The day book. (Chicago, Ill.) May 01, 1913,
HOBOES ARE NOT TRAMPS, AS PEOPLE THINK-
THEY’RE THE RESULT OF GREED OE CAPITAL
BY JANE WHITAKER
I am going to tell you of one of the greatest evils inflicted by capital
ism upon labor.
There are over a million hoboes in the United’ States. Lest you do
not know the difference between a hobo and a tramp, a hobo is a man willing to work when he can get work and a tramp won’t work at all.
A great many people think a hobo is a lazy man, but they haven’t ap
appreciated the significance of that 95 per cent of labor against 5 percent of
The market is glutted with labor. If a worker gives up his job tonight
there are fifty, a hundred, willing to. take his place tomorrow at a less
wage than he was receiving.
And it is because of this over-surplus of labor, brought about through
the greed or capital that forces us to work if ‘we are to live, that there
A hobo is somewhat of a philosopher . He has given up the idea of getting any more out of life than Just
existence. He is content to take the work that is offered him to do. Many of these men are brilliant, many of them are gifted, but they are the surplus of labor.
‘In the long ago, when I had not
begun to think about this problem of capital and labor, l; first came into contact with the migratory workers. My brother, who had held a posi
tion as quartermaster on a merchant ship, had some trouble with the first
mate and left the service. He did not want to come home and tell
mother he was once more out of employment, so he tramped the country
until he reached Havre de Grace, Maryland, where the shad fishing season had just opened, and he se
cured work there. His letters to me made me very anxious to see him, and, as I had a chance to so some night: work and get extra money, I resolved to spend it making my brother a visit.
I arrived at a town just across the river from Havre on a Saturday night, and my brother, as
he took me to the hotel, pointed out a snacK, more like a chicken coop
than anything else, where he told, me he and the two men working with,him bunked.
“The fellows I work with are hoboes, Jane,” he said. “They just work when they can get work in cer
tain seasons. They take their money, buy a new suit of clothes, go visit their people and then fall back on
tramping through the country, looking for work, again.”
The evil of the system that made this, necessary did not strike me then. It was just an odd picture, a little romance in the scheme existence and I plied him with questions.
The next morning he came to my hotel and told me the two hoboes wanted me to take dinner with them at the shack. My brother noticed that I was a lit tle puzzled and he said: “Jane,they’ll treat you like a queen. The old fellow is going to catch a shad for you this morning because the fish were all cleared away yesterday and the young kid says he is going to rob a henhouse for a-couple of eggs so
he can make a pudding. You’ll have a dandy time.”
Again the romance appealed to me.