If you don’t want to interrupt dining room conversation in order to have a food item passed, a Lazy Susan solves the problem. Writer Bettijane Levine explains the English invention in about 1780 made of polished mahogany.
Despite its enduring popularity, definitive documentation on the design’s origins remain oddly elusive. Logic dictates that some time long ago, a sloth named Susan inspired the entire galaxy of twirling servers. Who was she? And who invented the turntable trays that link her forever with an insulting adjective? It may have become popular at a time when household servants were in declining supply. In the absence of maids or footmen to refill wine goblets and deliver condiments, diners were forced to reach across the table or interrupt conversation with “pass the pimientos please.” The Lazy Susan helped to solve that problem, and plenty of 18th century examples prove it. In January, a mahogany Lazy Susan — 16 inches in diameter and dated circa 1780 — sold at Christie’s auction house in London for about $3,900. That’s it, above, and the photo is courtesy of Christie’s.