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June 4: The First Shopping Cart

June 4, 2013

image19051Sylvan Goldman (1898-1984), owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket in Oklahoma City, introduced the first shopping cart on this date in 1937. Goldman built it with the assistance of a mechanic, Fred Young, based on a folding chair design, with wheels on the bottom of the chair legs and the seat replaced by two stacked metal baskets. Ten years later, Goldman improved the design with carts that would nest into each other rather than folding and stacking. Goldman was born within the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma, to a shopkeeping family; he never went past the eighth grade in school. His shopping cart invention did not catch on at first — men found them effeminate, while women rebelled against the “baby carriage” design — but after Goldman hired several men and women to push the carts around his store, his invention became ubiquitous, causing grocery stores to redesign their interiors and turning Goldman into a very wealthy man. (He also invented baggage carts and grocery sackers, among other conveyances and holders.) Goldman left a fortune of $400 million to his two sons, who mismanaged and squandered the money before committing suicide, both of them.

“Recent studies determined while the cartless retailers such as Sears and J.C. Penney have suffered slow sales in recent years, the retailers that do use shopping carts, among them Target and Home Depot, have had booming sales. In large part this could be attributed to the ease of shopping made possible by Sylvan Goldman’s invention . . .” —The Great Idea Finder