The Lives of Fifteen Tramp Writers: a romanticising of vagabonds

Book review: Wildly romantic notion of tramping as a lifestyle choice is uncomfortable

(Original Caption) 1899- A bum in typical dress ready to hit the road.

(Original Caption) 1899- A bum in typical dress ready to hit the road.

Somewhere miscellaneous, as Kris Kristofferson might put it, a hobo known as Oklahoma Slim turned sociologist and distinguished himself from tramps and bums: “A hobo is a migratory labourer; a tramp is a migratory non-labourer; and a bum is a non-migratory non-labourer.”

The joke can be traced back to late 19th- and early 20th-century America, when recurrent crises in industry and agriculture caused hundreds of thousands of people, particularly men, to take to the roads in search of work.

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