Kovels – Antiques and collecting

Tea trolly born in Victoria, England, evolved in US post Prohibition

It’s probably no surprise that the tea trolley emerged in Victorian England. Just the words “tea trolley” can conjure up an image of a delicate cart laden with floral china and shining silver plate (probably resting on crocheted lace doilies), pushed by a primly uniformed servant into an ornately furnished room where aristocratic women perch on uncomfortably carved mahogany chairs.

Like many upper-class English fashions, the tea trolley spread to the United States, where it received a new spin in the 20th century:

With Prohibition ending in the 1930s, the tea trolley was repurposed as the bar cart or cocktail cart. This was also when the style we now call mid-century modern emerged.

Scandinavian design was particularly popular, with clean lines, simple shapes and light woods.

This cart, made of birch with white enameled wheels, was designed in 1948 by Alvar and Aino Aalto, the Finnish husband-and-wife team that co-founded the furniture company Artek.

An Eldred’s auction described it as a “tea trolley” rather than a cart. The old-fashioned name didn’t decrease its appeal, as it sold at the auction for $2,650.


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