Weird History Surprising Pictures Of American Hobos Riding The Rails  

Phil Gibbons
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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