Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America by Todd DePastino

By Todd DePastino

Within the years following the Civil warfare, a veritable military of homeless males swept throughout America's "wageworkers' frontier" and cast a beguiling and bedeviling counterculture often called "hobohemia." Celebrating unfettered masculinity and jealously guarding the yank street because the guard of white manhood, hoboes took command of downtown districts and swaggered onto middle level of the hot city tradition. much less evidently, maybe, in addition they staked their very own claims at the American polity, claims that will in truth remodel the very entitlements of yankee citizenship.In this eye-opening paintings of yankee heritage, Todd DePastino tells the epic tale of hobohemia's upward push and fall, and crafts a gorgeous new interpretation of the "American century" within the procedure. Drawing on resources starting from diaries, letters, and police reviews to video clips and memoirs, Citizen Hobo breathes existence into the principally forgotten international of the line, however it additionally, crucially, indicates how the hobo military so haunted the yankee physique politic that it brought on the production of a wholly new social order and political economic climate. DePastino exhibits how hoboes—with their attractiveness as hazards to civilization, sexual savages, idlers—became a cultural and political strength, influencing the construction of welfare nation measures, the promoting of mass intake, and the suburbanization of the USA. Citizen Hobo's sweeping retelling of yankee nationhood in mild of putting up with struggles over "home" does greater than chart the switch from "homelessness" to "houselessness." In its breadth and scope, the publication deals not anything lower than an important new context for pondering americans' struggles opposed to inequality and alienation.

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Most tramping workers, especially unskilled day laborers, headed for the closest cities and towns where they thought they might find work. 29 Jacob Riis’s longer migrations, such as his direct trips back and forth between Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New York City, generally corresponded with stints as a carpenter, furniture maker, and journalist. Once these highly skilled jobs ended, Riis often then traveled shorter distances to surrounding towns or villages, picking up whatever work he could, usually casual labor in a factory, lumber camp, or on a farm.

Contradictory as it may seem, private and public agencies played crucial roles in enforcing the dictates of the free labor market. 67 In Gilded Age America, a major obstacle to workers’ absolute dependence upon employers was the custom of mutual aid embedded in working-class life. The will of a “foraging” tramp army “bound to live without labor” seemed to be prevailing over a free labor ideal where all wealth rightly goes only to those who produce it. To the genteel ear, the phrase “tramp army” rang with connotations of violence.

Why did some poor Americans hit the road while others stayed put? 8 As for the larger culture, what was its response to this new tramp army? How did middle-class observers explain its rather sudden appearance? What logic, conscious or not, governed middle-class nightmares about “savage” tramps? And why did the tramp crisis become such a flashpoint in the larger struggle over the destiny and meaning of the new industrial America? ”10 Stressing mobility, the new usage also signified a sense of novelty, as if older terms such as “vagrant” or “vagabond” were somehow inappropriate to the moment.

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