A historical recreation of a chuckwagon in Austin, Texas courtesy en.wikipedia.org.
The food truck, apparently, predates the automobile. Charles Goodnight, a cattle herder in Texas, gook a sturdy old army wagon and built shelves and drawers in it. He added tableware, utensils and dishes and spices. He opened for business serving the local cowboys who were participating in lengthy cattle drives. For sale were items like coffee, corn,meal, dried beans, smoked bacon, salt pork and dried beef. These wagons, which became popular after the Civil War, were called chuck wagons.
Night wagons appeared by the 1890's in big cities such as New York City. They were built with a separate area for dishes, washing up and preparing food. Wagon owners would rise as early as 3 am to bake biscuits and prepare breakfast. Diners would affectionately refer to the cooks as "cookies". Food was prepared relatively quickly and cost a reasonable amount.
Food truck in Chicago circa 1920's courtesy blgo.krrb.com.
Pushcarts were a variation on the food wagons. While food could not be prepared in a pushcart, its owner sold meat pies, sandwiches and fruits. In their early days, pushcart enjoyed popularity in New York City and Chicago among construction workers and garment workers.
In the 1950's the mobile canteen appeared on military bases across the United States. The ice cream truck appeared in American suburbs in the same decade. Many a youth remembers running down the street, his mouth salivating anticipating the tasty treat, after hearing the musical sounds emanate from the ice cream truck. Sadly, some children were run over by ice cream trucks and in Canada, they were replaced with bicycles. Remember the Dickie Dee man?
Ice cream truck in East Fresno, California circa 1950 courtesy pinimg.com.
In the 1960's roach coaches, named after the often unhygienic practices they used and the dirty alleys that they parked in, were a commonplace sight in big American cities (and a few Canadian cities like Toronto). They served simple items like hamburgers and tacos.
By the 2000's food trucks enjoyed a cleaner image. Shiny new parks were built in major cities, just to house food trucks. College campuses, office complexes, industrial parks, movie sets and farmers' markets were all popular locations for food trucks. Weddings, school dances and birthday parties all hired food trucks. No longer just serving typical fast food, the trucks celebrated ethnic cuisine. The phenomenon of the food truck festival started in cities like Taste of Chicago (the world's biggest) and Toronto's Taste of the Danforth (Greek cuisine).
Blue Donkey Streatery in Mississauga, Ontario courtesy www.torontolife.com.