What Were the Men and Boys Who Rode the Rails to Find Work Called?


Quick Answer

Men and boys who rode the rails looking for work during the Great Depression were called "hobos." Unlike “tramps,” who only worked when they were forced, hobos actively sought employment and were willing to relocate.

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Full Answer

The railroads employed “bulls” to keep hobos off the trains. The bulls often responded to the discovery of a hobo with violence and brutality. Attempting to jump moving trains to evade the bulls resulted in death or permanent disfigurement for many hobos.

Historians estimate that over 2 million men and approximately 8,000 women became hobos during the Depression. Some went on to achieve notoriety in their eventual careers. Examples include Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, TV host Art Linkletter and journalist Eric Sevareid.

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