Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2010:
Hoboes. The word calls images of the dusty downtrodden: a subterranean vagabond society communicating through secret symbols and riding rails from one terminus to another; the iconic hobo scruff and shouldered bindle stick. Mark Wyman's fascinating, deeply researched, and groundbreaking Hoboes
strips away the rust from hobo history, revealing the intricate, multi-ethnic tapestry that hung in the background of the Old West--and in many ways drove its economy. From bindlestiffs and beeters to betabeleros
boys (not to mention gasoline tramps and apple glommers) Hoboes
documents the lives, travails, and impact of the itinerant workers who sought opportunity--most often short-lived at best--as the railroads pushed the frontier into the memory of the modern United States. --Jon Foro
From Publishers Weekly
Historian Wyman offers a richly detailed study of the thousands of workers who followed the booming railroads west during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to pick, prepare, and load crops, from cotton, wheat, and hops to apples, beets, and oranges. These transients moved about the country, often accompanied by their families, who worked as well. They endured generally low wages, backbreaking labor, and awful living conditions-mitigated only slightly in the 1910s, for the select few who could afford automobiles and were thus granted greater mobility. Periodic efforts to unionize, especially by the radical Industrial Workers of the World, were invariably met with hostility. Wyman's extensive research translates into readable, often moving prose with details that illuminate the lives of previously obscure people and reveals a surprising ethnic and racial diversity among this often-overlooked group. The author of several books, Wyman has become a leading source on the American West and here makes a case for a more complex narrative of the region, one that ought to include hoboes in the list of "Western heroes," along with "cowboys and Indians, explorers and entrepreneurs, first settlers and gunslingers."
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