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The (mostly) true story of hobo graffiti

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2018

TIL that the hieroglyphic hobo code probably wasn’t used as extensively as the internet suggests. However, hobos and tramps did tag bridges, water towers, and train cars with tramp writing, which usually consisted of their moniker (i.e. their hobo name), the date, and the direction they were heading in.

Hobos, or tramps, were itinerant workers and wanderers who illegally hopped freight cars on the newly expanding railroad in the United States in the late 19th century. They used graffiti, also known as tramp writing, as a messaging system to tell their fellow travelers where they were and where they were going. Hobos would carve or draw their road persona, or moniker, on stationary objects near railroad tracks, like water towers and bridges.

More on hobo graffiti from CityLab. (via open culture)