The Rise of the Food Truck

The Rise of the Food Truck

Posted on Apr 29th, 2022

For the last several years, we’ve watched the rise of the food truck from delicious hot dog carts to taco wagons and to an all-out gourmet battle driven by the food-truck followers you see today. The variety of food trucks is never-ending as well – from ethnic to fusion cuisine, cupcakes and ice cream and everything in-between.

According to a source, more than 2.5 billion people eat street food from a food truck every day! (tweet this)

Have you ever wondered where the food truck phenomenon originated and how it became so popular? We decided to do some historical digging to find out. In this blog post, we’ll chronicle the rise of the American food truck. Grab your coffee and hang on; it’s a wild ride…

Humble Beginnings in Rhode Island

According to the NY Times, the entire food truck industry can be traced back to the year 1872 when Walter Scott, a vendor, parked his covered wagon in front of a local newspaper office in Providence, Rhode Island. Having pre-cut windows in the wagon, he sat on the inside box and sold sandwiches, pies and coffee to the newspaper’s hard-working pressman and journalists.

Word soon spread, and the night-time lunch wagon was born. In 1888, a young Massachusetts lunch-counter boy named Thomas H. Buckley built himself a lunch wagon, and he called it the Owl. This play on words was a reference to the nocturnal hours diners kept. Buckley oversaw its construction and went on to manufacturer a series of successful lunch wagon designs. His best-known model was the White House Café.

Within 10 years, Buckley’s wagons were in 275 towns across the United States. He roamed around looking for towns that could support one of his wagons. If no one was interested in purchasing one, he set himself up under the direction of a capable, handpicked manager. It’s been said he might have established the first nationwide chain. He is fondly referred to as the “Original Lunch Wagon King.”

Buckley’s wagons often had colored windows, mahogany woodwork, ornaments, sinks, refrigerators and cooking stoves. He also introduced fancy wagons with silver and brass embellishments, plate-glass mirrors and gorgeous mosaics.

After his early death at the age of 35 in 1903, the Worcester Lunch Car Company came into business. Their lunch wagon later morphed into the first non-moving dining car in the early 1900s turning into the diner as we now know it.

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