Frugal Lessons From The Past: Harlan Hubbard

History can provide some of the best lessons to help us figure out solutions to today’s problems.

Concerning finances, thrift, frugality and simple living there are tried and true bedrock principals that we should never forget.

This post is part of a series that focuses on some of those principals by going to source materials for inspiration.

In the fall of 1944 Harlan Hubbard and his wife Anna began building a homemade boat, a shantyboat, the first step in actually accomplishing their long held dream of drifting down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River to New Orleans. After several summer long stops they reached their goal in March of 1950. In this excerpt from his book about the journey, Shantyboat, A River Way of Life, he explains why he wanted to undertake the journey.

“There were other and deeper reasons for my going down to the river. I thought I might be able to engage there in certain harmless and simple activities which town, and even country, interfered with. For where can one find more freedom than on the river? The fields and woods are all owned by someone, and beyond the narrow bounds of the public road the walker is trespassing. I do not say the river is entirely outside the law, although we have been told of certain sections that are, but it affords a chance for a more unhampered life than any other accessible region.”

“I had no theories to prove. I merely wanted to try living by my own hands, independent as far as possible from a system of division of labor in which the participant loses most of the pleasure of making and growing things for himself. I wanted to bring in my own fuel and smell its sweet smoke as it burned on the hearth I had made. I wanted to grow my own food, catch it in the river, or forage after it. In short, I wanted to do as much as I could for myself, because I had already realized from partial experience the inexpressible joy of doing so.”

Related Reading:

Frugal Lessons From The Past: Carl Faber


  1. Good one! I may have to track down that book.

  2. Very cool. There's a certain romance to that. I've been looking into Tumbleweed Houses for much the same reason. Mobility. Self sufficiency. Freedom to move around. My DH, always the pragmatist, reminds me, "But where would I put my books?" So I said we could have a small house for travel and live in an apartment when we retire. Or he could put everything on a Kindle....


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