The Saturday Comics: Pete the Tramp

30 Jul

July 30, 2011

The World English Dictionary defines a tramp as “a person who travels about on foot, usually with no permanent home, living by begging or doing casual work.” They can be easily distinguished from bums or hobos as a bum is “a disreputable loafer or idler” and a hobo is “a migratory worker, especially an unskilled laborer.” OK, maybe it isn’t that easy to distinguish them after all. I think if you find one hopping a train it is a tramp, walking along with all his possessions tied in a handkerchief on the end of a stick it is a hobo, and sleeping on a park bench it is a bum. It is kind of like Big Foot. Spot one in the Pacific Northwest and he’s called a Sasquatch, spot one in South and he’s a Skunk ape. But tramp, hobo, or Sasquatch, whatever you call them, they probably won’t smell very good.

Which brings us to Pete The Tramp.

Pete the Tramp was a comic strip by Clarence D. Russell. It began in 1932 and ran for more than three decades. Howard Eugene Wilson, in the Harvard Educational Review, described the strip’s title character as “a hobo with a gentleman’s instincts.”

Wait- Pete the Tramp was a hobo? I give up.

From the wonderful resource

Pete was like most fictional tramps of the time in that he moved around a lot, was always looking for a handout, did an occasional odd job when he couldn’t avoid it, and was generally disreputable. But he didn’t resemble the worst of them, i.e., wasn’t violent or a sneak thief—except the latter, but not very often and never for anything of great value. Pete was often seen in the company of a small yellow dog of indeterminate breed, whom he addressed as Boy. Under the name Pete’s Pup, the dog was the star of the Sunday page’s topper during the first couple of years. Pete’s strip was popular during the Depression and still maintained reasonable circulation after that period’s end made his situation less excusable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Pete the Tramp. 

Snorky was another Pete The Tramp Topper.

Before you go, this little nugget of information came from where most stinky little nuggets come from, wikipedia: The Further Adventures of Pete the Tramp (1944) was a live-action stag film which stole Russell’s character and put him in an erotic situation.

You can’t see me but I am shaking my head in disbelief.

5 Responses to “The Saturday Comics: Pete the Tramp”

  1. JRD Skinner July 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Oh no – that last bit leaves me oddly curious, and slightly uncomfortable.


    • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

      That sums up my feeling too and for the record, my research stopped right there.


  2. Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    The question regarding the use of hobo, bum, tramp etc came up during one of my lessons a few months ago. In my sometimes confused mind that learned a big chunk of English from movies, comics, novels, etc (as opposed to real life), they were all basically the same (hobo referring to traveling bums). After searching for the correct meaning and usage of each word, my client and I were totally confused and perplexed by the fact that, while apparently each word had a different meaning, they seemed to be used interchangeably.


    • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      Part of the problem is that the distinctions are small enough to be lost to most people, but also because all the words can describe the same person at different times. Maybe the biggest reason they are used interchangeably is that they all apply to peole who are not likely to complan about it. None of those terms are meant to be complimentary, but in truth tramp is better than bum, with hobo in the middle but close to bum.


      • Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

        Yep, that’s the way I understand it, too. It’s odd how people use them almost randomly, but you’re right, it probably depends on the situation they are used in. After all, unless you see a hobo actually jump on or off a train, you might think of him as a bum, and if you don’t see a tramp actually get hired for a temporary job, you may think the same of him…


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