From the 1910s through the Depression 30s, when Chicago was the undisputed hobo capital of the United States, a small north side neighborhood known as Towertown was the vital center of an extraordinary cultural/political ferment. It was home to Bughouse Square (the nation's most renowned outdoor free-speech center), Ben Reitman's Hobo College, and the fabulous Dill Pickle club, a highly unorthodox institution of higher learning that doubled as the craziest nightclub in the world. It was something like New York's Greenwich Village, but—thanks to the prominence of the Chicago-based IWW—much more working class, and more openly revolutionary. Frank O. Beck's Hobohemia contains a long time Towertowner's vivid reminiscences of this colorful, dynamic, creative, and radical community that flourished for a generation despite constant onslaughts from the Red Squad, the Vice Squad, bourgeois journalists, and fundamentalist bigots. Originally published in 1956, this handsome new edition contains a superb introduction from Franklin Rosemont, providing a historical overview of Chicago's working class counter-culture, and a biographical sketch of Beck. It also relates the book to earlier and later literature on the subject and fills in some gaps in the narrative.
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