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Friday, March 14, 2008

Gathering Thoughts & Groceries

by Elizabeth Coatsworth.
To think I once saw grocery shops
With but a casual eye
And fingered figs and apricots
As one who came to buy.

To think I never dreamed of how
Bananas sway in rain,
And often looked at oranges
But never thought of Spain.

And in those wasted days I saw
No sails above the tea,
For grocery shops were grocery shops–
Not hemispheres to me.

No Cart Please

On March 14, 1938, Sylvan Nathan Goldman applied for the patent titled, Folding Basket Carriage for Self Service Stores. He was issued patent number 2,196,914 on April 9, 1940. Why does this matter? Well, with the assistance of a mechanic named Fred Young, Sylvan Goldman constructed the first grocery shopping cart. It seems that Goldman and his brother were originally in the wholesale produce business. They had a few financial set backs before they became half owners of the Standard/Piggly-Wiggly chain. Now, I happen to be one of those people that goes into the grocery store with the mind set of only picking up a few things. It doesn't usually happen that way and by the time I get up to the check-out, my basket over "floweth" and my aching hands are trying to hold everything in place while I'm bending down picking up the trail of groceries that have "somehow" gotten away. It's quite comical actually. But, I do it every time! I suppose, I have an aversion to shopping carts. Gee, Goldman wouldn't have liked that. You see, he was trying to come up with a way to keep his shoppers comfortably shopping in his grocery store so they would buy more groceries. His basket was built with a metal frame, two wire baskets, and wheels which could be rolled around the store. Since they were inspired by a folding chair, Goldman called his carts "folding basket carriers". He advertised his new invention as the "No Basket Carrying Plan."Below is an excerpt I gathered at American Heritage.com

According to the definitive biography of Goldman The Cart That Changed the World, by Terry P. Wilson—inspiration struck as he worked late in his office one evening in 1936. He looked at a folding chair and had the idea of replacing the seat with two shelves, one higher and one lower than the seat’s usual position, and outfitting the legs with wheels. The shelves would hold shopping baskets, which could be removed and stacked when not in use, and the carts could be folded up for compact storage.

There was a bit of a resistance from shoppers at first. The ladies felt the carts weren't fashionable enough, men didn't find their look masculine enough and "senior citizens" didn't want to appear weak. 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 became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire by collecting a royalty on every shopping cart in the United States until his patents ran out. source

The chief object of the invention is to provide the trade with a novel lightweight easy to handle multiple rack equipped roller supported carriage, the preferred embodiment being characterized by a dependable structural assemblage which is rigid and reliable when erected for use, and compact and convenient when folded for storage in an out-of-the-way location in the establishment.

Although Sylvan Goldman's original patent has basically stayed the same, there have been a few changes. for instance, it didn't take long before seats for children were added to the carts and during the fifties, grocery stores got to brand their store carts with the name of the store by covering the handle with colored plastic like caps.

I ran across this poem quite a few years ago on the internet and was delighted to come across it again. It's a spiritual poem titled Heaven's Grocery Store.

Resources
1. History of Shopping Carts (with pictures)
2. Shopping Carts @ The Engines of Our Ingenuity by John H. Lienhard
3. Scoping the Shopping Cart @ Tasteful Inventions

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise

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