Hobo Signs

Cardboard ephemera from the city streets and thruways of America. Some pieces were found, some given, some created by me. If you find one please pick it up and send it my way along with its story. I’ll gladly paypal the shipping costs. Email me at noldevine@gmail.com to sort out the details.

1. My creation.


It can be seen in the following video:

2. My creation.


It can be seen in the following videos:

3. I believe I found this near a bus stop in Dinkytown, the college area of Minneapolis.


I saw a man hitching in mid-Montana with a sign for my home base. I offered a ride in exchange for his sign. His name was Richard and he fed me donuts to keep me awake. He’d had his appendix out in Idaho and the pack he carried tore his stitches, causing him to wheeze blood. He’d been back in the hospital for that and was now freshly on the road. He was heading to North Dakota to try profit from the oil boom, plying his trade of carpentry. I let him know Grand Forks was the wrong half of the state but he wanted to organize on our eastern crust before spinning back west to get a job. I dropped him off at the ND/MN border where he was going to sleep on the river bank for the night. Good dude.

5. Bartered for lunch from a young man at the head of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. On its side I wrote out the playlist of a mix CD I made for my sis. She was given the CD and sign. The sign was promptly regifted.

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6. Found on the street near Lloyd Center Mall in Portland, OR. The sign’s flip side is the next photo.

7. The flip side.


8. Sign I found in downtown Olympia, WA. While holding it for the photo a lady asked if I had anywhere to sleep and offered me pizza.


9. Olympia, WA. In the day I’d see this guy bike around town with his dogs in the cart. The next photo is also him.

10. At night he came downtown to play and sing cool songs on his keyboard. He kept the keys perched atop a skateboard which I unfortunately didn’t photograph.

The video is garbage quality but you can hear a few seconds of his music here:

11. Discovered this sad and artistic piece in downtown Portland next to a trash bin. A couple blocks away a man was passed out with his own sign. He had a cig dangling from his mouth and a BB gun at his side.

12. Found buried beneath a bunch of wet trash on a bus bench in downtown Portland. I love this form of communication. Here’s to hoping the sign had already been seen as I’m an asshole and took it.

13. Found in a trash can outside Mary’s strip club in downtown Portland.


14. Found in downtown Portland. A large number of religious figures are living out the afterlife on scraps of cardboard.


15. I found five signs in one day. This was one of them.


16. Found in Portland.


17. Found in downtown Portland. The chunk missing from the bottom is where I used the sign to scrape my dog nephew’s defecate into a fry box. He unexpectedly dumped on the street and I had to improv things to scoop it up.


18. Found in Portland.

Side 1:


Side 2:


19. Found in downtown Portland.


20. Found in NW Portland.


21. Found in NW Portland.

Side 1:


Side 2:


22. Found in downtown Minneapolis.


23. I found this pile of cardboard scraps in downtown Portland.

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These are the scraps reconstructed:

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24. This is scrawled on the back of a Voodoo Doughnuts box.


25. I found this sign in downtown Portland and quickly stuffed it in my backpack as people were near. When I took it out an hour later I saw it was smeared in fresh human shit, hence the huge chunk now missing.


26. Found near the MAX tracks a block from the Burnside Bridge.






29. Pastry bag found outside a bookstore:


31. My life’s work:



32. Found near a homeless shelter in Austin

IMG_2377 (2)

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15 thoughts on “Hobo Signs

  1. Hoboing, like many other things is an obsolescent art. I’ve always been interested in it but, as with most things was too staid to try it. You must be familiar with Woody Guthrie, if not, check him out, musically as well books, there’s a very good new bio out on him. Anyhoo, thanks for keeping it alive! Love your site and thank you for liking mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Hoboing,” while perhaps not as prevalent as during the Depression, is definitely NOT obsolete. I, myself, have made it a big part of my life (when I’m not stuck on probation in Cleveland, Ohio.) It doesn’t take much: just find your nearest train yard and get on. I promise you’ll end up somewhere. And as for these signs… this is awesome! Wish I still had many of my own or my friends’. Ahh, this post made me really nostalgic, but I WILL drift again…


  2. I saw a guy holding a blank piece of cardboard once. I couldn’t see if he was just holding it up backwards or not. It seemed to say a lot without saying anything. It haunts me.


  3. love the spaceship one; I knew a man once who claimed he had to get back to Mars because ;;;; may put it up as a post; these people may be hard up but they sure have a sense of inventiveness and hard-scrabble humour 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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