A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 03, 2006
Chuck Wagon

The “chuck wagon” has been recognized as an official state vehicle of Texas. It is often claimed that the “chuck wagon” was invented by Charles Goodnight during his cattle drive of 1866, but the term “mess wagon” had earlier been applied for the same type of vehicle carrying provisions.

The cook often drove the chuck wagon. Attached to the back of the chuck wagon was the “chuck box” (a pantry).


Wikipedia: Chuckwagon
A chuckwagon was originally a wagon that carried food and cooking equipment on the prairies of the United States and Canada. They would form a part of a wagon train of settlers or feed nomadic workers like cowboys or loggers. It was common for the “cookie” who ran the wagon to be second only to the “trailboss” on a cattle drive. The cookie would often act as cook, barber, dentist, and banker.

While some form of mobile kitchens had existed for generations the invention of the chuckwagon is accredited to Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher who introduced the concept in 1866. Chuck was then a slang term for food. Chuckwagon food included easy to preserve items like beans and salted meats, coffee, and sourdough biscuits. Food would also be gathered en route. In Texas, it is said that chile peppers were planted along the cattle trails to serve for future use.

Wikipedia: Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight born on (March 5, 1836 – December 12, 1929) was a cattle rancher in the American West. He was born in Macoupin County, Illinois, the fourth child of Charles and Charlotte (Collier) Goodnight. Goodnight is very well known in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas.

Goodnight moved to Texas in 1846 with his mother and stepfather, Hiram Daugherty. In 1856, he became a cowboy and served with the local militia, fighting against Comanche raiders. A year later, in 1857, Goodnight joined the Texas Rangers. Goodnight is also known for guiding Texas Rangers to the Indian camp where Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured, and for later making a treaty with her son, Quanah Parker.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederacy. Most of his time was spent as part of a frontier regiment guarding against raids by Indians. Following the war, he became involved in the herding of feral Texas Longhorn cattle northward from West Texas to railroads. In 1866, he and Oliver Loving drove their first herd of cattle northward along what would become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Goodnight invented the chuckwagon, which was first used on the initial cattle drive. Upon arriving in New Mexico, they formed a partnership with New Mexico cattleman John Chisum for future army cattle contracts. After Loving’s death, Goodnight and Chisum extended the trail from New Mexico to Colorado, and eventually to Wyoming.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
chuck wag(g)on
N. Amer.
A wagon carrying provisions and equipped with cooking facilities, used esp. in western N. America, on ranches, during harvest, in lumber camps, etc.; also, a roadside ‘eatery’. chuck-wagon race, in rodeos and stampedes, a race of horse-drawn chuck wagons.

1890 L. D’OYLE Notches 26 The sun blistered the paint upon the ‘mess-box’ behind the ‘chuck-waggon’.
1910 MULFORD Hopalong Cassidy iii. 25 A group of blanket-swathed figures lay about a fire near the chuck wagon.
1923 H. STEELE Spirit-of-Iron 252 In a little gully beside the chuck-wagon, the cook was boiling coffee.
1928 Daily Express 12 Nov. 6 [In Calgary] cowboys..invited us to have dinner with them earlier at the chuck-wagon.
1950 H. SUTTON Footloose in Canada 211 In a chuck wagon race the entrants are required at a given signal to break an entire camp..load all the paraphernalia in a wagon, do a series of figure eights around barrels, and then ride once around the track.
1952 H. INNES Campbell’s Kingdom I. ii. 33 A small covered wagon stood in the yard… ‘That’s the old man’s chuck wagon… Always enters a team for the chuck wagon races.’

Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo
Old West
Chuck Wagon
Cookoff
STAR OF TEXAS FAIR & RODEO
Austin, Texas

Legend has it that in 1866 a Texas cattleman named Charles Goodnight loaded a hinged box with compartments and shelves onto the back of an Army wagon, filled it with supplies, and used it as a kitchen during a cattle drive. As food was known as chuck, his invention became the chuck wagon, and the totable kitchen is still so popular in Texas, the legislature deemed it the state’s official vehicle just last year.

Written by: Eborah Geigis Berry, Country Living: April 2006
The Annual Star of Texas Chuck Wagon Cook-off featured trail wagons similar to those used 50 or more years ago. Wagons are customary old-style trail wagons, authentically restored or replicated. The wagons are drivable, with at least two sideboards, painted or unpainted; and may include Dutch oven boot or possum belly. 

Texas Legislature
SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, The Legislature of the State of Texas is pleased to recognize the importance of the chuck wagon to the state’s history and culture and to designate it as the official vehicle of Texas; and

WHEREAS, The chuck wagon has been important in Texas since the great cattle drives that lasted from the end of the Civil War to the mid-1880s; during that period, approximately 10 million head of
cattle were driven along trails all the way from Texas to railheads in Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming, and Canada; and

WHEREAS, During the early days of the trail drives, a cowboy relied for survival strictly on what he could carry with him, experiencing hunger and discomfort; and

WHEREAS, In 1866, Texas rancher and Civil War veteran Charles Goodnight first used an army surplus Studebaker wagon on the trail drive; the Studebaker proved itself sturdy enough to withstand
trail drives that could last up to five months; and

WHEREAS, Goodnight then designed and added a chuck box and a boot to the rear of his wagon; this innovation became the prototype for all future chuck wagons; the wagon’s box was used to carry the cowboys’ bedrolls, guns, personal effects, bulk food supplies, feed for the horses, and other supplies; and

WHEREAS, Today The American Chuck Wagon Association has 123 registered chuck wagons and over 200 members; the association’s members are committed to restoring and maintaining chuck wagons with their own resources, which has ensured that the chuck wagon will continue to function as a viable tool on many of our Texas ranches and add to our state’s historical and cultural charm; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 79th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby acknowledge the important value of preserving the chuck wagon and designate the chuck wagon as the official vehicle of Texas; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution be prepared as an expression of esteem from the Texas Legislature.

14 March 1884, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 1:
Chuck wagons shall be furnished and run by the following named persons:...

14 July 1884, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 3:
An Indian squaw, prospecting on the chuck wagon during a storm, was struck by lightning and killed.

17 May 1889, Marion (Ohio) Star, pg. 3:
The most important article in a cowboy’s outfit is the “chuck wagon.” This is the wagon over which the cook presides, and it is a common prairie schooner, covered with canvas to keep out the rain. Next to the “chuck” wagon is the pony, which usually costs about $25, and is a vicious little animal liable to “buck” every time it is mounted.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, August 03, 2006 • Permalink