Below is a short history of the knot sent by ‘Hobo Spike’.
In the days of piracy, when there was only wind power, the sailors had to somehow get the ships together in times of distress. This is almost impossible on the high seas. Someone got the idea to throw a rope to the other ship to pull them together. This didn’t work. Then it was decided to tie a rope around a cannonball and sling it to the other ship. The problem was that they needed a knot that would stay secure on a round object so this “Monkey’s Fist knot was devised. It is the only knot that will stay secure on a round object.
This knot became known as a “Monkey’s Fist” knot because, as with a monkey, it won’t turn loose of an object. A monkey will put it’s fist inside a jar, grab hold of an object and won’t turn loose. Therefore anyone can use this plan to catch a monkey.
Since this knot has long leads, it can be thrown to another ship and became known as a life line. It was used to rescue people when ships were in distress.
The “Monkey’s Fist” knot has been adopted by the Hobo Community as a symbol of sorority and fraternity. A life line between Hoboes.
“A Brief Bit More Monkey Fist Lore”
Apart from any fraternal symbolism attached to it, the Monkey’s Fist was also a preferred self defense weapon among the poor and transient people of the late 1800s and early 1900s. If you care to research the matter further, check your local laws. If you do a search of your state’s laws, you will find reference to an illegal weapon called a “Slung Shot.” While an improvised Slung Shot can be made by placing a padlock inside a sock (for one example) the traditional Slung Shot has always been a Monkey’s Fist with a heavy lead shot loaded inside the knot of the fist and often worn around the neck.
This line throwing tool turned weapon was first used widely by Sailors, in agreement with your comments on your page, and slowly spread out from the Docks and Wharf areas into Depression Era America. The passage of laws against “Slung Shots” and “Monkey’s Fists” was a clear case of Law Enforcement specifically targeting the transient population. Any “Bo” found to be in possession of one of these items could be guaranteed a protracted stay on the County Farm.