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Two hobos walking along railroad tracks after being put off a train. One is carrying a bindle.

A bindle is the bag, sack, or carrying device stereotypically used by the American sub-culture of hobos. The bindle is colloquially known as the blanket stick, particularly within the Northeastern hobo community.

A hobo who carried a bindle was known as a bindlestiff. According to James Blish in his novel A Life for the Stars, a bindlestiff was specifically a hobo who had stolen another hobo's bindle, from the colloquium stiff, as in steal.[citation needed]

In modern popular culture the bindle is portrayed as a stick with cloth or a blanket tied around one end for carrying items, with the entire array being carried over the shoulder. This transferred force to the shoulder, which allowed a longer-lasting and comfortable grip, especially with larger heavier loads. Particularly in cartoons, the bindles' sacks usually have a polka-dot or bandanna design. However, in actual use the bindle can take many forms.

One example of the stick-type bindle can be seen in the illustration entitled The Runaway created by Norman Rockwell for the cover of the September 20, 1958, edition of The Saturday Evening Post.[1]

Though bindles are virtually gone, they are still widely seen in popular culture as a prevalent anachronism.

The term bindle may descend from the German word Bündel, meaning something wrapped up in a blanket and bound by cord for carrying (cf. originally Middle Dutch bundel), or have arisen as a portmanteau of bind and spindle.[2] It may also be from the Scottish dialectal bindle cord or rope to bind things.[3]

Bindle is also a term used in forensics. It is the name for a piece of paper folded into an envelope or packet to hold trace evidence: hairs, fibers or powders.[4] Similarly, bindle is sometimes used to describe a small package of powdered drugs.

See also


  1. ^ "The Runaway (1958) by Norman Rockwell". Artchive. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
  2. ^ "Bindle Definition & Meaning". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
  3. ^ "Bindle Etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 21, 2023.
  4. ^ Evidence Packaging: A How-To Guide (PDF), California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services, p. 32, retrieved May 30, 2023