Wolf Brand Chili
Corsicana, Navarro County Texas


Business Index


WOLF BRAND CHILI. 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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 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.

Tommy W. Stringer

"WOLF BRAND CHILI." The Handbook of Texas Online. 


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Jas. West Speaker At Rotary Today; Officers Elected

The Rotary Club luncheon program Wednesday featured a few remarks about the early history and the products made by the Wolf Brand Products Company by James West, plant executive, followed by a personal inspection of the chili plant so members could see first-hand how chili and tamales are made.

Complimentary cans of the famous Wolf Brand Chili and tamales were at each plate.

Elect officers.

In a short directors’ meeting, held following the luncheon, before the members and guests left for the inspection tour.  Dr. Louis Gibson was elected president to succeed Ben McKie and Bill McLauchlin was elected club secretary to succeed Joe Pearson, Bill Brietz was renamed treasurer of the club.

West said since most of those present were familiar with his firm he would not explain its operation but let them see for themselves when they toured the plant.

History of Business.

“Briefly, we are one of the oldest in the chili business.  We began in 1895 when Lyman Davis and a Mexican began making chili and selling it in front of the old Blue Front Café. Later they made it in brick form.” he said.

He remarked humorously that originally the chili was made at Davis’ place out from town until “they got to drilling for oil and he had to move.”

He reported that his father and associates bought an interest in the plant in 1923 and had continued its management and operation since that time.

Explains Name.

Aware of the interest of those present as to how the company came to be known as “Wolf Products,” he recalled that years ago Davis picked up a wolf in a carnival.

“The wolf was put in the back of the wagon out of which the chili was sold and people used to say when they saw it coming, “Here comes the wolf chili man,” he explained.

He said the company had been making tamalas since 1928 and that Fred Slauson and Ben Johnson made the first machine which made, rolled and wrapped tamales without them being touched by hand.

Highest Quality.

“We are proud that we have the highest quality chili made,”  he said in explaining that only selected quality beef, pure rendered beef fats and pure, natural spices are used as the ingredients.  He said his firm was equally proud that it sold more chili in Texas than all other manufacturers.

W. E. McKinney introduced West and Harry Spence, assistant to West at the local plant.

McKinney also introduced Mayor-elect, Walter Erwin, who was accorded enthusiastic applause by his fellow club-members.

Guests included Joe Farmer and Jimmy Ingram, junior Rotarians for April.  Grover Andrews, Dr. Foy Valentine, Beryle Lovelace, David Ralston, Arnold Paul and Julius Jacobs.


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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox