In 1895 Lyman T. Davis of Corsicana developed the original recipe for Wolf Brand Chili, which he sold for five cents a bowl from the back of a wagon parked on the streets in downtown Corsicana. He later opened a meat market in Corsicana where he sold his chili in brick form, using the brand name of Lyman's Famous Home Made Chili. In 1921, using the simplest machinery, he began canning his chili and marketing it in the immediate area. It was about that time that he adopted the brand name "Wolf Brand," in honor of his pet wolf, Kaiser Bill. By 1923, with improved equipment, Davis had increased production to 2,000 cans of chili per day. Because of the discovery of oil on his farm, he had neither the time nor the interest to devote to his chili business, and in 1924 he sold his operations to J. C. West and Fred Slauson, two Corsicana businessmen. The new owners modernized production and introduced new marketing techniques. Among the most successful innovations introduced by West and Slauson were Model T Ford trucks with cabs shaped like cans and painted to resemble the Wolf Brand label. A live wolf was caged in the back of each truck. The vehicles not only provided practical transportation for company salesmen but also were effective traveling advertisements for their products. In 1954 the company expanded into interstate markets, having previously distributed its products only in Texas. The new markets included New Mexico, Louisiana, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. In 1957 Quaker Oats of Chicago purchased Wolf Brand from Doyle and James West, sons of J. C. West. Quaker Oats continued to operate the Corsicana plant as a separate division of the company, leaving Davis's original recipe unchanged. In 1977 Wolf Brand, along with other chili manufacturers, successfully lobbied the Texas legislature to have chili proclaimed the official "state food" of Texas. In an effort to consolidate its operations, Quaker Oats closed the Corsicana plant in 1985 and merged its operations with another subsidiary, Stokley-Van Camp, in Dallas.
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Mrs. Fred Slauson, Interview by Tommy Stringer, November 30, 1978, Navarro College Oral History Collection, Corsicana. Frank X. Tolbert, A Bowl of Red (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1966; rev. ed. 1983). Doyle West, Interview by Tommy Stringer, April 20, 1979, Navarro College Oral History Collection, Corsicana.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Tommy W. Stringer,
“Wolf Brand Chili,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
October 1, 1995