Hitchhiker’s Thumb Facts
The first known mention of hitchhiking was in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, it says: “And Noah built an altar unto YHWH” (Genesis 7:1). The word yahweh means God or Jehovah. Later, in the Old Testament, it refers to Yahweh as well as Jesus Christ.
The term was used in reference to travelers who were looking for work and needed money. They would offer their services at the temple of Yahweh, which was located near where they lived.
In the 19th century, it became popularized due to William Jennings Bryan’s speeches during the American Civil War. His speeches included such statements as: “I want nothing but honest labor and fair play; I will not accept any bargain that does not admit of either.” Bryan was referring to the Union and Confederate governments.
It is believed that the first recorded use of hitchhiking occurred in 1883 when a man named Charles Hallett hitchhiked from New York City to San Francisco. Since then, it has become common practice among people around the world.
There are many theories as to how hitchhiking originated. One of the most popular is that it comes from the practice of carrying a thumb with a broken nail from being stuck in the back of a cart or carriage as a sign that one is a poor wayfaring stranger.
Another theory, which is also popular, is the hand-in-hand theory. It says that when walking along the road, people used to hold hands to ensure they didn’t get lost. This was especially important in the English countryside, which is more open and less populated than other places.
Of course, it is also possible that hitchhiking developed independently in different places and times. For all we know, the practice could have originated in ancient Crete or even Stone Age Europe.
For the most part, hitchhiking is legal as long as it is on the shoulder or in a location that is not dangerous. In many places, it is illegal to hitchhike on the highway or near intersections. It is also generally advised that you do not pick up a hitcher if you are alone.
There are multiple reasons why you might want to pick up a hitchhiker. Perhaps you are headed in the same direction. Perhaps you feel bad for them. Maybe you just want some company or someone to talk to.
Whatever the reason, it is important that you do not pick up hitchhikers who are underdressed or otherwise ill prepared for the outside world. This applies especially in winter. If they tell you they have clothes in their backpack, ask to see them. Alternatively, you could offer them a spare coat or sweatshirt and ask them to change into it.
Hitchhiking has been around for a long time and, despite all the dangers involved, continues to be popular among travelers today. Whether you’re picking up a hitchhiker due to your own kindness or someone offering you a ride out of kindness, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Sources & references used in this article:
Body Parts: Double-Jointedness, Hitchhiker’s Thumb, and More by S Munir, A Sadeeqa, B Nergis, N Tariq, N Sajjad – world Journal of Zoology, 2015
The Hitchhiker’s Thumb: A Cross-Country Ticket or the Omen of Criminality-The Constitutionality of the Washington Type Anti-Hitchhiking Law by B Silverman – 2017 – books.google.com
Thumbs by FM Onyije, CA Oyinbo, EG Waritimi – Eur J. Appl. Sc, 2012
Bilateral total hip replacement in a diastrophic dwarf by RJ Spjut – USFL Rev., 1970 – HeinOnline
Bullshitting: Road lore among hitchhikers by G Cash – Nature, 2011 – nature.com
Diastrophic dysplasia: A case report by RS Bell, RE Rosenthal – Orthopedics, 1980 – healio.com