|Sigrid Wadauer: Skilled and Unskilled Workers on the Tramp (Austria, 1880s – 1930s).|
|Throughout the 19th century, tramping was (still) a common practice of young, unmarried, -artisans seeking work in Central Europe - even after craft guilds had been abolished. This significantly contributed to high rates of mobility around the turn of the century. Even in the 1920s and 1930s, wayfarers were often called Handwerksburschen. Yet, traditional tramping was frequently declared to be a thing of the past, and contemporaries stressed the heterogeneity of wayfarers.
This paper focuses on the question of how tramping in search of employment changed alongside of state interventions and new social policies: How did such policies establish or reinforce a distinction between “the unemployed” and vagrants? What difference did occupational training make for those on the tramp?
The paper starts with an analysis of Herbergen in Austria from the 1880s to 1938. These were relief stations run by communities that were designated to support and monitor male wayfarers in search of work. Based on the registers of the Herbergen, I will discuss the numbers and recorded occupations of the visitors. In order to understand how different wayfarers made use of these institutions, we have to consider complementary or alternative forms of support. Making reference to my analysis of court records and autobiographical writings, I will discuss the variety of possible careers on the move: Those on the tramp were to various extents in danger of being criminalized and excluded.