The history of the Lazy Susan

We are regularly asked the origin of our name. Why did you call the company Lazy Susan? For me personally, the name just fits. We’ve sold them to sit on our garden tables since day one.

They’ve always been a good seller for us too, and if you like to entertain outside, they are perfect on one of our larger garden dining sets.

You can easily pass food, drinks and nibbles around the table to your friends and family. No reaching over each other to pass the BBQ sauce.

Customer Photos

A customer enjoying a spot of al fresco dining with their Lazy Susan in pride of place.

These simple but ingenious little revolving turntables are designed to sit in the middle of our bigger 6+ seater tables for effortless manoeuvring and hassle-free sharing.

In addition to the functional benefits, our turntables are constructed from a durable cast aluminium, they’re fully weather resistant, and like all our furniture, can be left outside in the elements. Plus, you don’t have to worry about spillages damaging or staining it.

Perfect for entertaining, they are just so handy when passing round drinks, nibbles, sauces or salads.

And because of the hard-wearing nature of our cast aluminium, they need very little maintenance. Just a quick wipe clean with a damp cloth will suffice.

Whilst we’ve co-opted the name for our business, the item itself is a lot older than us. Not only that it is somewhat of a mystery. Where and who invented this item? Who decided to call it a Lazy Susan?

Mind we could of been called Sally Wagon, Dragon Sally, Lazy Zan-Zu or even Downtrodden Sally, as they’re just a few of the alternative names for a Lazy Susan.

General consensus is that the term ‘Lazy Susan’ made it’s first appearance in a Vanity Fair ad for a ‘Revolving Server or Lazy Susan’ in 1917. It was marketed by a company called Ovington, and you could purchase it for $8.50.

The advert itself stated that the Lazy Susan was made from mahogany, had a 16″ diameter, and it revolved on ball bearings. They described the item as:

“An impossibly low wage for a good servant and the cleverest waitress in the world.”

Many people see the Lazy Susan as a bit of gimmick, something only used in restaurants, but this practical table accessory has a substantial pedigree.

A pedigree that is much more distinguished than you’d first think. Food historians have managed to trace its roots back as far as 18th century England, when it was more commonly known as a ‘Dumb Waiter’.

The contemporary Lazy Susan

A Dumb Waiter is a pretty self-explanatory term, but the true mystery is in the now popular name, Lazy Susan.

The Lazy part is fairly obvious. But the Susan part is a little more intriguing. I’ve researched extensively online, and I simply can’t find the origin of the name.

So who was Susan?

I’m afraid there isn’t a definitive source, just what appears to be a host of conflicting urban myths.

The design has come down through the centuries essentially unchanged to what we sell today for our garden tables.

However, despite that enduring popularity, definitive documentation on the design’s origins remain elusive.

The Jewish World Review reported in 2002 that:

“The device itself predates the name, as many antique dealers will tell you. These revolving serving trays have been around since the 1700’s, where they were often tiered and called ‘Dumb Waiters.’ Dumb Waiters were so called because they quietly (hence the ‘dumb’ part) took the place of waiters in the dining room.”

However, another account from the research team over at credits the name to President Thomas Jefferson, and that inventor and scientist Thomas Edison first created it. They claim that:

Thomas Jefferson invented the lazy Susan in the 18th century, though they were referred to as dumb waiters at that time. It is said that Jefferson invented the lazy Susan because his daughter complained she was always served last at the table and, as a result, never found herself full when leaving the table. Others believe that Thomas Edison was the inventor, as he is believed to have invented the turntable for his phonograph, which later evolved into the Lazy Susan.

Thomas Edison did indeed have a daughter named Susan, so I suppose it could be true? Personally, this version just sounds like an urban myth to me, but I could be wrong?!

Evan Morris of The Word Detective claimed in an article he wrote called Whirling Domestics that:

Many authorities recount the theory that the ‘Susan’ was simply a common maid’s name, and that the term ‘Lazy Susan’ applied to this self-service gadget was a sarcastic reference to the supposed sloth of household servants”.

And finally, another Jewish World Review post gives, in my opinion, probably the most realistic version of the name’s origin…

It is more than likely that ‘Lazy Susan’ was styled on previous combinations in English that use ‘Susan’ (‘black-eyed Susan’ being the most common). There are many such words in English that use names in thus generic way – for example ‘Peeping Tom’, ‘Jim-Dandy’ and ‘Jolly Roger’ are just a few. It is also possible that the combination of the ‘z’ sound in ‘lazy’ and the initial ‘s’ sound of ‘Susan’ appealed to the manufacturer of the Lazy Susan, and in a brilliant Marketing move, the ‘Lazy Susan’ was born.

One thing we do know, is that it is both simple in design, highly practical and common in use. And, as we can testify, it is just as popular now in the garden, as it was in the 18th century dining room.

Our Lazy Susan Collection

60cm Contemporary

White 60cm Lattice

White 80cm Contemporary

90cm Lattice

White 60cm Contemporary

White 90cm Lattice

60cm Lattice

Slate 60cm Contemporary

Slate 80cm Contemporary

Slate 60cm Lattice

Slate 90cm Lattice… Coming Soon!

90cm Slate Lattice Lazy Susan

90cm Slate Lattice Lazy Susan… Coming soon!

If you’re not sure which style suits the table you want and would like some further guidance on finding the right one, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always happy to help!

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