While some form of mobile kitchens had existed for generations, the invention of the chuckwagon is attributed to Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher who introduced the concept in 1866. Goodnight modified the Studebaker wagon, a durable army-surplus wagon, to suit the needs of cowboys driving cattle from Texas to sell in New Mexico. He added a "chuck box" to the back of the wagon with drawers and shelves for storage space and a hinged lid to provide a flat cooking surface. A water barrel was also attached to the wagon and canvas was hung underneath to carry firewood. A wagon box was used to store cooking supplies and cowboys' personal items. Chuckwagon food typically included easy-to-preserve items like beans and salted meats, coffee, and sourdough biscuits. Food would also be gathered en route. On cattle drives, it was common for the ‘cookie’ who ran the wagon to be second in authority only to the ‘trailboss’. The cookie would often act as cook, barber, dentist, and banker. The term ‘chuck wagon’ comes from ‘chuck’, a slang term for food, and not from the nickname for Charles.

This model by Max Beare was photographed at the 2014 Bristol Exhibition by Michael jones.


Max Beare’s