Hobos and Tramps

In The Shadow of The White City

1893 witnessed another fantastic celebration of American success; like the Centennial Exposition of 1876, it too was held in the midst of economic turmoil and high unemployment. The Columbian Exhibition, built along the lakefront of Chicago, was a magnificent neo-classical spectacle. Made of white -plaster-, it was a sight to be seen, America's self-conscious attempt to give herself historical grandeur, to prove that she too had the elegance and culture of her European sisters. Where the Centennial Exposition put America on the map as a leader in technology and industry, the White City was designed to challenge European cultural domination. It was not built to last, but while it did, it certainly impressed the millions who had the fortune to witness the spectacle.

In the shadows of the White City, however, another cultural center was forming, a culture also built of impermanence, a culture becoming increasingly self-aware, forming its own rules and hierarchy in response to alienation and subjection and media portrayals in the dominant national culture.

While many cities formed distinct neighborhoods catering to the hobo - or to large numbers if homeless, single men - the neighborhood in Chicago deemed Hobohemia by Nels Anderson, would come to be known as the Hobo Capital of the World. Based largely on Anderson's study of Chicago, this section investigates the social world of the Hobo, first in the city, and then out in the jungles and on the rails.

This section investigates the subculture of the hobo, one that rose from the depths of tramp life and literature and was carried across the country on the railroads. From the cities to the jungles and in the boxcars and train yards, the hobo was being written into national life.

the city the jungle