The History of The Bar Cart

“A bar cart provides guests with something unique, something you make for them, something you can tell a story about.”

Lately it seems that bar carts are one of the trendiest décor and functional pieces you can have in your home. Who doesn’t want to feel a little Don Draper sometimes? Bar carts are beautiful, useful, and can often be just the accent piece your entertaining space was missing. But, how did the bar cart rise to such popularity?

While it’s impossible to pinpoint a specific event that sparked the resurgence in the popularity of bar carts, in digging deeper we’ve got a few thoughts. Was it the Cocktail Renaissance of the early 2000’s? Perhaps we can thank Mad Men for the show’s influence on our modern cocktail culture? This got us at The Bar Cartist thinking about the history of the bar cart and how it came to be.

The bar cart actually got its start during the Victorian Era (1837-1901). However, at that time it was not associated with alcoholic beverages. The bar carts of the Victorian Era were actually tea trolleys! (How’s that for some party trivia?) It seems we have the Interbellum and Greatest Generations to thank for taking us from Tea Time to Party Time when they started using bar carts for cocktail parties during the end of Prohibition (1933). Though bar carts started being associated with cocktails after the repeal of prohibition, they did not become well known cocktail entertaining items until the 1950’s. Unfortunately, the series of events from the 1930’s to the 1950’s (See: The Great Depression, World War II and The Korean War) really took its toll on American families.

Having overcome two decades of poverty, rations, and general instability, it was time for everyone to celebrate! And celebrate they did. People all over the U.S. were hosting and attending parties. Homemakers entertained their friends and families from a fully stocked bar cart that they could easily wheel throughout their parties and amongst guests. As with much of American Pop Culture, Hollywood played a large and shiny part in the growing ubiquity of the home bar cart. To this day, an image of a well-stocked bar cart will take your imagination back to the classic Hollywood Films of the 1950s to 1960’s.

During the 1970’s, homebuilders started building permanent, built-in wet bars into their home designs trying to make the home space more interactive and functional for people. These home bars were typically made of dark woods and leather, which lacked personal style. And who of us hasn’t been to their grandparent’s house and seen the classic Wet Bar Closet? Business when it’s closed, and party when it’s not! Because of this people stopped buying bar carts as their homes came standard with a wet bar. It wasn’t long before people realized that the built-in wet bars really came up short when compared to the classic bar cart. Bar carts have the benefit of mobility, which allows for any room in your home to become your entertaining space. Bar carts make a home friendly and approachable. They can also be designed and decorated to specifically match your own personality!

“If history is any guide, the home bar is poised for a massive makeover.”

Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years. Fast forward a bit and you’ll find bar carts in any self-respecting houseware catalog or store. From Baby Boomers to Millennials, people today are showcasing their personalities and bringing a party to life with beautifully designed and well-stocked bar carts. As we continue to define our own history, it is our goal at The Bar Cartist to ensure this classic piece of art is never forgotten and that every host can become the Barcartist they want to be!