Did you know that a tramp worked only when forced to, a bum didn’t work at all, and hobo was a worker who wandered the roads? It’s a distinction I wasn’t aware of til now. The term hobo (or bo) originated in United States during times of economic hardship, notably the Great Depression, where the lack of work forced many to walk the roads or ride the freight trains in search of better prospects.
And as the wandered the lands the hobos developed a system of symbols, a code, a language to communicate with each other. The symbols were typically drawn using charcoal on electricity poles or on houses to tell their fellow travellers about those who lived inside. The symbols served as directions, recommendations, or warnings: a circle with two parallel arrows meant “get out fast”, a cat signified that a kindhearted women lived at the premises, and a drawing of two shovels meant that work was available nearby.
I remembered hearing about this quite a while back and had completely forgotten until Chris Burns over at World Famous Design Junkies happened upon a book called “Symbols, Signs, & Signets” and scanned some of the code contained within. Find a few of those symbols after the jump.