Good Company : A Tramp Life book cover
3rd Edition

Good Company
A Tramp Life

ISBN 9781138674950
Published March 15, 2016 by Routledge
236 Pages 78 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This sociological classic shows how the railroad tramp’s status as a deviant changed from frontier itinerant to post settlement vagrant; from class conscious proletariat in the Depression to the damaged post WWII vet. The third edition (with new photos) discusses how today the freights have become the milieu of violent gangs who transport drugs, human traffickers, and serial killers. Beating the odds against increased post 9/11 surveillance are yuppie adventure seekers, young travelers, crust punks and oogles. In the background is the same freight train—unforgiving and lethal—and cultures policed at times by honorable tramps and at times by sadistic enforcers of violent gangs. 

Features of the new edition:

Eight previously unpublished photos that reflect new directions in visual ethnography. (90 photos altogether)

A fuller integration of photos made during the author’s participant research with tramps over thousands of miles on the freights and while living homeless in urban America.

New, nuanced edit of a narrative describing author’s five week immersion with the quintessential tramp of the era, Carl.

Table of Contents


Part One: On the Road

1 Waiting for a train

2 An old tramp

3 You can’t trust everybody you meet

4 Two cans of beans

5 Another ascent of the Rockies

6 We arrive in Wenatchee

7 A tall thin tramp

8 Boston Blackie

9 One-Eyed Jack

10 The ride up the branch

11 Riffraff

12 Rubber tramp

13 Harvest jungle

14 To the orchard

15 As Golden’s ripen

16 Going home

Part Two: The Rise and Fall of the Tramp

17 The Ebb and Flow of Tramp Life

18 Whither the tramp?

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Douglas Harper is a founding member of the International Visual Sociology Association, founded in the late 1980s, and was founding editor of the journal Visual Studies. He has held full-time faculty appointments in several American universities and visiting appointments at the University of Bologna and the University of Amsterdam. He has exhibited his photographs internationally and his documentary, The Longest Journey Begins (2015), is co-directed by Maggie Patterson.