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As I was making breakfast this morning. I started thinking about the origins of the typical camp knife.  That lead me to thinking about which came first the Hobo or Scout.   While the word Scout predates Hobo, even when it comes to knife patterns,  the hobo style knife predates the Scout knife by a good 50 or so years. (Perhaps even centuries!)  They were actually the original "camp knives!"   However, the knives weren't normally called Hobos until after WWI. 

Anyone care to take a gander at why the hobo style knife is actually older than the scout knife? 

Anyone know why the knife got stuck with the moniker "Hobo" instead of "Camp"

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I'm game, Tobias.  How is it that a seemingly more difficult to make Hobo is far older than the Scout, which is essentially a four bladed knife?

My grand father used a Hobo, starting in the late 1920's until after WWII. He said if didn't want to eat with your fingers, you'd better have one. He called it his lunch tool.

Well folding knives go back to Roman times; "Camp" knives (with folding spoons and knives) go back to before the Civil War (US that is); while Scout knives only start after WW1 and "Hobo" didn't become a popular endearment until the Great Depression hit (although had been used for much longer) so we really have to set some criteria for naming the submissions.

Which is the Scout, Hobo, Camp etc.?

The Camp is easy--two blades, two openers, awl and corkscrew...Scout two blades, one opener and awl and the Hobo has the folding spoon and fork but may (or may not) be detachable.

There were also "Lunch" sets that only had a spoon and fork (maybe an opener) that was used with your Barlow etc. knife and these were quite common during the Depression as they were far cheaper to make and buy.

N.B. Forks with multi tines really didn't become popular, especially in America until well after the Napoleonic Wars except amongst the hoity toities (The Gentry) and place settings in restaurants (other then posh places) until well after the Civil War to even World War One, usually didn't include them...One way you can tell an American from a British subject is in the way they hold there utensils...Pricks with a single point date to the Pharaohs.

Lots of good info Shlomo,  and you have hinted at the answer

Plenty of knives have been called camp knives including knives that fall into the hobo family (Folding knives with a fork/spoon combinations)  as well as the Scout family (main blade, caplifter, can opener/screwdriver, leather punch/awl)

The simple reason the hobo traces its roots to an earlier time is spoons and forks have been a round a lot longer than can openers and bottle openers.  The first can opener  came about around 1855.  The first crown cork opener (cap lifter or bottle opener did show up until the late 1890s.

The knife that most closely resembled what became the  Scout knife was probably the Karl Elsener's knife that was made for the Swiss Army (Model 1890 Swiss Soldier's Knife.)  The knife  had a flat head screw driver that was later modified to act as a screw driver and crown cork remover.

Elsener also developed a six blade version of the knife that moved the punch to the spine  and replaced it with a smaller clip blade.  The knife was also given a cork screw.  While this deluxe model was not issued to the Swiss Army it was marketed toward the Swiss Officer and became the Swiss Officer's knife. 

Folding Knives with Spoons were extremely popular during the American Civil War and remained popular among people on the go after the war.  I assume they probably headed west with the trains and cowboys.  During WWI  the American Red Cross shipped hundred of thousands of them to soldiers in the trenches.  After the war these soldiers came home and still had their "campaign knives" Many of them wandered the country as itinerant workers (a nice word for Hobo) and the knives went with them.  While knife makers didn't call the knives hobos the knives became associated with the men who carried them.  Even today, you will rarely see the knife labeled Hobo knife on the packaging.

And as for the four blade knife we commonly call a Scout knife... the Boy Scouts of America refer to it as the "Camp Knife"

I got real lucky last night on Ebay. I put a bid up on an old German pre WWII Scout and won, for less than $30 w/ship. It's a Richartz made in 1930 or earlier. the company moved to England before the out brake of WWII, in 1932. They changed their name to Richards, when they started making knives in England. The shield is marked "Scout Knife". The knife is in good shape and the seller, mostly sells vintage coffee cups and such. What luck. I put a low bid and went to bed.

So you're the one who won it!  Congratulations, Robert.  I saw it but decided against bidding.  I've bought about 10 knives in the last two weeks.  I figure its time to "igsnay on the Ife-knays" for a week or two so my wife don't kill me!  Between knives and whistles, I've probably gone through about $250 in the last two weeks.  (and the whistles cost about $10!)  Time to pause and enjoy my spoils!

Thanks, I'll post a picture when I get it. You out number me on the Scouts anyway. I need some brakes to catch up. I thought sure I bid to low and would loose but I gave it a shot and hoped for the best.

Ain't it comforting to lay your head down knowing you might wake up to find that you are the owner of a new knife? And going to the mailbox and finding a knife (of any sort) waiting for you makes those bills a little easier to stomach.



Robert Burris said:

I got real lucky last night on Ebay. I put a bid up on an old German pre WWII Scout and won, for less than $30 w/ship. It's a Richartz made in 1930 or earlier. the company moved to England before the out brake of WWII, in 1932. They changed their name to Richards, when they started making knives in England. The shield is marked "Scout Knife". The knife is in good shape and the seller, mostly sells vintage coffee cups and such. What luck. I put a low bid and went to bed.

Thanks Clay, you got it right on, there. You can make great deals sometimes. I've gotten knives that didn't measure up and I've over paid on some others. I guess it's all part of this game we play as collectors. Good members have tried hard to educate us on the knife world. The good and bad, that's out there. We must use caution, no one I know, polices the sales of knives on any front. I want to thank all of those who, tirelessly, try to educate us.

I've read some attempted explanations as to the origin of the name "Hobo". Nothing quite fits to my satisfaction. Basically, the word "ho" is in history as being used to call attention to something in the distance, or to speak to one's horse as  re-enforcement of the urgency of a halt being needed to analyze a situation before proceeding. The sailor in the crow's nest who was more often than not, a loner or misfit, would call out "land ho". It was his duty to be looking over the horizon for trouble ahead or a destination being spotted. He did this job partly with dread, but also out of a need for excitement.

So, It makes sense that as mariners who found solid footing, but were still mariners at heart, setting out across this country, would call someone who is always at the point, looking to the horizon for adventure and opportunity, "ho boy" or "hobo".

I lean toward the Ho Boy  explanation as well.  I've read many explanations but that sounds like the most logical.  Regardless of the chore, it was common for people to hail someone with the phrase "Ho"  and it was also very common for a boss to call just about any male worker, especially the unskilled, seasonal or itenerant "boy"  It wouldn't be a strecch for the hobos to start calling each other Hoboys and for that to be turned into HOBO.  

I can hear one come up to a house and saying "No Sir, I ain't one dem vagrants, I'za here to werk.  If you got some chorin' to do I kin be yur ho-bo for some grub, sir."

And then there was that other group who were a spirited bunch that didn't always fit into society, The "cowboy".

Tobias Gibson said:

I lean toward the Ho Boy  explanation as well.  I've read many explanations but that sounds like the most logical.  Regardless of the chore, it was common for people to hail someone with the phrase "Ho"  and it was also very common for a boss to call just about any male worker, especially the unskilled, seasonal or itenerant "boy"  It wouldn't be a strecch for the hobos to start calling each other Hoboys and for that to be turned into HOBO.  

I can hear one come up to a house and saying "No Sir, I ain't one dem vagrants, I'za here to werk.  If you got some chorin' to do I kin be yur ho-bo for some grub, sir."

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