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Many households in Western society have serving trays of one form or another, though the original trays date back many years to about 6,000 BC – as shown in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.

Silver Salvers

In the 16th century, to own a silver tray represented a sign of wealth because these trays were meant for food to be tested for poison before serving to royalty. Although at this time they did not have handles, as seen today, they sometimes had small silver feet attached to the bottom to prop the trays upon serving tables. These serving trays were known as salvers. This comes from the Latin word to save, though the word tray comes from the word treg or trig, which was used in the Middle Ages to refer to a flat board with a raised rim. Samuel Pepys was one of the many noblemen of this time who had such a tray.

Papier-Mâché Trays

Other trays were formed from papier-mâché, a kind of paper that is transformed into cardboard which can then be painted upon. This was used in Asia and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. These trays can still be made relatively easily, as shown on certain blogs such as The House that Lars Built. It is the easiest to recycle out of the different types of trays, as shown on the Recycle Now website.

When Was The Concept Of The Tray Developed?

Metal Trays

Russia created the first metal trays during the 1830s. These were crafted by artists and painted on using various creative designs.

Melamine Trays

In the 1940s these trays became popular in America and Australia, with the popular lap trays coming in at about this time. Examples of these can be seen at

The trays were useful because of their long-lasting durability and were used during the war on ships.

Alitalia Trays

Alitalia was among the first airlines to use a tray for food during a flight. These trays had compartments for different items and were designed by Joe Columbo and Ambrogio Pozzi in the 1970s for first-class ticket holders, though the trays are still in use today.

Other Forms of Tray Trays

More recently issues with recycling have been considered and trays that are made from wood and other materials have been crafted and designed.