Culture Magazine

Honesty, Compassion, Self-reliance: Hobo Ethical Code from 1889

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
First, some definitions from Hank Martin, The Ethics and Lessons of Being a Hobo:
A hobo, tramp and a bum are three completely different things. Most of us have been educated to use the words interchangeably. We could not be more wrong. A bum is a drunk. A tramp is a deadbeat who steals what he needs instead of working. A hobo is a migrating worker who chases any honest dollar he can find. [...]
Hobos found jobs working on ranches, railroads, in mines and anywhere else that their physical strength and bodies could be used. When worked dried up they hopped on to the next train and moved on. It was economics, not leisure or adventure that guided the hobo.
And so:
In 1889 at a national hobo convention the following ethical code was established for all hoboes to follow:
  1. Decide your own life; don’t let another person run or rule you.
  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
  3. Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos.
  7. When jungling (hobo slang describing a makeshift hobo settlement) in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you.
  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
  13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children; expose all molesters to authorities…they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
  15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.
H/t Open Culture.
Cf. My Man Godfrey.

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