"Hobo Art"
    Due to the size of the graphics, this page may load slower than a tramp looking for work.  Sorry about that but I'm not a good enough computer operator to reduce them further without losing too much clarity. (Don't snicker.  Some day you MAY be old too.) They're worth the time it takes to load so be patient.

    Throughout  the history of the Hoboes there have been many who, without a doubt, have to be referred to as artists.  Although, for many years, Hoboes have been looked down on by many people no one can dispute that the following pictures display real artistic talent.

    If anyone has pictures of other examples please send them to me and I'll be glad to add them to this page.

    Anyone interested in obtaining pieces from our modern day Hobo Artists can email me at the link below and I'll put them in touch with the Hobo.  Not only are there many examples to choose from, to be enjoyed today, but some day, in the future, these will be valuable antiques.

Email link for art

email Fran

For more fabulous, informative Hobo information use these links.
There are none better on the entire internet.

Hobo Signs
Hobo Grapevine
Fran's Hobo Page
Hobo Gatherings

    This first is a picture of a tapestry made by The Texas Madman and was displayed at the 1998 Pennsburg Gathering.  Madman raffled it off there and I was the lucky winner, to the dismay of many who would have liked to have been able to take it home.  It's now hanging on my office wall and every visitor, to my house, is hustled in to admire it.  I apologize for the quality of the picture which doesn't do it justice.  The tapestry is made up of various sized pieces of denim and the stitching is a short history of The Texas Madman's 25 years of life on the road and shows the symbols of some of the roads he's ridden.

Art Comes In All Forms

Here's a picture of a door handle, made by Oops, out of old railrod spikes.

Who sez Hoboes don't know how to recycle?


A Hobo Cup

    Simple cups like this are sometimes made by Hoboes to use or to sell for a bit of spare change.  This particular cup, made from a tin can, some copper wire and a hollow stick was made by "Tuck" at the 1998 Pennsburg Hobo Gathering.

Trains by Larry Penn
aka  Cream City Slim

To see more of Larry's train art check out his web site at:  http://my.execpc.com/~cookeman/

Great Art by Quiet Mike

    The following is a wonderful example of the artistic skills of Quiet Mike.  Each year Mike takes time from his busy schedule to design posters and T-Shirt designs for The Annual East Coast Hobo Gathering. This particular drawing was on the 1999 T-Shirts and posters.


Another fine drawing by another Hobo Artist, Hobo King Liberty Justice.
Liberty is also an expert wood carver and I hope, some day, to have a picture of one of his carvings to show here.

    Next is a nice piece of simple Hobo Art made, and given to me, by oops at the 2002 Pennsburg Gathering.  Simple but nice.  Just a few pieces of scrap wood and some bristles from a road sweeper brush.  A good way to pick a few bucks for beer oops.  Thank you oops.


Train Whistle

    Art comes in various forms and the following picture not only shows artistic talent but also the versatility of today's Hobo Craftsmen.  Anybody can make a wooden whistle but Ohio Tom makes these train whistles from actual railroad spikes and gets a fine quality sound.  Anyone wanting to obtain one of these unique whistles can just e-mail me from the link near the top or bottom of this page and I'll put you in touch with Ohio Tom.


Door Knocker

    The following item is also made by that "poor midwestern boy". Ohio Tom.  It's made from a slice of old railroad track and a spike.  Decorative, as well as useful, both this, and the whistle above, show the talent that many Hoboes have.  Just goes to prove that you can be artistic and creative even if you've never had no formal book larnin.

You can order these items directly from Ohio Tom at

"Nuts and Fruit Pits"

    The following pictures of carved nuts and fruit pit buttons was sent to me by Joss (Jocelyn Howells).  There's no proof that these, that she has, were actually carved by a Hobo but it's a craft that quite a few old time Hoboes engaged in.  Anything to make a buck.


Here's a handy, and decorative, box.

Deadeye Kate sent the following history of these boxes.

    The box is called Tramp art and originated in Germany in the 1800's then carried over to America. It is not exclusively made by tramps or hobos and can have value from $80-500.- depending on condition and paint.  The American pieces are more valuable then the German, my sister has one she found for a buck in SC.  I think they are beautiful.  This particular box was made from wood, not cigarette packs.  They also used wood from cigar boxes but, really, anything could be used.

Deadeye Kate

Tramp Pillow

    The pictures of this pillow, and the explanation following, were sent to me by Robert Corman.  Anyone wishing to contact Mr. Corman can email him at;         npse@aol.com      If anyone has any further information about pillows, like this, I would appreciate hearing.

    This is a rare example of tramp art in that I have found no references in tramp art books to this wonderful pillow form.  Its rarity is further exemplified by the materials used: cloth, heavy carpet-like fabric and a stuffing of sawdust.  A great deal of time, skill and passion produced this sturdy object.  It has the classic pyramidic shape repeated with precision in row after row of a deep red heavy fabric on the top.  The edges where the top meets the bottom are notched similar to tramp art woodcarvings. The bottom exposes a smooth fabric that probably covers the entire object and displays a light rust color.  The dimensions are 9" x 9" square and 4.5" high, in the middle. The pillow weighs just under two pounds - 1lb. 15 oz.

    I purchased it in 1974 from the Yesterday Shop, a quite reputable antique retailer in Mendham, New Jersey that is long gone.   Unfortunately, the owner knew very little about it.  She only said that it was called an example of tramp art and that it supposedly was filled with sawdust.  I stored it away from all the elements, like a fine bottle of wine, for nearly 30 years. It remains protected and in its excellent condition.  My current interest in it was piqued when it occurred to me to find out more about it on the Internet.  That led me to the Hobo Grapevine.  While I currently have no plans for the pillow, I would like to learn more about it from someone more knowledgeable than myself.   Someday I would be interested in contributing it to a folk art museum or sell it to a serious collector.

Robert Corman

    The following is a beautiful example of bottle art done by Carl Worner at some time in the early 1900s.
see more at  http://sdjones.net/FolkArt/worner.html

   The following are some examples of beautiful old time wood carving.  Notice the intricate detail and the skillful carving of the balls in cages and chain links.

    Next are some great carvings by our modern day artist "The Tanner City Kid".  Note that the chain links are fully functioning links as in a steel chain and the balls in the cages are loose movable objects that are carved from the interior wood during the hollowing out process.  I think you'll agree with me that Tanner's work is as skillful as any of the old timers.

To see more of the Tanner's art go to; http://hobo.com/wood_carvings1.htm

you can email Tanner at;   tannercitykid@hobo.com

    Here is a figure by another great Hobo wood carver.  Big Skip carved this figure while at the 2003 Pennsburg gathering.  I hope, soon, to have more examples of his fine work to show here.

   Next are some fine examples of the carved nickels that many Hoboes used to produce by hand.  The Boes would carve these, in their spare time, and sell, or trade them off, for necessities.  Many Boes while serving time in prison, or on chain gangs, used to carve them in their cells and give them to guards to gain some favors.  The guards, in turn, would sell them and pocket the money.  These carved coins are collectors items today but there are many modern imitations being produced that are merely stamped out imitations so be careful if you want to buy one.

    The skill of carving these Hobo Nickels is definitely not a lost art.  Pictured below are two very fine examples of the work that Mike Pezak of Las Vegas, NV is producing.  Each of Mike's coins are individually produced, by hand, and they are beautiful works of art.

Monkey's Fist

    This is a fine example of the Monkey's Fist knot that many Hoboes wear around their necks.  This particular neck piece is one that was made, and given to me, by Lady Marie and Hobo Spike.

    The metal ring mounted above the knot is made of several strands of wire and appears to be seamless.   These "Knight of the Road" rings are woven by Hobo King Frisco Jack and are presented, by him, at a brief ceremony where he declares the recipient an "Official Knight of the Road".  It was a great honor, for me, to receive this one from Frisco Jack at the 2001 East Coast Hobo Gathering in Pennsburg, PA.

Below is a short history of the knot sent by Hobo Spike.

    In the days of piracy, when there was only wind power, the sailors had to somehow get the ships together in times of distress.  This is almost impossible on the high seas.  Someone got the idea to throw a rope to the other ship to pull them together. This didn't work.  Then it was decided to tie a rope around a cannonball and sling it to the other ship.  The problem was that they needed a knot that would stay secure on a round object so this "Monkey's Fist knot was devised.  It is the only knot that will stay secure on a round object.
    This knot became known as a "Monkey's Fist" knot because, as with a monkey, it won't turn loose of an object.  A monkey will put it's fist inside a jar, grab hold of an object and won't turn loose.  Therefore anyone can use this plan to catch a monkey.
    Since this knot has long leads, it can be thrown to another ship and became known as a life line.  It was used to rescue people when ships were in distress.
    The "Monkey's Fist" knot has been adopted by the Hobo Community as a symbol of sorority and fraternity.  A life line between Hoboes.

"A Brief Bit More Monkey Fist Lore"
The following was sent to me by
Ken Cook

    Apart from any fraternal symbolism attached to it, the Monkey's Fist was also a preferred self defense  weapon among the poor and transient people of the late 1800s and early 1900s. If you care to research the matter further, check your local laws. If you do a search of your state's laws, you will find reference to an illegal weapon called a "Slung Shot." While an improvised
Slung Shot can be made by placing a padlock inside a sock (for one example) the traditional Slung Shot has always been a Monkey's Fist with a heavy lead shot loaded inside the knot of the fist and often worn around the neck.

    This line throwing tool turned weapon was first used widely by Sailors, in agreement with your comments on your page, and slowly spread out from the Docks and Wharf areas into Depression Era America. The passage of laws against "Slung Shots" and "Monkey's Fists" was a clear case of Law Enforcement specifically targeting the transient population. Any "Bo" found to be in possession of one of these items could be guaranteed a protracted stay on the County Farm.

Date Nails Neck Wear
Made and sold by The Baloney Kid

If you're ever hoofing it along the rails, look down and you'll see date nails embedded in the ties.
The date on the nail head is when the tie was laid.

These paintings were done by an unknown Hobo about 1940

Link to The Hobo Grapevine Page

Email to Fran, "The Hobo Minstrel."

Return Link for Fran's Hobo Page