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    

Tramp Folk Art Primitive 6 Drawer Chest Box Chip Carved Cigar Jewelry MiniatureBizarre Antique Tramp Folk Art Striking Shelf Mantle ClockWonderful Antique Folk Art Tramp Art Jewelery Box Carved Wood Mirror Red Glass BTramp Art Handmade Sewing Box Ca. Late 1800's. Chip Carved With RosettePlaymobil 3392 Circus Clown 1987 & 5504 Policeman & Tramp 1990 Unopened BoxesMark Twain A Tramp Abroad, Illustrated 1906 A Bright Copy Chatto Titian's MosesLowell Fulson ~ "tramp" (kent) Us - 1967 - Original!Lot Of 1 Highgrade Zombie Tramp #1 Unlimited Shipping $5.99Billy Joe Shaver - Tramp On Your Street Lp Original Us Pressing W/ Insert OopAntique Tramp Folk Art Double Picture Frame Arts And Crafts Primitive MissionHand Carved * Last Supper * Jesus * Tramp Art * Relief Shadow Box Picture1900s Antique Vintage Samovar Converted Tramp Folk Art Table Lamp 18" Tall ChimRustic Tramp Art Carved Wood Finials Set Of 5New Black Mesh Tramp Trampoline For Hobie Cat 16 Catamaran Beautiful Antique Tramp Art/folk Art Frame Original Capodimonte Figurine 'tramp On Bench' With His Hat Off - Rare1880 First Edition Of Tramp Abroad By Mark Twain American Publishing CompanyTramp Plaid Wrap Dress Sz S Black Red Tartan Scotish Waitress Punk RockabillySkywalker Trampoline Jumping Mat 14 Foot Square TrampTramp Art Wooden Cigar Box Dates To 1920'sAntique Hand Carved Primitive Tramp Art Picture FrameTramp Blouse Shirt Top Size Small Red White And Blue FlowersPair Antique Hand Carved Wood Tramp Art Victorian Shoe Picture Frame Tintype CdvFleetwood Mac 2 Lp Lot "the Original Fleetwood Mac" + "tramp" ImportsWood Tramp Art Rope, WreathVintage Tramp Art Cane/walking StickNorway Hand Carved Wood Troll Hobo TrampVintage Folk Art Wood Inlay Picture Panel Antique Tramp Art Old TownVintage Folk Tramp Art Steam Punk Hand Made Metal Bird CageVintage Beer Bottle Opener Can Opener South Yankton Nebr. B.a. Tramp Oil & Feed