From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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.
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."
- Freight Train Riders of America, a brotherhood of hobos
- Hobo nickel, an art form associated with hobos
- Kirby, Texas, the "hobo capital of Texas"
- Shoulder pole
- Wobbly lingo, the jargon of the Industrial Workers of the World
- Hobo (typeface), designed by Morris Fuller Benton for American Type Founders in 1910