Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Britt, Iowa - Hobo Capital of the World

The Hobo Convention has been going on in this community since 1900. In 1899, the town leaders were able to convince the leaders of Tourist Union #63 to move their convention permanently from Chicago to Britt, Iowa. You see, Tourist Union #63 members were real hobos. In the 19th century traveling migrant workers were often arrested for vagrancy when not employed. However, if you were a member of a union, you were given free passage on a train to your next destination. These workers used this loophole, created a union, and were able to travel free across the United States to find work. These types of union workers became known as hobos and there was a very large number of them. So for the town of Britt to land a big convention from Chicago was a big deal. In the late 1890’s, it was estimated there were over 500,000 hobos in the United States. Today, the tradition is more of a family affair which is held in August. This weekend event includes a parade, crowning of a Hobo King and Queen, and serving mulligan stew in the city park. Real hobos still come here to celebrate and exchange stories with the locals. If you venture downtown, you can even visit the one and only Hobo Museum!

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