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The BoxcarBlog

The Secret Of Hoboglyphs

When a tool shed was built by a railroad company in Ashland in 1877, never would they have imagined that the exterior would become an item of historic interest. Let’s rewind.

Who were the hobos? Hobos played a huge part in American history, especially during the 20th century. They were nomadic workers who roamed the country during the Great Depression, on a quest for work wherever they could find. Typically, they didn’t spend much time in one specific area.

Life as a hobo was difficult and dangerous. Throughout their extensive travels, hobos learned how to communicate with one another by developing their own secret language to direct other hobos to food, water, work, shelter or away from dangers.  This code added a small level of safety when traveling to new locations.

These hobo vagabonds were typically not welcomed in the community and were mostly all illiterate. Therefore, these messages left for others had to be easy to read but look a bit more complicated than random markings to maintain that level of secrecy.

Over the years, the hobo culture has drastically declined. One of the biggest reasons was because it’s much more difficult to hop on and off of a freight train undetected than it was a hundred years ago. This is not to say a few thousand don’t still exist, however, they brace more of a modern fringe society. The term of this “secret” code was coined “hoboglyphs” and it remains this present day.

Now that we have covered a little background history of the hoboglyph code we so love to use, let’s take a look at what a few of them mean:



Topics: Hoboglyphs

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