T.V. Tray Table and Stand

This is one of a set of four metal “TV” tray tables and stands from the mid-1960s. The black trays are decorated with a party-theme design showing bright green, red, blue, and yellow ribbon stripes dancing over a confetti pattern background in the same colors. Each tray table is 23 inches high, 17.5 inches wide, and 13 inches deep. The TV tray tables fold flat for easy storage, and have rubber grips to hold the tray in place on the stand.
In 1954, C.A. Swanson & Sons in Omaha, Nebraska, introduced the frozen TV dinner, marketing it as an easy-to-prepare, fun-to-eat meal, with a disposable tray that reduced clean-up time. The portable TV dinner tapped into Americans’ excitement over television, allowing families to eat in front of their new sets. By 1960, nearly 90 percent of American homes had a television.
Inexpensive folding-tray tables were made for eating in front of the TV and became an alternative to the family dinner table. Trays were made of metal, fiberglass, wood, and heavy duty plastics so they could withstand the heat from the food, and be durable enough to withstand constant use and cleaning. Tray patterns included nature scenes, food illustrations, and later included television characters. The look of the trays adapted to aesthetic trends as the TV tray became an essential furniture item in many American homes.
These tray tables are still made today, some in retro styles mimicking the old sets, and others in sleek metal and wood modernist constructions. The trays are marketed not only as platforms for food, but also as side tables, desks, and beverage trays. The recent fascination with repurposing and reusing retro items has caught hold of the TV tray, and they are popular design features, particularly in small apartment spaces that require multi-use spaces.
Object Name
t.v. tray
date made
ca 1950-2000
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 17 1/2 in x 13 in x 1 in; 44.45 cm x 33.02 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Domestic Furnishings
Food Culture
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.