click to return

notes and sources

  • Both the Glossary of Hobo Terms and The Road To Roam are found in a book entitled The Milk and Honey Route: A Handbook For Hobos by Dean Stiff (who appears to be an alter-ego or informer for Nels Anderson). I've included the Glossary because scanning the lexicon does actually inform the hobo literature that follows.


  • The inside cover of Sister of the Road (1937) speaks for itself:

    Born in the shadows of a railroad yard, of a wandering mother who took her lovers where she found them and a father who was scarcely conscious of her arrival in the world, Bertha Thompson took to "the road" as soon as the restless impulses of adolescence stirred in her....

    As a result of her restlessness and curiousity, she became in fifteen years of wandering, a hobo, traveling from one end of the country to the other in box-cars, "decking" passenger trains, and hitch-hiking; member of gang of shoplifters, with whom she traveled, as the mistress of one of the men, for months; a prostitute, working in a Chicago brothel; the mother of a child of an unknown father; and a research worker for a New York social service bureau.

    Sister of the Road is Bertha's own story of those fifteen years and the record of her conclusions about them. ...her story is a mine of little-known information about that vast and growing army of homeless, jobless, wandering women who live by begging, stealing, cheating, prostituting themselves, and occasionally working at legitimate jobs.

    Added to the running narrative is an appendix containing the tabulated results of Box-Car Bertha's observations and study of her own problem, which alone constitute a sociological text-book on one of the most fascinating problems of modern society....

  • Boy and Girl Tramps of America by Thomas Minehan is a similar sociological investigation of the wandering kind - though he focuses on gangs of boys and girls.


  • D.H. Lawrence wrote in 1929 that Bottom Dogs is a genuine book even as it is objectionable. "It reveals a condition that not many of us have reached, but towards which the trend of consciousness is taking us, all of us, especially the young. It is, let us hope, a ne plus ultra. The next step is legal insanity, or just crime. The book is perfectly sane: yet two more strides and it is criminal insanity. ... It is sheer bottom-dog style, the bottom-dog mind expressing itself direct, almost as if it barked.... I don't want to read any more books like this."


  • A Place To Lie Down is collected in The Texas Stories of Nelson Algren, edited by Bettina Drew and published in 1995.


  • Waiting For Nothing was published in 1935 to favorable reviews; after producing a few more miscellaneous pieces, Tom Kromer dropped out of sight. Waiting For Nothing and Other Writings, a 1986 collection of Kromer's writings and other scholarly matter, presents most of what is known about Kromer. It is recommended.