Today gourmet food trucks can be found in every major U.S. city, but the initial concept of the food truck and “mobile kitchens” have been around since the 1860s. It came as a part of the westward migration which helped in defining the U.S. as a pioneering country. The first transportable meals came from the American West and chuck wagons. The invention of the chuck wagon is attributed to the Texas Ranger, Charles Goodnight. He realized that having a mobile kitchen would make it easier when feeding hungry cattlemen. On the East Coast this same concept became known as the lunch wagons, which later on become diners.
The humbler beginnings of these mobile eateries have been elevated to a nationwide sensation, even spurring a TV show. There was also a recent episode on the History Channel which delves into the origins of the food truck in America.
The image above depicts Brooklyn Navy Yard workers buying lunch at the Mobile Canteen lunch truck, most likely a quick lunch option for the workers on a busy schedule while also being a suitable and affordable alternative to bringing their own lunch.
This image comes from the The Anthony M. Costanzo Brooklyn Navy Yard collection, which was donated to Brooklyn Historical Society in 1987. Anthony Costanzo was employed by the Navy as a Public Information Officer for the U.S. Department of the Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in its declining years of the 1960s. He held this position until the decommissioning of the Navy Yard in 1966.
Interested in seeing more photographs from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery which includes a selection of our images. To search our entire collection of images, visit BHS Othmer Library Wed-Fri 1:00-5:00 p.m.