Popularized in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the term "tramp art" refers to hand-crafted decorative objects made by layering small wood chips. The edges of the wood were not carved, and the layers were held together with nails or with glue made from animals and heated to become adhesive. Most tramp art items were made with simple tools such as a pocket knife.

Contrary to popular belief, tramp art wasn't created by travelers in exchange for food or housing but by local untrained artisans. These artists were not anonymous, but instead celebrated, and often featured in newspapers and given awards.

Tramp artists utilized scrounged recycled materials such as cigar boxes, packing crates, and corrugated cardboard. Although the most common tramp art pieces are boxes, the style was used to decorate everything from frames to clock cases to furniture to crucifixes.

The heart motif is very prevalent in tramp art designs, and boxes with hearts (such as jewelry or sewing boxes) were often made as gifts for loved ones.

Tramp art was made world-wide, wherever materials were available, but it was more prevalent in areas with long, cold winters as it gave local men something to occupy their time. Although early historians believed that the style began in Europe, pieces seem to have originated in both Europe and the U.S. at the same time. European tramp art can sometimes be identified by the cigar boxes that were used, and many European tramp art pieces incorporate velvet and brass.

Tramp art was a predominantly male art form and open to individual interpretation. There are no set patterns or cultural styles, so each piece reflects the artistry and culture of its creator. No two pieces are identical.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum's website showcases current and past exhibitions along with their permanent collection… [read review or visit site]

Anonymous Works

Anonymous Works

This blog combines American primitive folk art, vintage vernacular photography, outsider art, and other interesting… [read review or visit site]

The Outsider Art Pages

The Outsider Art Pages

A modern look at folk and outsider art with a focus on what people are doing to keep these traditions alive. The si… [read review or visit site]

Folk Art in Bottles

Folk Art in Bottles

Whether you call them Bottle Whimseys, Whimsey Bottles, Puzzle Bottles, or Whimsies, this site showcases great folk… [read review or visit site]

Index of American Design

Index of American Design

The Index of American Design project (1935-1942) was an effort to catalog American decorative arts objects from the… [read review or visit site]

Stoveburner.com

Stoveburner.com

A stunning collection of 162 images of stoveburners, those corroded cast iron elements that power stoves, broilers,… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1880 Mark Twain A Tramp Abroad 1st Edition / 328 Illustrations Compare@$1250 +nrCigar Box Guitar/resonator/parlor/tenor/slide/ Tramp Box GuitarsTramp Art FrameA Giuseppe Cappe Porcelain Figure Of A Tramp With Dog 20th CenturyVtg Antique Picture Frame Tramp Art Chip Art Gold Detail Stepped Sawtooth FrameVintage Folk Tramp Art 5 X 7 Inch Picture FrameLarge Vintage Folk Tramp Art Wood ChestZombie Tramp 13 Back Room Comics Exclusive Variant Cover Signed Harrison Wood NmAntique 1800's Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Art Wood Tramp Cabinet Cupboard Pie Safe2 P Vintage Art Deco Bakelite Coffee Mill Grinder Diff. Red Colour Tramp 1940s Antique Wood Tramp Art Hand Carved-hand Painted Circus Fair Figure 1920sZombie Tramp 13 Risque Blank Variant Cover Set Action Lab Comics Antique, Depression Era, Gold Tramp Art Box With MirrorTramp - Put A Record On Orig. Uk Lp Fleetwood MacZombie Tramp #13 Comic Book Limited Edition VariantVintage Italian Capodimonte Artist Signed Tramp/hobo On Bench Figurine Piero Large Figurine "tramp On Bench" - Excellent Condition Tramp Art, Folk Art Picture Frame, East Lake Style, 20 7/8" × 8 3/4"Tramp - S/t Orig. Uk Lp Fleetwood Mac1999 Hallmark Keepsake Lady & The Tramp The Family Portrait Ornament W/boxFrank Sinatra 7" Vinyl Ep - The Lady Is A TrampSkimpy El Nino 6" Reach Belt Oil Skimmer Tramp Oil Skimmer - Quality Made In UsaTramp Art Popsicle Stick Lamp 4 Story Helix Rare Size Excellent Condition 24.5"hVanity Fair Small 5 Illumination Thong Panty Sissy/tramp Underwear Satin Trim O.c.smith.the Son Of Hickory Holler's Tramp.cbs.single 7" Vinyl.45rpmFreddy Tramp Oil Separator UsedAntique Tramp Art Frame Germany 1900 - Old Family PictureTramp's Chair - Sam Oset Samoset Hotel - Rockland Me Zombie Tramp Ongoing #13 Risque Var (mr) Action Lab Naughty NudeZombie Tramp Ongoing #13 Main Cvr (mr) - Action Lab RareZombie Tramp #13 - Tmchu Variant Ltd To 2500 - Action Lab - 2015