These remarkable images cast light on the unknown history of the American hobo during the early twentieth century.
Included are a picture of men wearing suits to a hobo convention in 1912, a group washing dishes at a ‘hotel for hobos’ and a future lightweight boxing champion cooking over a campfire using a tin can on a stick in 1935.
They offer a rare glimpse into the unsung past of these hard-working men that lived by a strict moral code.
Often depicted sleeping in a train car or carrying a bag on a stick over their shoulder as they wander across the countryside, the American hobo is frequently branded as lazy or mistaken for a ‘bum’.
But a closer look reveals that many hobos were homeless American Civil War veterans who embraced a strong work ethic and were forced to travel the country in search of their next honest dollar.
Ironically, these migrant workers helped build the very railroads they travelled on, as well as the sewer systems, water lines, roads and bridges that make up the American landscape.
Lower Douglas Street, Omaha, pictured in November 1938, was one of the hobo centres of the Old West. The National Hobo Convention has taken place in Britt, Iowa every August since 1900 and hobos began their own ‘hotels for hobos’ such as the Hotel de Gink in New York City where they could be self-sufficient. Notable hobos like future America novelist Jack London and labor activist T-Bone Slim travelled America during this time