To most Americans, shopping carts are a mundane item to which very little thought is given. Shopping carts, like most of the little conveniences of modern life, were once a wonder of invention, and the man who invented them was a Jewish man born in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory.

When Sylvan Goldman (November 15, 1898 – November 25, 1984) was born, his father was working for his mother’s family in a dry goods store in Indian Territory. Goldman joined the family business after leaving school in 8th grade, and then used his mercantile know-how as a food requisitionist during World War I.

After the war, Goldman and his older brother Alfred entered the grocery industry. Starting out successfully in Texas, they went to California, but soon returned to Oklahoma where relatives offered to set them up in business. The Goldman brother’s Sun Grocery Company introduced supermarkets (multiple types of food items) to Oklahoma. After selling their chain to Skaggs-Safeway in 1929, the brothers moved to Oklahoma City, where they purchased (and later merged) two chains – Standard and Humpty Dumpty.

In June 1937, the same year Alfred passed way, Sylvan Goldman introduced his folding shopping cart. The idea came to him after he noticed that most shoppers checked out once their basket became too heavy to carry. The availability of a shopping cart allowed them to stroll comfortably through the store and purchase more items. It is fascinating to note, however, that Goldman had to actively promote the use of his carts by hiring a greeter to offer the cart to patrons and retained the services of fake shoppers to demonstrate the carts convenience. Once shopping carts were accepted, however, their popularity took off. Goldman made millions from his patent royalties.

Goldman and his wife Margaret were known for their philanthropic efforts. He was also involved in the University of Oklahoma’s National Conference of Christians and Jews.