Origin of "hobo" (1888); "Hot dog" and "pants" (1870, 1886)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Jun 28 14:59:56 UTC 2006

The Chief's use of the phrase "Independent Order of tramps" set me to
checking that in Proquest's Hist Newspapers (leaving out the Monitor
and the WSJ).  Nothing turns up under the exact phrase, but there is
an "Ancient Order of tramps" in the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 18,
1896, p. 9 and a "Order of tramps" in the Atlanta  of January 7, 1897,
p. 3.  The latter refers to a lecture to be given by "C. C. Crail, a
Converted Weary Willie", referring to the tramps' passwords, signals
and meeting places -- no details.

The first appearances of "Weary Willie" seem to have meant an effete
man, such as is often encountered in better social realms.  It was in
the Atlanta Constitution of November 22, 1894, p. 4, in an article on
long-haired football players, complaining that there was these days 3
varieties of football: the American Beauty, the Weary Willie & the
Pond Lily -- none of which sound as if they would please the present
crop of U. of Georgia fans.
It seemed that the first occurence of Weary Willie in the sense of
tramp was in the Atlanta Constitution of March 8, 1896, p. 5.

C. C. Crail appears about a half dozen times between 1896 and 1903,
mostly in the Constitution.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Bapopik at AOL.COM
Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 1:49 am
Subject: Origin of "hobo" (1888); "Hot dog" and "pants" (1870, 1886)

> ...
> A re-check.
> ...
> ...
> 14 September 1888, The Morning Oregonian, pg. 8, col. 2:
> ...
> _A Password Formerly Used by the Tramps--Its_
> _Generalization._
> ...
> "What is new to-day?"
> ...
> This question was asked Police Captain Cardwell yesterday by a
> reporter....
> "A couple of 'hoboes' have just been brought in. I see by your
> puzzled look
> you do not understand what a hobo is. I will tell you what we mean
> by the
> term.  It is a word used to classify all tramps and vags. The word
> firstoriginated  with the Independent Order of tramps, and was
> used by them as a sort of
> password. One tramp walking along the street seeing another whom
> by his general
> appearance he thinks belongs to the order says 'hobo.' If the
> party thus
> addressed recognizes the word, he stops and an acquaintance is
> struck up. Again,
> this tramp walking alongside a lot of freight cars tops at one in
> which he
> thinks there is a brother and repeats the magic word. It is a
> sesame and if
> this  surmise is correct, the car door is drawn back and the man
> outside is
> received  within.
> ...
> "From this specific use of the word has come the general term
> 'hobo,' which
> is applied to the vagabond beggar as well as the tramp."
> ...
> ...
> 30 November 1888, The Morning Oregonian, pg. 2, col. 5:

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