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Consumerism Gets Its Own Set of Wheels

June 5, 2002

Historian's Notes

Wow!! Could Oklahoma be a more interesting state?? So many great things and people have come from here that I guess it should be no surprise that the all-important shopping cart had its origins here as well. The shopping cart ranks high on the list of things we use almost everyday but don't stop to appreciate. The next time you are wheeling around your favorite discount city maybe you should stop for a few seconds and give a little thought of appreciation to the genius of Sylvan Goldman and the convenience he has brought into your life.

Resources

Wilson, Terry P. The Cart that Changed the World.

Almanac Transcript

Consumerism gets its own set of wheels this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello I’m Steven Knoche Kite. Today many of us take for granted the ease and convenience of the modern day shopping trip. We grab the nearest cart filling it with products that meet our needs and desires as we wheel leisurely through the store. Actually, shopping carts as we know them today are a relatively modern invention. Before the appearance of the "wheeled wonders," shoppers were forced to lug around one or more baskets simultaneously juggling large items, children and the like. The cumbersome days of shopping, however, were soon to be over with the appearance of one Sylvan Goldman.

The Goldman family entered Oklahoma in the land run of 1889 and after giving up farming turned instead to the dry goods business. Sylvan Goldman, born in 1898 followed in the family tradition and entered the merchandising business at the age of fifteen. The Goldman’s gradually moved from dry goods to groceries, and it was there that they had their greatest success. Sylvan Goldman along with brothers and uncles established, owned and managed several groups of grocery stores in Tulsa, Texas and California before finally settling in Oklahoma City.

It was in Oklahoma City where the family bought out and revived the Humpty-Dumpty and Standard chain of stores and initiated the first successful line of self-service grocery stores in the state. It was also in Oklahoma City where Sylvan Goldman gained his claim to fame. Always on the lookout for ways to increase profits, Goldman realized that he could sell more if it were easier for the customers to carry large amounts of goods through the store. Inspired by the idea of a folding chair, the Oklahoma City grocer devised a folding cart mounted on wheels that held two large sized baskets; this then was the first known shopping cart. The grocery cart debuted with great success and alterations soon followed. The child carrier was added to the cart to avoid taking up valuable merchandise space with children, and the carts were made to “nest” or fit into each other to minimize the space used for storage. It was in this week of 1937 that Goldman began advertising his new invention to Oklahoma City shoppers changing forever the nature of the shopping experience.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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