A Washington State nonprofit corporation
Established in 2018 by father and son Mike & Charlie Wray, the Historic Graffiti Society discovers, preserves, and records markings of consequence with an emphasis on the Hobo era.
In 2009, we began setting aside a week each year for a road trip together. We began by exploring ghost towns and abandoned structures in Washington State. The wet, Northwest climate really did a number on most buildings, and what was left was often vandalized and destroyed. It was difficult to get a sense of what the spaces were like when people inhabited them, and we were always left wanting more.
Around 2011 we focused on mines and mining camps. Here, we were able to find more of a fingerprint left behind by those who had worked and lived in these spaces. We found newspapers, canned food, homemade chess boards, and mining claim documents. One mine we visited required chest waders to slog through the waist deep water that flooded the first quarter mile of the adit. After coming out of the water, we happened upon a side tunnel that was full of graffiti left behind by the miners. Using their carbide lanterns they had burned their names, the date, and sometimes pictures onto the walls of the mine. This find planted the seed for what would be years of travel to document other historic markings.
In mid 2013 we were drawn in by the railroad. While taking a trip along the Milwaukee road, we realized how much hobo graffiti was still left, and how little it had been documented. While we are interested in all historic graffiti, our hearts are with the American hobo, and the Great Depression that cemented his place in history.
Mike is a retired engineer, residing in Seattle, Washington. Charlie works as a photographer and photo editor, and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Michelle Schmidt. "Making their mark." Inland 360, September 2019
Fulda Free Press. "Historic Graffiti Society Visits." Fulda's Heritage, August 2019
Mattson, Jason. “Tramp Moniker Exhibit.” The Lewis County Historian, Winter 2019
Ehrlick, Darrell. “'The King of Tramps' was here.” Billings Gazette, December 28, 2014
"Moniker: Mark of the American Hobo." Making Your Mark: The first National Symposium for the study of Historic Graffiti. University of Southampton, UK. 2019.