Four-Wheeled Wonders: Shopping Cart History

You probably use one day without really thinking about it. All of your necessities find their way into it, your children ride in it, and it adds convenience to your life unheard of just a century ago. And it’s not your car.

Shopping trolley, shopping carriage, bascart, barrae, buggie – no matter what you call your shopping cart, without it, your daily errands would be entirely more daunting. Do you take the time to appreciate that four-wheeled wonder? Well, maybe it’s about time you do.

The invention of the shopping cart
Let’s take a trip back in time to Oklahoma City, 1936. Before the days of Black Friday and Walmart coupons. The owner of a local supermarket chain, Piggly Wiggly, is sitting in his office, scratching his head. How could he enable his customers to get more groceries, he wonders. While looking around the room, his eyes fall on a wooden folding chair, and he’s struck with an idea that will revolutionize the way people shop forever. What if, Sylvan Goldman wonders, I put a basket on the seat and wheels on the feet?  Not only would grocery shopping become far less of a hassle, but customers would be able to purchase more. It was a win-win situation – and there’s nothing better than that.

Goldman brought this rough idea to one of his employees, a mechanic, and they set out to streamline the new contraption. Replace the wooden chair with a metal frame, add a couple of baskets, and they had themselves the first shopping cart – or as Goldman called it, “the folding basket carrier.” Not as catchy, we know.

The folding basket carriage is born
Eventually, Goldman found another mechanic to mass-produce his new invention. He applied in 1938, and, after a two-year wait, was awarded the patent for the “Folding Basket Carriage for Self-Service Stores.” Now Goldman was ready to bring his creation to the public. Advertising them as part of a “no-basket carrying plan,” he brought the carts to his market and introduced them to his customers.
But his folding basket carrier did not receive a warm welcome (people are always resistant to change, aren’t they?). The carriers were deemed too effeminate for men, and women were initially dissuaded by their resemblance to baby carriages. So the public turned a cold shoulder to Goldman’s shiny new carriers, but he wasn’t about to give up. He hired male and female models to push the carts around his stores and animate just how helpful the carriers truly were. And that was really all it took. Soon enough, everyone was using the basket carriers and Goldman had changed grocery and retail shopping forever. Now shopping carts are ubiquitous, a mainstay of the modern consumer experience.

And to think, some people just abandon their carts in an empty lot. Next time you’re shopping, take some time to thank Sylvan Goldman and appreciate the wheeled wizardry of the shopping cart. And buy yourself a little present while you’re at it.


Julie Wood said...

I really loved reading the story about the shopping cart! I was shocked to find out that the owner of a Piggly Wiggly invented the shopping cart. It is so funny that people would not use the cart at first. I am so thankful that this man invented the shopping cart!

Alesha @ Full Time Mama said...

LOL, this is a fun post! Never thought about where the shopping cart came from, but with my huge family I'm thankful for this invention! :)

Denise Taylor-Dennis said...

Fun post about shopping cart history. It was interesting to read a bit of history about the shopping cart. I can't imagine not having shopping carts.

Trista said...

Very Interesting and fun at the same time :-) thanks for the quick history lesson :)

SalemMomma said...

I never thought about the shopping cart being invented, it's just something that's there, lol.

Laura Grace Andry said...

What an interesting post. I did not know the history of the shopping cart. Thanks for sharing.

Dave, Amy and Jace said...

I would have never knew how the shopping cart came about.

betty baez said...

Well I never thought of it before, so glad for the invention I wouldn't know how I would grocery shop without one

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