This was then: The Meat Wagon

Photos of long ago Martha's Vineyard

–Courtesy Chris Baer

In the early 20th century, meat wagons traveled the up-Island roads, selling meat and groceries house-to-house from down-Island stores. Driver Howard Downs poses here with his delivery wagon from the Vineyard Haven-based grocery Look, Smith & Co. He held this job for decades, first with a horse and wagon, and later with a truck. If he lacked an item for a customer, he took orders for his next trip up-Island.

Look, Smith & Co. had a long history as a meat market in Vineyard Haven, beginning during the Civil War as the market of butcher John Look of Lamberts Cove. Look went to Brighton each week to buy 10 or 12 big steers, drive them to New Bedford, bring them over on the steamer to Vineyard Haven, and finally drive them to his farm in Lambert’s Cove. It took several men to prevent them from straying up the wrong streets as they left town. The Look family business became Look, Washburn & Co., and then (with the partnership of identical twins Art and Bert Smith),  Look, Smith & Co. Finally the business merged with two other Vineyard Haven groceries, Bodfish & Call and the Swift Brothers’ grocery, to become S.B.S. — “Smith, Bodfish and Swift” — still located in Vineyard Haven today.

Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.