Ben Lewis Reitman papers




University of Illinois at Chicago, Special Collections and University Archives Department at the Richard J. Daley Library


48.0 Linear feet


Bulk, 1907-1942




Reitman, Ben L. (Ben Lewis), 1879-1942

Biographical note

Hobo, physician and anarchist, Ben Reitman (1879-1942) was an advocate for the disadvantaged in Chicago and throughout the country. Reitman left school at age ten to become a hobo. He tramped around the U.S., panhandling and riding the rails until he returned to Chicago and took a job as a laboratory boy. In 1900, he was admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Reitman started a private practice on Chicago’s South Side in 1904. He continued to champion the causes of hobos and the unemployed as director of the Brotherhood Welfare Association, or "Hobo College." Through their organizing activities, Reitman met anarchist Emma Goldman. In addition to their romantic involvement, Reitman acted as Goldman’s manager. In 1917, Reitman re-established his medical practice in Chicago that served prostitutes, pimps and gangsters. Reitman became a specialist in the treatment of venereal disease and opened the first venereal disease clinic at the Cook County Jail in 1924.

Scope and Contents note

The Ben Lewis Reitman Papers include correspondence, clippings, articles, reports, and photographs on such topics as birth control, female transients, venereal disease, hobos, anarchism and prisoners. It includes material about social settlements in Chicago, including Hull-House, and correspondence with Emma Goldman and Jessie Binford, Executive Director of the Juvenile Protective Association.

Processing Information note

This collection was surveyed as part of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium's Survey Initiative on 2009 November 30 by Lisa Calahan, Andrew Steadham, and Lauren Kalal.

Related Archival Materials note

Within this repository: Irwin St. John Tucker papers.

Outside of this repository: Dill Pickle Club records - Newberry Library.