Who invented the shopping cart?


In the early 20th century, with the arrival of the automobile, the refrigerator in the homes and the first supermarkets, merchants soon realized that people were willing and willing to buy large quantities of food at once, but they had no effective means and convenient for transporting it to the store.

So it was that in 1937, Sylvan Goldman had enlightenment.

Born into a family of retailers, Goldman had mixed fortunes as a merchant, in the era of the great depression following the collapse of Wall Street in 1929. And it was in one of his shops in Oklaoma that he noticed the difficulties that mothers had with children in tow to move inside the supermarket, with baskets full of goods. At first he unleashed his salesmen for the aisles of the store, so that they could help customers with the baskets, but the solution did not work.

Image The shopping cart invented by Sylvan Goldman in 1937. |

Then one night he happened to look at a folding chair and had the lighting: he put a basket on the seat and another under the chair, then he imagined the wheels on his legs, and a handle on the back. Two months time the cart was born.

Unfortunately, the debut of his great invention was a flop. The men were too proud to admit that they needed help carrying a basket. And the women weren't going to push a cart, after years of pushing pushchairs.

Goldman did not lose heart and turned to a clever marketing trick : he hired young and good-looking women to pretend to push the cart for the shop while they were (always pretending) shopping. To those who nevertheless insisted on not using the trolley, a hostess who was stationed outside the shop, pointed out that all the others used them, generating a phenomenal emulation effect.

See also: Special Inventions and inventors,
the history of human creativity from the caves to the ISS

Larger corridors. Result? In 1940, only three years after their introduction, the carts had become so popular, that US grocery stores were designed with them in mind, with more spacious corridors and desks to hold large quantities of food.

The Goldman trolley is not like the ones we use today: the first great innovator was Orla Watson who, in 1947, patented trolleys with a fixed basket and equipped with a rear opening so that they could be slipped into one another. There was also a court dispute between the two inventors.

But the shopping cart that we all know - with a large basket on wheels - was only introduced in 1950. And apart from a few tweaks here and there, like the child seat, the bottle holders, the plastic handle and the holster for the "gun", its design has not changed much since then. And probably little will change in the future. Even if the cart is destined to evolve from the technological point of view.

The trolley of the future. One company, Springboard / Mercatus, for example, has developed a cart equipped with a small touch screen that shows a map of the store to facilitate searches and store previously made purchases, as well as allowing purchases to be paid while do the shopping and avoid the queue at the cash desk. And then there's the RobotCart prototype, a trolley made by Vladimir Kulyukin and students of Utah State University, which has on its handle the Braille list of all the objects in the store, each with its own code number: the purpose is that of helping blind people to move more easily in supermarkets and do their shopping without assistance.

These are just two of the carts that could invade the supermarket aisles in the near future. With all due respect to Goldman, who died in 1984 at the age of 86, after having built a fortune valued by Forbes at around $ 200 million (of the time).

Special Inventions and inventors