One of the first shopping carts was introduced on June 4, 1937, the invention of Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma. One night, in 1936, Goldman sat in his office wondering how customers might move more groceries. He found a wooden folding chair and put a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs. Goldman and one of his employees, a mechanic named Fred Young, began tinkering. Their first shopping cart was a metal frame that held two wire baskets. Since they were inspired by the folding chair, Goldman called his carts “folding basket carriers”. 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.” Goldman had already pioneered self-serve stores and carts were part of the self-serve retail concept.
The invention did not catch on immediately, though. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. “I’ve pushed my last baby,” an offended woman informed Goldman. 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, shopping carts grew to become extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire. In urban areas like New York City, where transporting groceries home from the store’s parking lot is more likely to involve walking and/or a trip by public transportation than a car ride, privately owned carts resembling Goldman’s design are still popular. Instead of baskets, these carts are built to hold the paper bags dispensed by the grocery store.
Another shopping cart innovator was Orla Watson, who invented the swinging rear door to allow for “nesting” in 1946.
Goldman continued to make modifications to his original design, but advice from his trusted business partners Fred Taylor, a grocery store owner, and George O’Donnell, a grocery store refrigeration salesman, and the incorporation of Watson’s swinging door yielded the familiar nesting cart that we see today (albeit the original telescope cart had two baskets rather than one). Goldman patented a similar version of the cart which he called the “Nest-Kart” in 1948, over one year after Watson filed for his patent. The Nest-Kart incorporated the same nesting mechanism present on the shopping carts designed by Watson, and an interference investigation was ordered by Telescope Carts, Inc. alleging infringement of the patent in 1948. After a protracted legal battle, Goldman ultimately recognized Watson’s invention and paid one dollar in damages for counterfeit, in exchange for which Watson granted Goldman an exclusive operating license (apart from the three licenses that had already been granted).
In 1909, Bessie DeCamp invented a seat belt for chairs, go-carts or carriages. This was well before shopping carts with child seating areas were invented. Goldman introduced a child seating area on shopping carts in 1947. For whatever reason, it wasn’t until 1967 that seat belts for shopping carts were introduced by David Allen.