenagers found their way to the freight trains in a desperate search for employment.
Most hobos found exhausted communities, resistant or hostile to the jobless newcomers.
But where society let them down, the camaraderie of a few good honest men sharing stories by the dim light of a hobo campfire and a hot pot of beans was enough to “button a man up.”
When society began to judge the hobo and set the railroad and private police on hobo camps likes dogs on game, it was men like Nels Anderson, an early homeless advocate and sociologist who crusaded on behalf of the Chicago hobo. He defended their lifestyle by saying, “Who has not felt the urge to cast off all responsibilities and strike out for parts unknown?” (3) It was men like Anderson and the working poor that offered support to the average hobo. Both the upper and middle American Classes supported the idea that charity enabled the a lifestyle of choice to the nations homeless laborers. (4)
As American towns and cities offered less and less to teenagers forced to fend for themselves, boys like Weaver Dial found themselves hoboing during the depression, "I was out to see America and what I could get out of it." (2)
The National Industrial Recovery Act, Civil Works Administration, creation of the Social Security system, & World War II revived America’s economy and emptied the “irons” of its homeless, laboring, army. Many of these individuals returned to the lives they had left of necessity; their memories, flanked by hardship, are often thrilling, adventurous, and wholly interesting.
Hoboing is an American institution, born of the tenacity of working class America. The men, women, and teenagers that found their homes on the 230,000 miles of railways as a result of the great depression left us a romantic legacy of freedom and independence.
“Warren.” she said, “he has come home to die:
You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time.”
“Home,” he mocked gently.
“Yes, what else but home?”
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he's nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.”
“Home is the place where, when you have to go the,
They have to take you in.”
“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve.”
-Robert Frost, “The Death of a Hired Man” (1914)
1:Jeff Davis http://www.angelfire.com/folk/famoustramp/poems.html
2. Weaver Dial http://www.erroluys.com/WeaverDial.htm
3: Nels Anderson http://www.angelfire.com/folk/famoustramp/poems.html http://www.unbf.ca/arts/Soci/anderson-nels-bio.php
4. New York Times Hobo Heaven By Barbara Ehrenreich Published: Sunday, January 20, 2002
5. Robert Frost, “The Death of a Hired Man” (1914)
Photo 1: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/gallery/2008/sep/16/wallstreet.stockmarkets?picture=337666126
Photo 2: http://www.britannica.com/bps/image/243118/97370/Breadline-in-New-York-City-during-the-Great-Depression
Photograph Encyclopedia Brittanica Photographer Unknown
Photo 3: http://www.britannica.com/bps/image/243118/97369/Man-selling-apples-during-the-Great-Depression
Encyclopedia Brittanica Photgrapher Unknown
Photo 4: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_x0CCisI7bFs/SOntb50D7uI/AAAAAAAAAMw/ZyokW872vq8/s400/754px-UnemployedMenHopTrain.jpgPhotographer Unknown / City of Toronto Archives
Photo 5: http://www.timboucher.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/hobo-bindlestiff3.jpg Photographer Unknown
Photo 6: http://www.britannica.com/bps/image/243118/97368/Shack-built-of-loose-boards-and-parts-of-boxes-in
Encyclopedia Brittanica Photgrapher Unknown
Photo 7: http://www.infoaut.org/img/gallery/pinkertons2-4aa4b1ec4435f.jpg Pinkertons Photgrapher Unknown
Photo 8: http://www.nps.gov/archive/gosp/research/hobo.gif
Photo 9:http://www.tqnyc.org/2006/NYC063370//jobless.jpg Photographer Unknown