Wiki article on this topic: A tramp is a long-term homeless person who travels from place to place as a vagrant, traditionally walking all year round. The word tramp became a common way to refer to such people in 19th-century Britain and America.
Tramp is derived from a Middle English verb meaning to "walk with heavy footsteps" and to go hiking.
In Britain the term was widely used to refer to vagrants in the early Victorian period. The social reporter Henry Mayhew refers to it in his writings of the 1840s and 1850s. By 1850 the word was well established. In that year Mayhew described "the different kinds of vagrants or tramps" to be found in Britain, along with the "different trampers' houses in London or the country". He distinguished several types of tramps, ranging from young people fleeing from abusive families, through to people who made their living as wandering beggars and prostitutes.
In the United States, the word became frequently used during the American Civil War, to describe the widely shared experience of undertaking long marches, often with heavy packs. Use of the word as a noun is thought to have begun shortly after the war. A few veterans had developed a liking for the "call of the road". Others may have been too traumatised by war time experience to return to settled life.
Wanderers have existed since ancient times. The modern concept of the "tramp" emerges with the expansion of industrial towns in the early nineteenth century, with the consequent increase in migrant labor and pressure on housing. The common lodging house or "doss house" developed to accommodate transients. Urbanisation also led to an increase in forms of highly marginalized casual labor. Mayhew identifies the problem of "tramping" as a particular product of the economic crisis of the 1840s known as the Hungry Forties. John Burnett argues that in earlier periods of economic stability "tramping" involved a wandering existence, moving from job to job which was a cheap way of experiencing adventures beyond the "boredom and bondage of village life".
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