I still believe it dates back before 1856: see below
From BBC program about antiques: The British war ships of the time of Nelson and Trafalga had square plates to fit the tables slung between the cannons below decks. So many sailors were from such poor and under nourished backgrounds they saw this as a "Square Meal" - meaning the only good one they had had.
The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
however, these famous events and dates have only verbal confirmation. I have yet to read any authentic documentation which offers these dates as time hacks for the expressed saying. As I said I accept your date, I accept those of Karen... however, until I see a volume which states those words/time period I can only accept the research I found. These papers and places have been well documented. If you could foreward me a citation it would be great. I would appreciate the effort. Who knows, yours may be factual... yet I have not been able to verify them.
Thanks for the reply. It is good when comparable thoughts have produced a better understanding.
Everything that I've seen references a term from the Royal Navy, which used to issue square bowls to the enlisted men. These bowls traveled with them everywhere, and served as their personal dish ware. Who knows? :)
And I agree with that sentiment. Yet, if you look at when the first paper reproductions of the phrase came about, or anything which was less than he said/ she said, write it down, came from the Americas in the 1850s, 56 is what I found. If there is first hand information out there for verification and not a book that published a phrase because the phrase would sound good in that part of the book... Well, I have also seen those; in those I am not impressed. The most authentic documentation originates from the mining towns in California. I accept that there are other theories concerning the phrase, but with no citations and hard evidence to back it up... I accept those that provide the evidence as factual. Primary sources are required to prove or disprove some "thing."
Yes, I am sure squre bowls were used on British sailing ships... please give me a reference concerning the origin of the phrase starting at Trafalger...
But as you said, who knows... it might have been earlier. I never found evidence to justif that.