Nelson Algren sitting in a suit looking at the camera and holding a paper

Talk: “The Depression-Era Hobo Experiences of UIUC Students and Faculty On the Road with Nelson Algren, William Attaway, and Harry Partch”

The Spurlock Museum presents the talk “The Depression-Era Hobo Experiences of UIUC Students and Faculty: On the Road with Nelson Algren, William Attaway, and Harry Partch” on Thursday, December 20 at 4:00 pm. During the Great Depression thousands of men and women rode the rails to survive. Among them were at least two University of Illinois graduates and one future University of Illinois faculty. All three were be deeply impacted by their experiences and drew upon them in their later artistic endeavors.

Nelson Algren, William Attaway, and Harry Partch reshaped American literature and music in the mid-20th century. As Depression-era students at UIUC, Algren and Attaway struggled to get by and took to the road in search of work and opportunity, experiences later documented in their fiction. Partch, a UIUC music professor in the late 1950s and early 1960s, transformed his life as a hobo into innovative and influential musical performances.

Drawing on published and unpublished work by all three men, University of Illinois PhD candidate Nathan Tye (History) uncovers their lives on the road and the lasting legacy of the Great Depression on the University of Illinois.

This event is part of the Spurlock’s Third Thursday Series highlighting University history and is held in conjunction with the Spurlock Museum’s temporary exhibit Knowledge at Work: The University of Illinois at 150. This exhibit explores the history of campus as a community of educators, researchers, and students engaged in learning, research, and public service. Learn about the contributions of a wide variety of people and groups to campus history and ways the University has changed how it relates to the people it serves. The exhibit runs through December 21, 2018.

Look for more Third Thursday lectures in 2019 as we bring researchers from across campus to share new insights and outcomes of their work.

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For further information on this event, contact Beth Watkins at (217) 265-5485 or

To request disability-related accommodations for this event, please contact Brian Cudiamat at (217) 244-5586 or (email link).