In 2008 we saw the rise of the food truck, and it became a fixture of our culinary world almost overnight. Today the idea of gourmet creations coming from chefs working inside vehicles isn’t as tough to comprehend as it might have been in the 1990s or 1980s.
But I’m interested in going further back. I want to look at how food trucks have evolved in the 20th century.
So join me on this visual tour into the humble beginnings of the food truck.
We start in the 1880s (I know, not the 20th century, but it adds perspective) when the food truck was quite archaic. In the American prairies, as communities of brave souls expanded westward, chuckwagons, as they were called, would joined crews of roundup camps to guarantee they had some sustenance during the day.
The picture below is of a chuckwagon joining a roundup camp in Wyoming. It had one specific purpose, and its basic setup can vouche for that. No eye-catching marketing here!
Here’s a lunch wagon in New York, 1908. This definitely looks like a precursor to our food trucks nowadays, but it definitely brings to mind all the advantages that came with living in a major city at this time.
And just to emphasize my point, here’s a chuckwagon in Texas in 1912. Doesn’t look a whole lot different than the one from the 1880s.
And yet, look at how different (dare I say more modern?) this Los Angeles fruit truck looks in the 1920s, only 8 years later. Fruit vendors parked on the city streets and sold their produce straight from the truck. Even today, LA fruit vendors choose to display their produce this way from their trucks.
Chicago in the 1920s also had lunch trucks serving meals to the public, but notice the differences between this truck and the one in New York in 1908.
Here’s another example of how technological advancements in food trucks did not simultaneously develop throughout the states. In New Orleans in the 1940s, waffles were still being served from horse-drawn trucks. (I wonder how good of a deal 4 hot waffles for $0.05 was back then)
And finally, here’s something that probably won’t surprise or shock you; in fact, I have a feeling we’ve all grown up seeing these. Here’s a 1951 peanut and popcorn truck from the Orange County Fairgrounds. The iconic popcorn truck in all it’s glory.
And just in case you need a refresher to remind yourself what year it is, here’s an infographic by Lindsey McCormack, offering more information about today’s food truck trend
“The Food Truck: A Photographic Retrospective.” Accessed 19 August 2012.
“The Rise of the Social Food Truck.” Accessed 19 August 2012.