The Telescoping Shopping Cart Collection, 1946-1983; 2000, provides information relating to the development of the product and the legal challenges encountered by its creator, Orla E. Watson, in the patenting, licensing, and manufacturing process.
The collection is divided into three series: Series 1: Background Information, 1983;2000; Series 2: Business Records, 1946-1979; and Series 3: Legal Records, 1946-1966.
Series 1: Background Information, 1983; 2000, contains two items, a document entitled Brief History of the Telescopic Grocery Cart, authored by Leslie S. Simmons, personal representative, Edith Watson estate, 2000, and Orla E. Watson's death certificate, 1983.
Series 2: Business Records, 1946-1979, contains information on the finances and operations of Telescope Carts, Inc. and the development and marketing of the telescoping cart. Materials include royalty and income tax statements of Orla E. and Edith Watson, business correspondence, a time line of cart development, blueprints, patents, details about the patent process, and marketing and publicity materials of brochures and photographs.
Series 3: Legal Records, 1946-1966, contains material relating to the manufacture and licensing of telescope carts, and legal challenges to both the company and Orla E. Watson, including the challenges to the patent process spearheaded by Sylvan Goldman, and the evidence collected for Watson's claim for a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service.
Divided into 3 series
Series 1: Background information, 1983, 2000
Series 2: Business Records, 1946-1979
Series 3; Legal Records, 1946-1966
Biographical / Historical:
The first shopping cart in the United States was developed in the late 1930s and patented by Sylvan Goldman of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Goldman received US Patent 2,155,896 in April 1939 for a "combination basket and carriage" and in April of 1940 he received US Patent 2,196,914 for a "folding basket carriage for self-service stores." It consisted of upper and lower baskets placed atop a folding frame similar to that of a folding chair with wheels. Following use, the baskets would be removed and stacked with others and the frame folded. Prior to each use the baskets and the frame needed to be assembled.
In 1946, Orla E. Watson, of Kansas City, MO, devised a plan for a telescoping shopping cart which did not require assembly or disassembly of its parts before and after use; this cart could be fitted into another cart for compact storage, hence the cart descriptor. The hinged side of the baskets allowed the telescoping. Watson's Western Machine Company made examples of this invention, and the first ones were manufactured and put to use in Floyd Day's Super Market in 1947.
Alongside the telescoping cart, Watson developed the power lift which raised the lower basket on the two-basket telescoping cart to counter height while lifting the upper basket out of the cashier's way at the check out counter. This made moving groceries, before the invention of the automatic conveyor belt, easier for the customer and the cashier. Watson manufactured and sold the power lift in 1947, but then discontinued efforts on the invention to focus on the telescoping cart. The patent application was abandoned and never granted.
The manufacturing, distribution, and sales of Watson's telescoping carts was handled by Telescope Carts Inc., established in 1947 by Watson, his partner, Fred Taylor, and George O'Donnell. The company had difficulty with the manufacture and sale of the carts, as authorized suppliers were not making carts of the quality expected. Other manufacturers saw an opportunity, and soon telescoped carts were being made and sold by unlicensed parties despite Watson's pending patent.
Watson applied for a patent on his shopping cart invention in 1946, but Goldman contested it and filed an application for a similar patent. In 1949 Goldman relinquished his rights to the patent and granted them to Watson. In exchange, Goldman received licensing rights in addition to the three other licenses previously granted; Watson continued to receive royalties for each cart produced.
The royalties Watson received for each cart manufactured led to his 1954 claim against the Internal Revenue Service, for refund of taxes paid on the profits of his invention, as a
Congressional bill changed the status of invention-derived income from ordinary income to capital gains, thereby lowering the taxes owed.
Orla E. Watson was born in 1896, and after attending Nevada Business College for one year, he worked as a stock clerk in a hardware store in Kansas City, then joined the Army until 1918, when he entered a series of jobs as machinist, layout man, forman. He tinkered with mechanical inventions on the side (such as a Model T Ford timer). In 1933, he opened his own business making air conditioners, but he took two more jobs before opening Western Machine Co., a machine shop and contract manufacturing business in 1946.
He had also applied for and was granted four patents prior to the telescoping shopping cart, for mechanical valves, pumps, and gauges, none of which were ever licensed or manufactured.
Orla E. Watson died January 17, 1983.
The National Museum of American History's Division of Culture and the Arts houses original shopping carts created by Sylvan Goldman and Orla E. Watson.
The collection was donated to the National Museum of American History in July, 2000, by the estate of Edith Watson, through Leslie S. Simmons, personal representative. The two telescoping Watson carts were donated in July 2000 by Leslie S. Simmons, personal representative, Edith Watson estate.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The Thomas B. Clarke letters from or about Homer Dodge Martin measure 0.2 linear feet and date from 1893-1897. Twenty-two letters from Martin to art collector and patron Thomas B. Clarke, document Martin's work, his financial struggles, and his physical and mental condition in the last 5 years of his life. Additional letters to and from others further illuminate Martin's relationship with Clarke and provide insight into his financial affairs and the increasingly favorable market for the painter's work just prior to and following his death in 1897.
Scope and Content Note:
This collection measures 0.2 linear feet, including 22 letters from Homer Martin to art patron Thomas Clarke, and dates from 1893-1897. Since Martin kept no diaires or sales ledgers himself, the letters are invaluable in understanding his painting, financial struggles, and his physical and mental condition in the last 5 years of his life. Additional letters from Martin's son, Ralph, his wife, Elizabeth, and gallery owner William Macbeth, and a letter from Martin to his friend Montgomery Schuyler, further illuminate Clarke's activities as a dealer and patron of Martin's work, and provide insight into Martin's financial affairs and the increasingly favorable market for the painter's work just prior to and following his death in 1897.
The collection is arranged as 1 series:
Series 1: Thomas B. Clarke Letters From or About Homer Dodge Martin, 1893-1897 (Box 1; 9 folders)
Thomas Benedict Clarke (1848-1931) was a New York prosperous merchant who began collecting American art in the 1870s. Over the course of the next 20 years he actively traded, loaned, and sold artwork through dealers in New York City, outlets in Worcester, Cincinnati and St. Louis, and with artists. He also shared his collection through public and private exhibitions in New York and elsewhere. He earned praise from the critics for being the foremost patron of American painters during the late 1800s and was praised by many painters for his attention to American artists at a time when they considered themselves neglected or ignored.
Hudson River School painter Homer Dodge Martin (1836-1897) was one of the artists for whom Clarke acted as patron. Martin studied briefly with James Hart and spent his summers during the 1860s sketching in the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the White Mountains and then painted landscapes from the sketches he made at his studio in New York City's Tenth Street Studio Building.
In 1876 he took his first trip to Europe and from 1882-1886 lived in Normandy, France. There he was influenced both by the Barbizon school of painting and the Impressionists and his painting took on darker, more melancholy tones.
By 1887 Martin had returned to New York and in 1893 moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. During the 1890s Martin was plagued by ill health and financial struggles. A dead optic nerve in one eye and a cataract in the other, left him close to blindness when he died in February 1897. At the time of his death two of his greatest paintings, Westchester Hills (circa 1887) and Harp of the Winds (1895), remained unsold and another, Adirondack Scenery (1895) had been bought by Clarke for circa $400.
In 1890, Clarke had dissolved his dry-goods partnership, Clarke & King, and announced that he would no longer deal in American pictures except as an agent for George Inness. Clarke opened a showroom known as "Art House" in 1891 on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and began dealing primarily in Oriental porcelains and Greek antiquities. The Martin letters are one source of evidence that Clarke did, however, continue to deal in American art as a private agent through Macbeth Gallery and others. A letter written on Clarke's behalf to Martin dated April 17, 1896, stated that he had contacted Samuel P. Avery on Martin's behalf, and suggested that he consign his paintings to Avery, rather than having Clarke promote them himself.
In January 1899 Clarke announced that he would dispose of his American pictures at auction following a week long exhibition at the American Art Association. In February 1899, 7 of the 10 Homer Martin paintings in Clarke's possession were sold at that auction, including Adirondack Scenery for $5500. Within two years of his death, Martin's Harp of the Winds was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In addition to the Metropolitan Museum, Martin's work can be found in other important American museums including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1874 and was one of the founders of the Society of American Artists.
The James Stillman letters relating to Homer Dodge Martin have also been digitized and are available online via the Archives of American Art's website. Additional material relating to Homer Dodge Martin, including correspondence with Thomas B. Clarke and Elizabeth Martin, can be found in the Macbeth Gallery records at AAA.
Most of the letters were donated by Charles Feinberg in 1957. Four additional letters were given to the Archives by Irving Burton in 1967.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
The Thomas B. Clarke letters from or about Homer Dodge Martin are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.