Weird History

Surprising Pictures Of American Hobos Riding The Rails  

Phil Gibbons
21.9k views 16 items

As American society grew and changed in the 19th and 20th centuries, Americans were frequently subjected to economic hardship and misfortune that created entirely new social identities and classes of people. Hobos were a phenomenon that developed along with the growth of a national rail system, allowing early twentieth-century unfortunates to relocate long distances at no cost. From their identity sprung an entirely new culture complete with symbols and slang unique to their experience.

Although photos of hobos and their daily lives revealed this lifestyle to be filthy, dangerous, and grueling, their reality has nevertheless been glamorized by writers like Jack London and filmmakers as a romanticized character from a bygone age. Today we would merely refer to such folks as homeless. 

Here are some photos from the early 20th century of the uniquely American individual known as the hobo.

Jack London, Riding On The Rods, 1907
Jack London, Riding On The Rod... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Surprising Pictures Of American Hobos Riding The Rails
Photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
Man Helps Fellow Hobo Into A Boxcar, Bakersfield, 1939
Man Helps Fellow Hobo Into A B... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Surprising Pictures Of American Hobos Riding The Rails
Photo: Public Domain/Library of Congress
Hobo Killing Turtle For Soup, 1939, Minneapolis
Hobo Killing Turtle For Soup, ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Surprising Pictures Of American Hobos Riding The Rails
Photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
Two Hobos, Riding On The Rods, 1894
Two Hobos, Riding On The Rods,... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Surprising Pictures Of American Hobos Riding The Rails
Photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons