Hobo Quilts: 55 Original Blocks Based on the Secret Language of Riding the Rails
Great book on the Depression Era and the quilts it inspired
Hobo Quilts, by Debra G. Henninger. is a great history book for the Depression Era hobo codes. It is full of pictures and quotes. Along with that, there are more than 55 symbols transformed into quilting patterns. The book suggests 20 projects but it would be just as easy to decide who you would be and create your own quilt. Even if you never make the quilt, the pictures and the history are educational and informative. The pictures and the codes give us a peek into the hobo culture.
This is the 4th in a series by Krause Publications. The series combines history with quilt patterns. There are some complaints that the pattens in this book do not work well and that is instantly visible when looking at the patterns. However, anyone can size them to fit correctly.
The Depression changed a generation. Nothing was easy for the hobo's or the people living along the rails. Some tend to romanticize the time but it was a hard life. This is the best book in recent times on this part of American history. On top of that, there are scaled drawing of the quilts with the signs that let the hobo's know if the town was friendly, where to find food and which places to skip all together.
Hobo codes and the quilts that guided them
Quilts would be hung in places visible to the hobos who jumped from the trains. It told them where there was food, if the people were friendly and whether they were likely to be shot at. This book, combines the codes into quilt blocks.
A quote from one of the hobo's
"The most spectacular sight that I ever seen was at least a thousand men sitting, if they could find a space, atop this mile long freight train. They were headed for California, looking for work, any kind of work, even for fifty cents a day." Paul Booker
The Railroad Police - Seldom friendly, one more thing for hobo's to watch for
Wikipedia has a very good definition or a least a way to determine why someone was called a Hobo. This is a direct quote from the site. "A hobo is a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the western-probably northwestern-United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike tramps, who work only when they are forced to, and bums, who don't work at all, hobos are workers who wander"
The Railroad Police were often vigilant in the attempts to remove Hobo's from the trains. The site for the Railroad Police is below as well as the full Wikipedia article.
- The Railroad Police
This website is full of pictures and information on the codes that the Hobo's posted for other Hobo's to find. These codes allowed Hobo's to understand what kind of situation they were walking into.
- Wikipedia's take on Hobo's
While Wikipedia is not always completely accurate, there is some very good information here including a list of Hobo lingo.
Learn more about the railroad police
Railroad police are every bit as busy today as they were in the 1940's and every bit as feared today as they were then.
I am finally going to choose the signs and make the quilt
This is a great book and I have been dithering for over a year on the signs I want to use for a quilt. This is the year. I have decided that they would be the ones I would use if we lived in that era. My quilt will be a reflection of who I am. It's an exciting project.
Other quilt books in the series - Quilts based on history
"The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt: Letters from 1920s Farm Wives and the 111 Blocks They Inspired" is another well-done history book with the added bonus of quilt patterns. I have this but am not even going to try to make any of them until I do something about the Hobo Quilt patterns I have chosen.
I have a friend who loaned me these books. Unfortunately, I had to give them back. The two civil war books are just as inspiring. "The Civil War Diary Quilt: 121 Stories and The Quilt Blocks They Inspired" and "The Civil War Love Letter Quilt: 121 Quilt Blocks Inspired by Love and War" are also something that every quilter who loves history and love stories should have in their libraries.
- The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt
The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird is a quilting book and a history book, rolled into one. The first half of the book is the collection of letter with quilt block photos. It is also a book on philosophy where each letter is filled..