It has been said that whether an individual returns their shopping cart is the ultimate test of whether mankind is capable of self-governance. Whether or not that assertion is true, we can all agree that the world is a better place because of the cart’s existence. After all, without the shopping cart, we likely never would have had the supermarket, bulk foods, or many of the other modern conveniences that come with living in a plenteous society. So in many ways, our modern consumer experience can be traced back to an Oklahoman named Sylvan Goldman, the very ordinary man who invented the shopping cart in 1937.
Goldman was born to immigrant parents in 1898. His father worked in a dry goods store in Baltimore before moving out to Oklahoma to pioneer the west. The younger Goldman worked in a dry goods store as a boy before lying about his age to join the U.S. Army just nineteen days after America declared war on Germany in World War One.
Upon returning home, Goldman and his brother entered the grocery business and eventually purchased the Humpty Dumpty chain of grocery stores. It was there that Goldman developed, patented, and marketed his incredible idea of a “combination basket and carriage” that could take up very little space when stored and allow customers to navigate store aisles with ease. He was confident that his innovation would set him apart from the competition and invested heavily in the idea. However, every hero’s story has its challenges. When he first deployed his shopping carts, he was shocked to see that none of his customers were using this unfamiliar innovation. The brilliant Goldman actually hired women to walk around his stores with the carts pretending to be customers, and the idea quickly took off.
As is common in such cases of American innovation, the humble Goldman was elevated to a place of wealth and stature, while all Americans were elevated by this new modern convenience. The unique U.S. Patent and Trademark made this progress possible. Let’s protect it so future Sylvan Goldmans can make America a better place.