A hobo drawn with chalk

Mostly True: The West's Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine

by Bill Daniel Author

Welcome to the world of hobo art and railyard subculture

In Texas in the early 1900s, a little chalk drawing started to appear on boxcars: a minimalist sketch of a figure with a 10-gallon hat, smoking a pipe, signed “Bozo Texino.” This famous railroad tag defied the human lifespan, appearing over 100,000 times over 90 years. Who was Bozo Texino? Artist and filmmaker Bill Daniel set out to solve the mystery of the man behind the pipe and hat. It turned into a 25-year quest, taking Daniel on a tour of railyards and graffiti throughout the US. The result was the documentary Who is Bozo Texino? and the book Mostly True—a chronicle of modern-day hobos, rail workers, and a forgotten outsider subculture. Obscure railroad nostalgia, freight-riding stories, interviews with hobos and boxcar artists, historical oddities, and tons of photos of modern-day boxcar tags are all presented in the guise of a vintage rail fanzine. 

The book spotlights beloved railroad artists Matokie Slaughter (Margaret Kilgallen), Colossus of Roads (Russell Butler), Herby (Herbert Meyer), Mind Detergent (Big Will), Twist (Barry McGee), and others, including an interview with itinerant sign painter Heidi Tullman. Contributing writers, researchers, photographers and artists include: John Held Jr., Joey Alone, Duke Riley, Old Broads, Daniel Leen, Eden Batki, Andy Dreamingwolf, North Bank Fred, Michele Lockwood, The Historical Graffiti Society, Susan Phillips, Walt Curtis, Beau Patrick Coulon, O. Winston Link, Murray Hammond, Brad Wescott, Marisa Evans, Roxy Gordon, and many, many others.

The book's design team was Rich McIsaac, Gary Fogelson, Phil Lubliner, Jordan Swartz, and Vald Nahitchevansky.  

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Comments & Reviews

tue 3/5 6:02am

Check out a feature on the 2nd edition on Vox!

"The (mostly) true story of hobo graffiti" -



"Endlessly fascinating and a great document of the folklore and lost world of the rail yard that is being kept alive by a few dedicated tramps, writers and artists."

-Chris Auman, Reglar Wiglar


"In short, this is a cultural anthropologist’s delight. The world we’re allowed a glimpse of is a subculture complete with its own language and social mores. You can learn if someone’s an “oogle” or a “Flintstone,” about the “hard riders” and the “shovelheads,” and enjoy eclectic euphemisms like “caught the westbound” when someone passes on."

-Justin, Poopsheet Foundation


"Ultimately, Mostly True introduces and acquaints us to yet another historical origin point of graffiti and public writing. In the age of endless and vacuous graffiti coffee table books with no written content and no sense of history beyond 1980s NYC subway cars (if that...), this is a massive breath of fresh air. Daniel doesn't skim the surface, but puts us in the conductor's seat. It's a must for anyone interested in train culture, graffiti, hobos and living & making culture outside the lines."


"I'd been meaning to praise this book. Mostly True, billed as "The West's Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine", is a really interesting collection of hobo art related material compiled by filmmaker Bill Daniel. It's a good companion to his Bozo Texino documentary but it also stands up well on its own. There are interviews with and articles about artists like Herby, Colossus of Roads, and Bozo Texino. There are also reprints from hobo related articles from over the years, photo artworks by the late Margaret Kilgallen, pictures of tramp art, and to top it all off there's a cover drawing by TWIST/Barry McGee."


"If the book is as good as the hype, I have a feeling it will be yet another enjoyable read."


" ... an anthology of tramp graffiti, quasi-literate rants ’n’ raves from crusties and die-hard train hoppers and pissed-off rail workers, and folklore lexicography distinguishing the differences between, say, a poke-out vagabond and a bobo. It has so much of the charm and flair of the early Industrial Revolution that your fingers feel sooty after reading it."


"By documenting the remnants of a subculture for whom the slogan "Live free or die" is something other than license plate trim, Bill Daniel reminds us that there once was a time when homelessness wasn't a problem but a choice, and finding work was as easy as hopping the next westbound train."


"In his work, Daniel is attracted to outsiders in the most literal sense -- people who live on the outside of civilization, for whom, in Daniel's eyes, mere survival is an act of artistic expression."


"Packaged as a book and touted as “The West’s Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine,” this could be regarded as a companion piece to the Where’s Bozo Texino? documentary that the author also directed prior. There is a section on Bozo Texino in here, featuring interviews with Grandpa, J.H. McKinley, and the movie. (I imagine the dialogue is excerpted from the film—have yet to see it.) This is designed similar to old journals you would find around the early to mid-1900s. Even the ads look like something out of the past (a few actually are!) If you’ve ever wondered about the graffiti you see on the side of rail cars, this is a good place to look. There are pages of photos, stories, and conversations with some of the artists. It’s a world that’s rarely seen, so reading this was a great breakaway from the usual, and I found myself really intrigued by the whole experience. It’s pretty obvious Bill Daniel is deeply interested in this art and its lifestyle, and that comes through in this book."


" ... a romantic, charming and interesting book ... "


"Just like the title implies I can’t really tell how much of this is true and what is reprinted, or made up. The cover says it’s volume 19, issue 7 and apparently it’s the year 1908. As far as I know I’ve never seen this publication and it definitely seems like more of a book. Am I being really oblivious? I’m sure I am. I really have little understanding of the whole train culture, riding the rails and so forth. But this missive gives a more historical view of it all, mostly through hobo graffiti. I don’t mean the huge murals that real deal artists do on the sides of cars. I mean small tags that hobos and rail yard workers would scribble on every boxcar they could get to dating back to the early 1900’s. Old reports are dug up, newsletters reprinted from the 1930’s regarding different known people who either rode the rails for years and years, or the legends (like ‘Herby’ and ‘Bozo Texino’) who worked in the yards, marking upwards of 300,000 cars in their lifetime with their signature. It seems like the most marginal of interests to pursue- tracking these people down, or their decendents to make a patch of history for it all. But in the end it makes for some good stories. Of course, this book isn’t just a pursuit of mystery railroad graffiti artists. There’s plenty more. Random stories from traveling hobos, lots of photos and art from hobo taggers, all sorts of reprinted and mock advertisements from years past. Again, I’m not sure what to make of it all as it has a rather esoteric quality to it. But it was quirky knowledge to which I admit to have found interesting."


One of the prettiest things I've seen in a long time and only seven bucks to boot. Also, it's cool to see Microcosm putting out things like this, things that are far outside the punk ghetto but still hold totally true to the underground.


"There's very little question that Davida only sent this one to me because she knew I was going to love it! Right there on the cover of Vol. 19, No. 7 it says, "The West's Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine," and for anyone who's even vaguely interested in railroads, this one is the jackpot! Railroading adventures, hobos, loads of photos, even old ads. Featured in this issue, the search for Bozo Texino, and the Colossus of Roads. It's really more of a magazine than a zine, but why be a nitpicker? Don't waste another minute, and get your $6.95 in the mail right away..."



Mostly True: The West’s Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine lives up to it’s title, each page is full of interesting stories, interviews, art and photography. Though the book itself is perfect bound (a type of binding technic for books), it reads more like a magazine or zine that may have originally been sold in separate editions. Whether or not it is the case Bill Daniel is expert at keeping the flow of the book fresh and exciting from cover to cover.

"In this companion book to the film Who Is Bozo Texino? (shot entirely aboard speeding freight trains), Daniel mixes experimental and documentary to provide a captivating look at a little-known art form - hobo boxcar graffiti. Tracing the origins to boxcar graffiti from over 100 years ago, Daniel follows rail graffitis' evolution to modern day hobo gatherings, freight hopping trips and secret hobo jungles. Along the way Daniel interviews numerous old timers who have spent years on the rails drawing their monikers, among them graffiti legends Colossus of Roads, The Rambler, Herby (RIP) and yes even the ever-illusive Bozo Texino. The interviews provide a fascinating glimpse into the harsh realities of tramp life."

"Out of all the books I’m reading this is mostly the best one. Mostly because it’s Hobo zine. It’s got the spunk & spirit of a fanzine but theses Hobo tales take to the rails in the form of a book, nice and fancy like. It’s no punk zine of crummy stapled together zeroxes, this here bound paper has the air of Hobo pride. You could rightly say that this train book is perfect bound. Now some people might right about now be jumping to conclusions about Hoboes. I’ll tell you right here and now that it ain’t no Homo typo. And it ain’t a bum askin’ for a hand out. If that’s what you thought than you can just ferget it. Hoboes are well traveled adventurous folk. They know how to tell a tale, mostly cause they seen it with they’re own eyes . The funky dudes who ride for free… freedom riders on the freights, from They just hop on a freight and ride from here to there with the wind in their hair. And by hair I mean scragely beards because they’re most likely wearing some kind of dirty hat. Hobo hats can get pretty dirty when they’re takin’ a nap in them there boxcars. Napping may sound like some sort of bum activity, but don’t get it twisted, Hoboes are a hard workin’ folk. ‘Bos are well traveled and many are accomplished artists. Many thousands, and by thousands I mean millions of Hobo drawings & monikers can be seen across the country, back and forth, from coast to coast. The well known arteest and man of mystery Bozo Texino was the subject of Bill Daniel’s critically acclaimed documentary & you could say that this here book is the compendium to that fine flick… “Who is Bozo Texino?” Buy this book and you might just find yourself some answers. You also might find that Mostly True is treasure trove of Hobo graffitti, a true and livin’ geniuine American art form."

"this is totally worth a read"