First Advisor

Katrine Barber

Date of Publication

Spring 6-2-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Tramps -- Oregon -- Portland -- Social conditions -- 19th century, Tramps -- Oregon -- Portland -- Social conditions -- 20th century, Tramps -- Oregon -- Portland -- Public opinion, Homeless men -- Government policy -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Underemployment -- Government policy -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Masculinity in popular culture -- Oregon -- Portland -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 152 pages)


At the beginning of the twentieth century, transient laborers in Portland, Oregon faced marginalization and exploitation at the hands of the classes that relied on them for their own prosperity. Portland at this time was poised to flourish as a major population and industrial center of the American West. The industries that fueled the city's growth were dependent on cheap and mobile manual labor made available by the expansion of the nation's railroads. As the city prospered and grew, the elite of the city created and promoted an image of Portland as an Eden of material abundance where industriousness and virtue would lead inevitably to prosperity.

There was no room in Portland's booster image for unemployed but otherwise able-bodied men that fueled this prosperity but saw no benefit from it. Their very existence challenged both the image of the city itself, and broader and deeper pillars of American identity. The response to the presence of this mobile, underemployed and largely white male labor class by Portland citizens and institutions was driven by, and in turn helped shape, competing mythologies of both the American West and American masculinity at a time when the country was struggling to define and redefine these constructs. Examining these floating men through their portrayal in popular culture, laws, and charitable efforts of the time exposes a deep anxiety about the notions of worth, gender, and American virtue.


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