The following is a guest post for the Feast Your Eyes series by Brett Carnell, Head of Technical Services, Prints and Photographs Division.
Growing up in a ranching community means that when autumn is in the air, my mind drifts to the legendary fall roundup and its iconic chuck wagon as depicted in classic Western novels and films. My mouth waters for a tin plate of beans and a hunk of sourdough bread washed down with a strong cup of cowboy coffee, all accompanied by cheerful cowboy banter.
Historic photographs at the Library of Congress depict the realities of the chuck wagon. The cook gets his job done with just an open fire and a few cast iron pots. Hard-working cowboys take a break from their saddles and sit on the hard ground to eat. They balance their tin plates on their laps or place them directly on the ground. They use the knives of their trade as eating utensils. No doubt dinner sometimes included a dab of dust and the occasional bug.
This outdoor dining experience is a far cry from the tail-gate barbecues football fans are enjoying this fall!
- Enjoy more photos depicting chuck wagons from the collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
- View photos depicting chuck wagons and ranching culture from the Library of Congress American Folklife Center’s “Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945 to 1982”.
- Read cowboys’ first-hand accounts of eating from a chuck wagon. These interviews are part of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division’s “American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940”.