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June 5, 2024

The World’s First Shopping Carts Were Introduced at Humpty Dumpty Grocery Stores in Oklahoma City on June 4, 1937

On June 4, 1937, Sylvan Goldman introduced the shopping cart, in the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, of which he was the owner. With the assistance of a mechanic named Fred Young, Goldman constructed the first shopping cart, basing his design on that of a wooden folding chair. They built it with a metal frame and added wheels and wire baskets. Another mechanic, Arthur Kosted, developed a method to mass-produce the carts by inventing an assembly line capable of forming and welding the wire. The cart was awarded patent number 2,196,914 on April 9, 1940 (Filing date: March 14, 1938), titled, “Folding Basket Carriage for Self-Service Stores.” They advertised the invention as part of a new “No Basket Carrying Plan.”

The invention did not catch on immediately. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. “I’ve pushed my last baby buggy,” offended women informed him. After hiring several male and female models to push his new invention around his store and demonstrate their utility, as well as greeters to explain their use, his folding-style shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire by collecting a royalty on every folding design shopping cart in the United States.

Sylvan Goldman also manufactured the more familiar and more modern “nesting cart” under a license granted by Telescope Carts, Inc. In 1946, Orla Watson, co-founder of Telescope Carts, Inc. developed an innovative “nesting” shopping cart that did not require disassembly after each use as Goldman’s designs did, and which allowed for the shopping carts to telescope, or “nest,” by simply shoving the carts together. Goldman patented his own “Nest-Kart” over a year later in 1948, so an interference investigation was ordered by Watson of Telescope Carts, Inc. for alleged patent infringement during the same time period. In a compromise solution, Goldman agreed to relinquish his rights on his existing patent and agreed to pay the sum of $1 for counterfeit damages. In return, Telescope Cart, Inc. agreed to an exclusive license granted to Goldman’s company for the production of the telescoping, or “nesting,” cart. The telescoping cart, based on the patent issued to Watson, forms the basis of the shopping cart designs used to the present, and all royalties for the new design were paid to Telescope Carts, Inc. until their patent expired.

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