During the Great Depression, out of work men would ride the rails, sleeping in boxcars, cooking food in coffee cans, in search of work.
Years later, kids dress up on Halloween like these guys; if you tie a red bandana around a stick, everyone knows you're a colorful historical character, and not making fun of the homeless.

Hobos are by no means homeless people. Where the phrase 'hobo' originated from is unknown, but most historiand agree that it comes from the phrase 'ho boy' or a traveling man who would ho your crops for money. By definition a hobo is someone who travels around the country, train hopping, looking for work. If he's not working, then he's just a traveler, or a tramp.

Some pretty famous hobos were: Mark Twain, R. Crumb, and Tom Waits. Hardly just homeless people.

Train-hopping is one of the last great American adventures and there are still a few brave souls that realize this today. Prominent in the western half of continental US, it is rare to find a hobo east of the Mississippi.

By definition a hobo is someone who travels around the country, train hopping, looking for work. If he's not working, then he's just a traveler, or a tramp.

A hobo travels looking for work.
A tramp travels not looking for work.
A bum stays in one spot (more or less) not looking for work.
In cities like Chicago, bums are fairly easy to find, although the word 'hobo' is often used for all three (hobo, tramp, and bum).

Ho"bo (?), n.; pl. Hobos or Hoboes (#). [Of uncertain origin.]

A professional tramp; one who spends his life traveling from place to place, esp. by stealing rides on trains, and begging for a living. [U. S.] -- Ho"bo*ism (#), n.

 

© Webster 1913.

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