Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Hobo College
Hobo College

Hobo College

Hobo College, n.d.
To the hobo population Chicago was “Big Chi,” the place where thousands of migratory workers in the early 1900s hopped freight cars for jobs in the nation's harvest fields and logging camps. Amidst West Madison Street's missions, cheap eateries, bars, and other establishments that catered to the itinerants' needs, Ben Reitman, dashing physician, reformer, and anarchist, founded a “hobo college” in 1908. There, men of the road gathered to swap stories and listen to lectures on everything from philosophy and politics to personal hygiene and vagrancy laws. For nearly three decades, the hobo college provided an educational experience to these men and fostered a spirit of fraternity among them.

Anderson, Nels. The Hobo: The Sociology of the Homeless Man. 1923.
Bruns, Roger A. Knights of the Road: A Hobo History. 1980.
Bruns, Roger A. The Damndest Radical: The Life and World of Ben Reitman, Chicago's Celebrated Social Reformer, Hobo King, and Whorehouse Physician. 1987.