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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Oklahoma City Businessman Invented Shopping Cart 70 years ago This Year; First Parking Meter Was Installed in the City in 1935

Posted by kinchendavid on January 2, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – The year 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of one of the greatest inventions of all time, courtesy of an Oklahoma City, OK supermarket owner named Sylvan Nathan Goldman (1898-1984), who came up with the idea from looking at a folding chair in his office.

As a guy who’s been around supermarkets for a long time – as a customer and as an employee — I’d say Mr. Goldman had too much time on his hands – but shoppers – and supermarket chains – should be glad that he did. He was born in Indian Territory, one of the parts of Oklahoma (the other part was Oklahoma Territory) before it became a state in 1907 – another anniversary that’s going to be celebrated in the Sooner State this year.

From Wikipedia (where else?): “[Goldman] introduced the device on June 4, 1937, in the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, of which he was the owner. With the assistance of a mechanic named Fred Young, Goldman constructed the first shopping cart, basing his design on that of a wooden folding chair. They built it with a metal frame and added wheels and wire baskets. Another mechanic, Arthur Kosted, developed a method to mass produce the carts by inventing an assembly line capable of forming and welding the wire. The cart was awarded patent number 2,196,914 on April 9, 1940 (Filing date: March 14, 1938), titled, “Folding Basket Carriage for Self-Service Stores”. They advertised the invention as part of a new “No Basket Carrying Plan.”

“The invention did not catch on immediately. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. ‘I’ve pushed my last baby buggy,’ offended women informed him. 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.”

And you thought Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame invented greeters!

* * *

Oklahoma City had about 150,000 residents in 1935, so it was big enough for the first parking meter in the U.S. Yes, the parking timing device famous for putting the Luke character (Paul Newman) on the road gang in the classic 1967 flick “Cool Hand Luke” was invented in the largest city and capital of the state. The movie opens with Luke using a pipe cutter to decapitate parking meters. (Two other memorable scenes in the Stuart Rosenberg-helmed film: The Egg-Eating Contest and the Car-Washing Scene).

The parking meter came from the fertile mind of Carl C. Magee, who filed for a patent on the invention May 13, 1935. The patent was issued May 24, 1938 as patent number 2,118,318. The world’s first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City in July 1935 and the infernal device spread like farmers fleeing to California from an Oklahoma dust storm (sorry about that, Oklahoma!).

Believe it or not, a Google search of Oklahoma City not only brings up the federal building bombing of 1995, it also references the parking meter. For some reason, the sprawling city is proud of its no-armed bandits. Hinton, WV (there are only two other Hintons in North America and one of them is in Oklahoma; the other is in Alberta, Canada) has parking meters (pictured) but Lewisburg doesn’t, for some reason. Just had to mention that!

For more information, check out The Parking Meter page http://www.ionet.net/~luttrell/index2.html created and maintained by Ron Luttrell II of Oklahoma City — naturally. He died at the age of 44 in 2000, but somebody is presumably maintaining the site, sort of, although it hasn’t been updated since Sept. 20, 2001. His dad, Ron Luttrell was a parking meter technician for the original company.

That first meter was manufactured by the Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company, the predecessor of one of the current parking meter makers, POM Incorporated, whose web site (www.pom.com) contains some fascinating (to me, at least) historical photos. One of them shows a cop placing the first parking ticket on the windshield of an early 1930s sedan.


One Response to “PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Oklahoma City Businessman Invented Shopping Cart 70 years ago This Year; First Parking Meter Was Installed in the City in 1935”

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