Anderson, Nels. On Hobos and Homelessness (University of Chicago Press, reprint, 1999).
Nels Anderson was a pioneer in the study of the homeless. In the early 1920s Anderson combined his own experience "on the bummery," with his keen sociological insight to give voice to a largely ignored underclass. He remains an extraordinary and underrated figure in the history of American sociology.
On Hobos and Homelessness includes Anderson's rich and vibrant ethnographic work of a world of homeless men. He conducted his study on Madison street in Chicago, and we come to intimately know this portion of the 1920s hobo underworld—the harshness of vagrant life and the adventures of young hobos who come to the big city. This selection also includes Anderson's later work on the juvenile and the tramp, the unattached migrant, and the family. Like John Steinbeck's Depression-era observations, Anderson's writings express the memory of those who do not seem entitled to have memory, whose lives were expressed in temporary labor.
De Pastino, Todd. Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America (University of Chicago Press, 2005).
In the years following the Civil War, a veritable army of homeless men swept across America's "wageworkers' frontier" and forged a beguiling and bedeviling counterculture known as "hobohemia." Celebrating unfettered masculinity and jealously guarding the American road as the preserve of white manhood, hoboes took command of downtown districts and swaggered onto center stage of the new urban culture. Less obviously, perhaps, they also staked their own claims on the American polity, claims that would in fact transform the very entitlements of American citizenship.
In this eye-opening work of American history, Todd DePastino tells the epic story of hobohemia's rise and fall, and crafts a stunning new interpretation of the "American century" in the process. Drawing on sources ranging from diaries, letters, and police reports to movies and memoirs, Citizen Hobo breathes life into the largely forgotten world of the road, but it also, crucially, shows how the hobo army so haunted the American body politic that it prompted the creation of an entirely new social order and political economy. DePastino shows how hoboes—with their reputation as dangers to civilization, sexual savages, and professional idlers—became a cultural and political force, influencing the creation of welfare state measures, the promotion of mass consumption, and the suburbanization of America. Citizen Hobo's sweeping retelling of American nationhood in light of enduring struggles over "home" does more than chart the change from "homelessness" to "houselessness." In its breadth and scope, the book offers nothing less than an essential new context for thinking about Americans' struggles against inequality and alienation.
Levinson, David (editor). Encyclopedia of Homelessness, 2 Volume Set (Sage Publications, Inc., 2004).
The Encyclopedia of Homelessness is the first systematic effort to organize and summarize what we know about this complex topic that impacts not only the homeless but all of society. The Encyclopedia focuses on the current situation in the United States with a comparative sampling of homelessness around the world.
Jack joined Kelly's Industrial Army at Oakland, CA in 1894 and headed for Washington, D.C.; he wrote of his experiences on the road. He recorded his thinking while America was changing dramatically as it headed into the 20th Century. As the Army entered Washington it had over 10,000 marchers with people joining the march as they went along. A fantastic account of one of the many great actions of the labor movement in American history.
Jim Tully. Beggars of Life (AK Press, reissue, 2003).
A bestseller in 1924, this vivid piece of outlaw history has inexplicably faded from the public consciousness. Jim Tully takes us across the seamy underbelly of pre-WWI America on freight trains, and inside hobo jungles and brothels while narrowly averting railroad bulls (cops) and wardens of order. Written with unflinching honesty and insight, Beggars of Life follows Tully from his first ride at age thirteen, choosing life on the road over a deadening job, through his teenage years of learning the ropes of the rails and -living one meal to the next. Tully's direct, confrontational approach helped shape the hard-boiled school of writing, and later immeasurably influenced the noir genre.