I get ideas for posts from many sources. The inspiration for today’s post was a comment by a reader, Mona Gustafson Affinito, last week. She is writing a book set in the early 1900’s about her father called My Father’s House. She asked:
Have you run across tea wagons? My sister remembers fondly visiting the neighbor lady who served lovely little sandwiches and cookies, beautifully laid out on a tea wagon. My mother requested one for years, but, sadly, never got it. I’m trying to understand why as I work on “My Father’s House.”
This week I was flipping through 1917 issues of Good Housekeeping, and low and behold, there was a photo of a tea wagon illustrating an article on “Outdoor Meals.”
The caption of the photo contained the only mention of the tea wagon, but Mona, I hope it helps.
34 thoughts on “1917 Picture of a Tea Wagon”
The tea trolley I inherited from my mother looks very much like the one in your photo.
What a wonderful heirloom to have! I really like the name “tea trolley.” It’s interesting how many different names this piece of furniture apparently has – tea wagon, tea cart, tea trolley. . .
I had never heard of such a thing before, but I bet that it made serving tea an easier and more relaxing experience.
I agree – it would be fun to serve tea and other foods with a tea wagon.
I know someone who used a Radio Flyer red wagon at her beach cottage as a “tea wagon.” It was a fun adaptation for a casual setting.
I love it. Using a Radio Flyer as a tea wagon would be both practical and fun. Your friend sounds like my kind of person.
We not only had one growing up (brown wood-grain plastic with brass trim) that was used to haul food to and from the table, but I had a lovely one when I was living in Michigan. Mine was clear and brass. Same usage. I haven’t seen one since I left Michigan 27 years ago for California (and Arizona).
The one your family used when you were a kid sounds like it was perfect for the job. The clear and brass one sounds beautiful.
I’m wishing I had one now!
Lovely, relaxing and I can copy the feeling. Let me try.
Tea carts look perfect for the lazy, crazy days of summer.
My daughter has one that she bought at IKEA and assembled. They keep it in the corner of the pantry but they can’t use it to go outside as they do not have patio doors that open straight out. They would have to carry down 2 small sets of stairs (old house) . She uses it on the first floor only, especially out to the large wrap around porch.
A large wrap around porch sounds wonderful – and the perfect place to use a tea wagon.
I love the idea of a tea wagon even if it has morphed over the years to become a mobile bar or a barbecue cart for the patio. I think they remain beautiful for the ease in serving and mobility.
It’s interesting how tea wagons have evolved over the years.
Both my mother and grandmother had tea wagons. I didn’t know that’s what they were called.
Another name for them is “tea cart.” I think that they go by different names in different parts of the country.
I guess I never gave them any thought. They just sat there against the wall. 🙂
We inherited a broken tea wagon. Alas, it was never repaired, and we gave it away.
Sometimes it’s best to get rid of old furniture that is in bad shape.
I’m glad you said that. I was still feeling guilty for not repairing it.
I have seen them at auctions. Lovely for their time when tea or sandwiches would have been a ritual.
I like how you describe serving tea back then – I think that you’re right that it was almost a ritual.
I had no idea this is what it was called! My grandmother – a 1940s housemum and very British, would serve us on a ‘tea wagon’ out on the patio in her retirement home in Arizona. Who knew?!? Great post!
I’m glad you enjoyed this post.
I’ve seen tea carts in the antique shops and wished for one (and the silver service to go on it). Love this picture and the reminder of times gone by. I try to eat as many meals as I can outside, weather permitting.
It sounds wonderful to eat lots of meals outside. I don’t do it enough.
If I had a cart like that .. I wouldn’t be taking it out. I do like the wagon idea.
🙂 I agree – there are limited places outside where a something like this could be used without risking damaging it.
I inherited a tea trolley this year. I have wanted one for years . At the moment I am using it for bowls of fruit and nuts. Mine probably dates from the 1930s. It’s wooden and a very simple design. In my childhood all the senior relatives had a tea trolley. Mainly used for bringing afternoon tea from the kitchen to the best room (living room, sitting room). Houses were not open plan so taking provisions from the kitchen to another part of the house was quite an undertaking.
Your tea trolley sounds lovely. It’s really interesting how houses tend to have much more open designs now than what they did years ago.
Yes, I like open spaces, but I like small, snug rooms too. 🙂
This is lovely. My grandmother had a tea trolley that looked a lot like this one, a bit otherwise.
Oh, wow, fun to see this. I have a tea wagon that might be almost as old as the one in your picture. It was my grandmother’s. I think I’ve always just called it a butler and unfortunately it is sitting worn and dusty in a corner of my cellar. I would love to have it refinished someday. At the top opposite side from the two wheels there’s a little handle that flips up so you can roll it along and on each side there is a piece that can fold down or be brought up to make the top surface bigger.