In New England they call it a shopping carriage. Down South it’s called a buggy, and the Brits refer to it as a trolley. Whatever name you use, the shopping cart is a ubiquitous part of the American shopping experience.
You can thank Sylvan Goldman of Oklahoma the next time you’re loading up your buggy. Goldman and his brother owned a grocery chain in the Sooner state. In 1936, he had a shot of inspiration – maybe people would buy more groceries if they could carry more groceries. Shoppers at the time toted small wire baskets to collect their items. The major drawback as Goldman saw it was the baskets offered limited space, and you could only carry so many baskets at one time.
Working with a mechanic, Fred Young, Goldman added wheels to a modified metal frame chair that was designed to hold two wire baskets. He was so impressed with his contraption that he formed the Folding Carrier Basket Company.
Customers in Goldman’s stores were less than impressed. When the carts debuted June 4, 1937, at the Humpty Dumpty store in Oklahoma City, men refused to use them for fear of being considered weak. And the utilitarian design didn’t appeal to the fashion sense of the mid-1930s woman. Goldman eventually hired male and female models to push the carts around his stores as if they were shopping. He also hired attractive greeters to stand near the entrance and offer the new devices to customers.
It didn’t take long for customers to pick up the cart habit on their own. By 1940, the shopping cart had become such a fixture in American grocery stores that one was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
Goldman earned a patent on his cart (#2,196,914) on April 9, 1940.