Tailgating is a beloved American tradition. It's not complete without food, drinks, and good company. To me, it's the best part about college football games (besides the actual game of course). This pregame celebration is used across the country for various events, but did you ever wonder where the history of tailgating all started? 

Where It Began

wine, alcohol, beer, champagne, liquor
Jocelyn Hsu

According to National Geographic, the history of tailgating dates all the way back to the start of the Civil War. In 1861, civilians gathered in Washington DC, to watch the first battle of the Bull Run and cheer on their "team," the Union or the Confederates.

People brought picnic baskets filled with minced meat, apple pies, and plum puddings. This time in history marks the beginning of aged whiskey and wine production, so we can assume the colonists were also celebrating with booze.

The Chuckwagon

tea, wine, cinnamon, alcohol, beer, liquor, coffee, cider
Amelia Weller

Next came the Chuckwagon in 1866. Sports Then And Now states that the Chuckwagon was invented by Charles "Chuck" Goodnight to conveniently feed working men on the road. Basically, the Chuckwagon was a cowboy's traveling kitchen. Chuckwagons were pulled by mules or oxen and carried food like black-eyes peas, beef, stews, catfish, and biscuits. Beer began to replace whiskey as a working man's drink of choice.

The First College Football Game

corn, pasture
Tiare Brown

Just three years after the invention of the Chuckwagon, there was believed to be tailgating at the first ever—oh yes—college football game. In 1869, Rutgers University played Princeton University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. For the first time ever, fans wore colors to differentiate themselves by which team they were cheering for. People were eating chili, pork, corn, and of course, beer and whiskey. They were also still using chuckwagons. 

When We Started Saying "Tailgating"

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Lily Allen

The theory is that the Green Bay Packers coined the term "tailgating" in 1919, and that's when the term began to be used and associated with modern day American football. Packers fans would park their pick up trucks around the field and sit on the bed.  At this time in history, popular foods were ham, potatoes, and custards. This was one year before the start of the prohibition, so I'm sure fans were enjoying every last sip of wine, whiskey, rum, and beer.

Today, tailgating is an evolution of all these historical traditions. At the University of Alabama, we take it seriously because what would a football game be without tailgating? Corn hole, beer pong, yellow hammers, and catered Chick-fil-A nuggets—these are just a few of my favorite things.

But no matter what your spice on the tradition is, a tailgate party is sure to promise a good time. The next time you're sitting on the bed of a pick up truck, sipping beer and hanging out with friends before the big game, take a moment to remember where it all began.