A Butler's table is a small table, usually used as a coffee table, with a removable or fixed butler's tray for a top.
Originally, a table consisting of a tray atop a folding stand, Butler's tables were probably developed in England in the mid-1700s. The earliest stands consisted of two X-frames, but later could also consist of four legs often joined by an X-frame.
The tray can be rectangular with a fixed gallery or, in the most familiar Chippendale-style variation, have a rectangular centre with prominent hinged sides that form an oval when extended. In both cases, the tray sides have slots that function as handholds, meaning the Butler's table is portable.
The butler's table originated as a two-piece item of furniture - typical of the light, easily moveable furniture developed in the 18th century. In the early 20th century, as part of the Colonial Revival style, manufacturers developed tables with the tray no longer detachable, but affixed to the stand or four-legged base. These non-portable tables are less obviously practical and were created in order to establish a "look" rather than serve an obvious purpose.
In antiques shops nowadays, it is quite common to find a butler's table that consists of an antique 18th or 19th-century tray attached to a 20th-century stand that has been built to match. Collectors should therefore carefully inspect items of furniture, checking that all wood matches and is of the same age.
A George III brass-mounted mahogany folding Butler's table, circa 1790, sold for £1,500 at Dreweatts Bristol Auction Rooms in October 2010.
A Regency style Butler's tray table sold for $1,300 at New Orleans Auction Galleries, Inc. in July 2012.
A William IV mahogany campaign butler's table, circa 1835, sold for £1,000 at Dreweatts Bristol Auction Rooms in July 2010.
A bronze and burl wood butler's table with removable tray, circa 1970, sold for $950 at Kamelot Auctions in February 2013.