We don’t hear about “Hobos”, anymore. Do we? But, more than a century ago, a certain interesting subculture thrived in the fast developing United States. A growing number of men chose the way of life with no fixed address.
They became folk heroes because of their carefree lives, and their lack of societal restrictions. Even though they started being a hobo out a desperate economic necessity, the underlying sentiment of travel and exploration has been timeless.
Who exactly were the Hobos?
In today’s view, hobo is often used interchangeably with a “nomad” or a “drifter,” but hobos were a very specific type of homeless traveler. A Hobo traveled around for the sole purpose of finding work in every new town they visited. Nomads/ drifters avoided work in favor of lazing away or getting drunk.
They were the homeless form the late eighteen hundreds to the early nineteen hundreds. Their lives were dangerous. Trouble came in many forms. But their camaraderie was mind blowing. Any information about a place was useful to them. As well as the town and the type of people that lived there. Such information helped with their very survival. To help each other out, they developed their own secret language to direct other hobos to food, water, or work – or even stay away from dangerous situations. This secret language came to be known as the Hobo Code. The Hobo Code helped add a small element of safety when traveling to new places.
What is this “Hobo Code”, exactly?
This “code” was, basically, a series of markings that informed or warned other hobos who may visit the place. A piece of chalk or coal would be used to make the signs or symbols on fences, sidewalks, gateposts, wherever it could be noticed.
(This video lists out some of the signs of the Hobo Code.)