Trunk Showing of Quilts

Written by Theresa Rose on September 6, 2017

September 10, 2017 at 1:30 Jo Crabb will display her Trunk of Quilts. The location is the Dover Museum in New London. She will feature her “Hobo Quilt”. This quilt was recently displayed at a juried show in Kansas City, MO.

The hobo quilt block depicts the various symbol that travelers used to determine friendly places long the rails where food, work or money might be had. However just as important they also designated places of danger.

Tales of an American Hobo by Charles Elmer Fox is a fine resource to help us understand the times. As mentioned in the last article, the hobo began life as a recognized being after the Civil War. After WWI, there were estimated to be about one hundred thousand hoboes. These numbers related to the train riding, homeless migratory workers. There apparently has never been an effort made to approximate the number of tramps on the road at any one time. We do know that during the Depression years (October 1929-December 1941) millions of homeless, jobless people were wandering the country. Most did not leave their hometowns but stood in soup liens for hours to get a handout. Reefer Charlie refers to one to two and a half million people were train hoppers but not true hobos. The times were desperate for everyone.

What is truly interesting is the number of hoboes who became famous and known nationwide. To name a few – Clark Gable, Groucho Marx, Art Linkletter, William O. Douglas, Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rogers. No amount of education or profession made a person exempt from the tough times. There were earlier hoboes that also made it Jack Dempsey (William Harrison), Jack London, as well as people from famous families such as Winthrop Rockefeller.

Again, Reefer Charlie defends the hobo as completely different from the ordinary depiction of them. They kept themselves clean and as well dressed as he could be under the circumstances. However he is proud of the various designations of the individuals. They carried such interesting descriptive names as Fry Pan Jack, Powder River Slim, Bacon Butts and Evan “Soldier” Fields. When someone is doing a family history I hope they do not ignore the stories of their men who may have lived these desperate times on the road.


As always, refreshments, questions and discussion will be held after the program. Admittance is free but donations are welcome.