Walking to Work: Tramps in America, 1790-1935

By Eric H. Monkkonen | Go to book overview

Eric H. Monkkonen


Regional Dimensions of Tramping, North and South, 1880-1910

In order to develop a firmly based dimensional image of the tramps' world in the late nineteenth century, we must establish a conceptual map bounding their travels. Such a description is, to be sure, little more than two-dimensional, and it can not capture the whole mental world of those tramps moving through it. But in order to construct our composite picture of tramping, the two-dimensional world is essential, even though limited. After all, real origins and vague, shifting destinations, laced together by the streams of tramping workers, defined the geographical possibilities and limitations for the late nineteenth-century tramp. The tramps' knowledge of far-flung geographic and economic regions depended on information which included travel routes, and information which did not include routes was in essence not information. Without access, without knowledge, the tramp network could not have existed, much less flourished. Of course, we cannot recover all of the information available to tramps. But remaining impressionistic and quantitative evidence can contribute to the description and analysis of late nineteenth- century tramp travel patterns. What tramps did will serve us as a conservative behavioral sketch of what they knew.

At the time no one tried to grasp or estimate the patterns of tramp travel with any accuracy or systematic approach. 1 As a result, our understanding of late nineteenth-century tramping is most limited concerning one of its basic features--the actual travel patterns of tramps. Regional influences--attraction, repulsion, cultural, economic--formed an interrelated aspect of tramp travel patterns. Through the media of region and transport such diverse factors as communications links, craft skills, railroad

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