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You Sleep Alone, Away from People: Understanding the Movement of Hobos and Other Transient Laborers (ca. 1880 – 1940)

Author(s): Hali Thurber ; Justin Uehlein

Year: 2017

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Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hobos and other transient workers crisscrossed the nation, taking temporary jobs wherever capital demanded labor that exceeded local resources. Despite their contingent status as surplus laborers, hobos were cast as morally bankrupt deviants, insane, and sexually ambiguous men by media outlets across the nation. State laws and county and town ordinances were summarily passed barring hobos from entering towns, cities, and otherwise populous areas. As a result, hobos were effectively pushed into the margins. Yet, their labor was still a requisite factor in the continued functioning and expansion of U.S. economic networks.

In this paper, we utilize ArcGIS platform to build on the results of excavations conducted in the summer of 2016 at a Great Depression Era hobo camp in South Central Pennsylvania—the Delta Trestle Hobo Jungle. In particular, we use GIS to explore the formation of a transient community in proximity to an expanding railroad network that not only linked industrial centers and natural resources across the Mid-Atlantic, but facilitated the mobility of laboring individuals to sources of employment and sustenance at the turn of the 20th century.

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You Sleep Alone, Away from People: Understanding the Movement of Hobos and Other Transient Laborers (ca. 1880 – 1940). Hali Thurber, Justin Uehlein. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430338)


Capitalism Gis movement

Geographic Keywords
North America - Mid-Atlantic

Spatial Coverage

min long: -84.067; min lat: 36.031 ; max long: -72.026; max lat: 43.325 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17366

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America