hobo signs

As mentioned, my Hobo sign post.
I was thinking about them the other night, whilst watching O Brother Where Art Thou, which is one of my favorite movies.
Hobo Signs were used during the depression to signal places where hobos could find work or a bed or meal. Sometimes they were used as warnings and were often drawn on walls, sidewalks, fences and posts.

I love Hobo signs in the same way I love nautical flags and semi fore and sign language.

Here are 50 that I swiped from cyberhobo.com:

hobo signs 4

I find them sweet and caring...You may sleep in the hayloft.

hobo signs also

Hopefully there weren't too many dyslexic hobos. Number 11 and number 12 could be tricky.

hobo symbols

Of course the BIRD means free telephone. Like my phone bill isn't big enough - now I'll have all kinds of extra HOBO USE charges. There's probably tax on that too.

signs for hobos

I think several of these would make great tee shirts. I'd like to walk around with a DOUBTFUL tee, and I'm fond of Hit the road! Quick!

hobo signs

I think number 31 really means: Venison served here.

signs for hobos2

Hobos must have been a considerate bunch - as illustrated by number 42.
There were doctors who didn't charge for their services...it seems like this must have been a gentler time - households willing to feed strangers (in exchange for "religious talk"), people warning others about dangerous areas or watch dogs... I need to research more to find out how large the community of hobos was.

another set of hobo signs

I'm thinking of putting number 48 and 49 on my front door.


Sarah said…
Hobo signs are fascinating. I wonder how many of these the average hobo knew?
barbra said…
I will be on the lookout for #48 and #49!
Anonymous said…
I'm chalking #31 on our doorway because I'm still seething - a couple of days ago, a local head shop put a flyer about their grand opening on my car.

I've interpreted this to mean:

A) This is the kind of shitty neighborhood where residents do drugs, so we shall distribute our literature here.

B) This car is just shitty enough to tell me the person who drives it does drugs, but it's not so shitty that the owner wouldn't be able to splurge on a nice new one-hitter or bong in the shape of a Joshua tree.

So, yeah... I want people to think I'm armed.
Anonymous said…
I'm sending this link to my little sister - she and her husband are going to start a micro-distillery here, and I think that #49 would be GREAT on their label. Think?

Couple of these would be great, actually. I really like hobo signs. If you watch the series Mad Men, there's an episode in a flashback where a hobo stops and the guy's dad lies to him, and when the hobo leaves me makes the sign of 'dishonest man' on their post.
Anonymous said…
Fascinating. The symbols are not intuitive to me, but maybe that was to keep those not in the know out of the know?

O Brother Where Art Thou is an amazing movie. The acting, the music, the adaptation itself. Even the other day, our preschooler overheard us saying "Do NOT...seek.. the treasure!" and now he does it too.

Tammy said…
Your interpretation of #31 made me LOL. It's spot on.

Hobo signs are very interesting. I'd like to know more.
Julie said…
These are all really interesting.

I especially like that #11 and #12 are very "breast"like.

But that could just be my 12yr old humor at its finest
Caterina said…
I wonder why #45 is that way? And means what it does? 2 over 10?

Interesting. And agreed, some of these would definitely be fun tshirts.
KPB said…
How captivating.

I have visions of hobos all over the town and one coming upon the 'a beating awaits you here' and just as he's read it, he looks up, starts looking around and thwack. Gets a beating.

Such is my humour at the moment and the seemingly incessant watching of The Simpsons.
darah said…
We lived next to some railroad tracks when I was very young (I swear it wasn't as sketchy as it sounds). We had hobos get water from our garden hose as they passed through and use the trees near our house for shade. They were never threatening and my mom was never fearful being home alone with a baby and them being around at the same time. They were always friendly and she would hear me talking to them from my window. I was about 18 months old, so who knows what the heck I told them. I'm not sure I'd be so trusting with hobos now and my daughter, but if they were always nice then who knows?

She said that there were hobo signs carved into the wooden post outside our house, but I'm not sure which ones. I'll ask and let you know!

We didn't have people come through daily, but every couple weeks or so according to my mom. That was as late as 1980. The community had to be somewhat decent sized to be seeing them that often.
Amy A. said…
I, too, am a dapper dan man.

These signs just go to show that you can find a community just about any place you look. Very comforting.
Badger said…
"A beating awaits you here" is what caught my attention, too. (No surprise; Kim and I share a brain, you know.) It seems awfully ... specific. A beating awaits ME here? HOW DO THEY KNOW?

That being said, I would totally wear #s 25, 31, 32, 35, 40, 42 and 49 on a t-shirt.
islaygirl said…
montanajen, thank you so much for mentioning the Mad Men flashback. As soon as I started reading this post i was thinking about that scene and couldn't for the life of me remember ~where~. You have saved me needless hours of agony.
MsCellania said…
I, personally, am putting #40 on the front of the house.
Along with my brand new baqua mirror (concave as I'm all considerate like that) and hedge we're putting in soon.
Things just might approve in the hood.
Anonymous said…
I wonder if any of them walked around with a little Hobo Cheat Sheet in their pocket? That's a lot to remember and you definitely don't want to confuse your #22 with your #38 or your #23 with your #17!
RW said…
these are fascinating.
I never knew these existed.
Anonymous said…
They are delightful, and I didn't know of their existance either.
Anonymous said…
hobo signs...who knew? i'd never hard of them. you've educated me blackbird! can't wait to share this with my 13yr old son. he will find them interesting. #25 is scary! i think you should do a line a T-shirts.
Anonymous said…
This is great stuff...I'd only ever heard of safe water and the nice old lady ones...I agree, you need to develop a line of t-shirts. Do some ring-necked, please, because that's the kind I like.
Anonymous said…
Have you got an idea of how much I learn from you? Didn't know what hobos are, so now I learned.
Thank you.
MezzoCO said…
my grandfather was a hobo for a while . . .
AMY said…
These are great. Doesn't hobo mean "homeward bound?" Signs are great, and I may link my blog up to this post.
Unknown said…
Hmm..some interesting comments .. it is comforting. Very cool BB...interesting information. John Pike reminded me of somebody from an earlier time...
Sarah Louise said…
very fun. makes me want to hum "trailer for sell or rent, rooms to let...fifty cents..." Oh, how I love Roger Miller. And maybe now I have a reason to watch O Brother.
Anonymous said…
Nice hobo symbols... I love them.

The only Problem I see is number 48. It doesn't mean "A good place to hang out" it means "A good place for a hand out". I don't think you'd want that sign on your door. LOL

CyberHobo Fixed it on the website.
Anonymous said…
D,J,G I saw your comment about these signs being carved on a post near the home you grew up in. We have that ourselves. It's part of why I started looking for more information on sites like this. I was curious about what was being said. Hehe...The posts at the end of our driveway has several marks on it (old and new) and it seems most of them are saying decent things about us. We haven't had any problems with any of the travelers passing through and most of the time they only stay a night or two and then move on. The travelers passing through are usually quiet and fairly respectful.I keep seeing how this "existed"...past tense...but I suspect it's more a matter of a changing culture.
Anonymous said…
What a great surfer I am, to have found your delightful page, say la vee

"OK, I will...ahem...'la vee' "

My belief is, the way the world is going, we're going to see *more* hobos, not less!!!

Anonymous said…
2/10 I believe refers to an old steam locomotive wheel arrangement. How it came to mean a gang of thieves beats me.
Unknown said…
2/10 does not pay homage to a locomotive's wheel arrangement. It means, Keep your "2" eyes on their "10" fingers.

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