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The history of food delivery

I'm writing a paper on the history of food delivery, and strangely, have found little research out there on the topic. If anyone has any information as to articles, books, journals, websites, etc. about this topic, I would really appreciate it. I have a feeling I am going to have to dig out the information from not so obvious sources. Thank you!

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  1. Are you researching home food delivery, or food delivery over enormous distances?

    1. Well, both, sort of. I am writing an entry for an encyclopedia on the food industry, and the subject is food delivery, so I will probably focus on home food delivery, although that could include food delivery over long distances (especially when you are talking about how food devliery got started). I am afraid if I get into business to business delivery, my paper will be too long, although I would like to include grocery stores that deliver groceries to the home, because it played a large part in the history of it all.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodrocks

        Perhaps check into the oldest off-site food-prep culture of all - China. Much has been written about early Chinese take-out, from hot-water-for-tea to roast duck. I wonder if this take-out culture(based on lack of fuel in private homes due to expense) also branched into delivery in its time. Worth a look for your paper. Sorry, I have no specific references to scholarly journals for you.

      2. I can only try and point you in the right direction but I would look towards the earliest forms of transportation. On a small scale I'd say horse & carriage, on a large scale maybe a merchant ship. I can't remember the company name, but I'm thinking it was Sear's Roebuck & Co. that delivered certain foods via Pony Express. If I remember more I'll post here.

        2 Replies
          1. re: LindaWhit

            That was good reading. i love learning about stuff like that.

        1. Thanks! Any little bit helps, thats for sure.

          1. http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/

            I would highly recommend investigating the "Food on the Go" 2007 resource at the NY Food Museum. Share with the staff your quest for research. Good luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              That looks like an interesting site to explore. I am betting that the concept of home (as opposed to someone setting up a cart on a corner and selling from it) food delivery in the US probably started with the push cart vendors in NY and spread to where we have the likes of Schwans and more specialized vendors. Home dairy delivery has to go pretty far back too, likely back into European roots where people living in a crowded city were unlikely to keep a cow. A very interesting idea to explore. good luck with it.

              1. re: HillJ

                Unfortunately, I live in Chicago and cannot get to the museum to see the exhibit. I did email the address listed on the website, so hopefully someone will right me back with some help. Thanks for the post.

                1. re: foodrocks

                  Sorry, didn't make the Chicago connection. However, I've work as a field researcher 25 years, on the Internet eight. If its important to you, call the museum and work directly with research pros. Your topic is interesting and foot soliders are avail to help you along.

              2. the only problem with the best of chicago source is they don't provide where they found all that information, and I have yet been able to prove that any of that is true. I wrote and spoke with a few people from the website, but no one has gotten back to me yet on the sources they used to write that paper, and unfortunately, if I cannot prove any of it is true...I cannot use it.

                1. Call Barbara Haber, a renowned food historian, at the Schleschinger Library. She knows everything.

                  1. Wow, good idea. Thanks!

                    1. Food delivery over long distance is mentioned in the Bible! (Apocryphal Additions to Daniel, AKA "Bel et Draco", ch. 14. Long distance delivery of lentil stew by prophet transported by Angel pulling him by the hair. Really. Look it up.

                      1. Write: Barbara Haber, 5 Woodside Road, Winchester, MA 01890
                        Phone: 781-729-3378
                        E-Mail: barbarahaber10@aol.com
                        Web: www.barbarahaber.net

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: HillJ

                          I just wrote her and got a good suggestion. Thanks for the help, guys!

                          1. re: foodrocks

                            Barbara Haber is a true professional who will go out of her way to help a colleague. An added bonus: her humor!

                            Good luck on your paper.

                        2. Lhardy in Madrid claims to have invented european restaurant take-out and delivery
                          in 1838. Not much to go on there, but there it is.

                          1. Not especially old, but a quirky variant on food delivery: the "rolling store", common in rural south LA during the 30s-40s-50s. Basically a converted panel van/schoolbus with the variety of a general store, plus produce. The rolling stores drove up and down the bayou roads every other week or so--farm wives could buy stuff, or special-order and it would be delivered on the next visit. I think the Library of Congress has some archival photos, I've seen copies somewhere.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                              Good stuff! If you have any more ideas on where to find this info, please let me know! Thank you for your help!

                            2. There's also the Indian dabwallas delivering millions of tiffin lunchboxes every day.