Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Tramps--Employment--United States; Tramps--Political aspects--United States;


The historiography of the hobo labor movement analyzes the impact of collective activities on the performance of traveling work with particular attention paid to the responsive organizing of the International Brotherhood Welfare Association (IBWA) from 1865 to 1929. Through the application of social theory, the inclusion of representative objects from the National Hobo Museum, narratives of hobos, government-sponsored investigations, and the consideration of prior scholarly works, hoboing nonwork is best understood as an anti-modern, reactionary counterculture to the working-class that managed to deflect the drastic changes in class and economy at the turn of the twentieth century until its gradual demise leading up to the present day. The rise and fall of the hobo class consciousness originated in localized jungles in the rural Midwest, gradually shifting to the city with the organization of the IBWA in 1905. By investigating the institutional history of the IBWA, hoboing nonwork is given a proper narrative of significance not only as a lifestyle of subversiveness and deviance, but with an additional narrative of political activism and agent of change. Consequently, hoboing nonwork at its height was inevitably infused with larger blue-collar politics that stripped the lifestyle’s identity of class struggle and forced the culture back to its rural roots. This is a story of local origin and national significance. With hope, readers will better understand the American hobo as a purposeful citizen, honest earner, remembered renegade in labor’s story, and by-product to American post-modernity.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Fernando Calderon, Chair, Thesis Committee

Second Advisor

Robert Neymeyer, Thesis Committee Member

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 151 pages)



File Format