What Is Tramp Art and Who Made Them

Who Made Tramp Art,  dah … Tramps!

Depending on where you got your information on Tramp Art, some collectors say Tramps did not make these famous art pieces as believed. So, where did they come from?

At the ending of the civil war and at the major stock market crash of the 30s, there was an influx of a lot of talented, educated and just unemployed people riding the rails looking for work. Some say during their lonely hours and days, they produced this form of art. 

In my thinking, Tramps would be considered a modern-day homeless person.

Wikipedia says… Tramp means “walk with Heavy Foot”

That would explain a lot about Tramps because they were known for rail hopping and they did a lot of walking.

I tend to think it is very possible, that in America these people riding the rails to someplace, anyplace, did indeed, do some of these carvings. Why would you think they didn’t? They had the means and certainly the time to make these pieces of art,  and especially during the thirties, there were a lot of talented and unemployed people roaming the country.

So during their travels from here to there, they kept busy by carving out their art form. Supposedly they made these pieces from discarded items such as empty cigar boxes, wood crates and I would assume anything they could use or find, just to pass the time, and they mostly carved these pieces out with a pocket/jackknife.

This is not saying other people didn’t pick up the trade. Anyway, whoever whittled or carved these items such as jewelry boxes, tables, small and large home decorations, lamps etc. out of discarded wood, are highly collectible today, no matter who made them. Cigar boxes were very easily found in those days and they were the most widely used for Tramp Art.

A few years back I made up a draft on Tramp Art, I thought I’d blow the dust off and freshen up my article. I found myself having to rewrite the whole thing, only because the beliefs have now changed on the origin of Tramp Art or maybe, … I’ve just changed my thinking and or found more update information?

Even though the tide has changed a little on the origins of Tramp Art, one thing is for certain, they are still a unique form of expression from hard working individuals with a lot of time on their hands. (No two are alike).

But, if we assume tramps did play a part in Tramp Art, they certainly did have the time for such an endeavor. If you had no talent before you started making this art form, you would certainly learn how to do it.  Staying busy during their sometime’s long in-between jobs and dark cold nights would totally make sense to me.

So through all reality, the word “Tramp” sounds like a negative, harsh word for an unfortunate group of people trying to stay active, busy, and alive through their hard times.

So whoever made these pieces of art got quite creative and talented enough to even sell their carved-goods/art for a little cash or food.  Of course, these pieces weren’t considered an art form until the 1950s, but still quite different looking, even in those days.

In my estimation, Tramps or whoever made Tramp Art in their day, were our first version of Recyclers, by using old discarded material to make something new.

History of Tramps & Hobos

They both shared the same rail system, maybe shared the same boxcar and I’m sure, they ran into each other everywhere.

They even shared the same code/language but they supposedly were two different types of people, workers, and …  none workers.

Tramp Art is part of our history and may be considered a dark period in North America and in Europe. There always were, and always will be, poor, unfortunate people just trying to make everything work in their lives, so whatever the origin of Tramp Art, these unusual pieces of art are highly collectible today.

The recorded time period for “Tramp Art” was from the year 1870-1940, but most say, that during the depression period in America, was the worst or the best time for these art pieces. Some also would put that period around the civil war.

Note … In 1940 the war was raging in Europe and every able body was needed elsewhere, that must have broken the trend and or that period in time for Tramps and Tramp Art. But it did bring in a new period of ART, “TRENCH ART”

(One of my next planned postings.) “TRENCH ART”

After saying all that about “Tramp Art”, and, we all know if there is money to be made, then a person might suggest that any and all groups of people would try their hand at making “Tramp Art”.

And why not? In those depression years, everybody tried to make a few extra dollars, but, none the less, these pieces of art would definitely fall under the category of “Folk Art”. Remember, Tramp Art was not recognized until after the Tramp Era, that was basically over around (the 1940s) and most collectors agree that the art form was handmade by hard working people.

Look for my links on Tramp Art.


I’m neither a collector of Tramp Art nor a Professor of fine arts and Crafts, but I am interested in our past history and maybe, sell a few oddities along the way.

Google tramp art for an interesting read.


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Finding gold at a Automotive Swap Meet

Never know what you will find at Automotive Swap Meets 

∞∞ Automotive Swap Meets are where everybody brings {supposedly} automotive related items for sale or barter, but sometimes, you can find unusual things other than car related.
On one occasion I met a vendor with a wooden box filled with, well, I don’t know what they were. The vendor spotted me looking at these odd nails and came over and said, do you know what they are? .. Nope.

He told me the story of when Great Western Rail Company pulled up all the ties behind his house. He had his son’s remove all these Date Nails (he called them) from discarded ties. I did notice all these odd nails had numbers imposed on the head and it wasn’t like 1905, it was just 05, and that was the year that the railroad kept track of when that tie was installed or serviced on the tracks.

Well, that made total sense, so I bought the whole box with all these different dates on them. Now going back to my computer to do a little research on these nails, I did find this railroad company long gone from these parts and you know, one computer link takes you to another, but here is a story I didn’t expect.

Getting off Track with the story

When a railroad worker was working on top of a caboose, on a moving train no less, and forgot to look at the underpass coming up, well he was just swept off the car to his death, and the story doesn’t end there.
The other link tells the story of this #railroad worker and other shadows still walking the line after 100 years. Now, I don’t know why ghosts appear or roam at any particular place but maybe just an “unexpected demise… “Just maybe”.

These dated tie nails come from the same section of railway that this poor soul and possibly others are haunting/roaming or just plain … hanging around?

Anyway, this line is documented by the Paranormal Society as being haunted by abnormal activity.  Check out their U-tube video. These date nails are a piece of history and maybe a little on the spooky side to boot.


∞∞You never know what you find at these swap meets and with a little history, that’s a bonus.

(Note)…. Old Date Nails like most unusual things are collectables; however these collectors are in short supply unless you have a very crazy story behind those nails like, from the railway line of the famous (1900 “Dalton Gang” train robbery, Butch Cassidy) or haunted ones, other than that, they are just unusual nails with a number on them.

Never know what you can find at these Swap Meets.

“Anyone want to buy some Cheap nails?” eH

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“I once found a pill bottle filled with $250. gold dust, tucked in amongst some old tools”.


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