Hobo Signs

small selection of HOBO SIGNS

If you haven’t heard of it before, HOBO SIGNS LANGUAGE is a system of symbols, or a code developed by Hobos during the Great Depression.

(nb:  A Hobo is a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the western—probably northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century)

They would write this code with chalk or coal on fences, posts, sidewalks, buildings, trestles, bridge abutments, or railroad line side equipment to provide directions, information, and warnings to other hobos. Some signs included “turn right here”, “beware of hostile railroad police”, “dangerous dog”, “food available here”, and so on.

There may be one or more signs that give the same message or, at times, there may be slightly different meanings for a sign. This can be accounted for by the fact that they may have been used in far different sections of the country.  Just as a spoken language has it’s own dialects and words for different areas a sign language would be the same.

I’m captivated by their simplicity and their power and I wonder what sign hoboes would place outside my house or yours.

3 commentaires pour “Hobo Signs”

  1. Hello,

    Can you tell me your source for your Hobo Signs?
    Thanks much!

  2. […] a look at this website, it shows a paralled world of signs that transients, hobos and travellers used to leave messages […]

  3. […] a look at this website. It shows a parallel world of signs in which transients, hobos and travellers used to leave […]