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Working It Out

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Orla E. Watson (1896-1983)
Born: Kansas City, MO (?)

  • A fascination with mechanical inventions led Watson to tinker and work with machinery his entire life. After leaving the Army in 1918, he worked as a machinist, layout man, and foreman, eventually opening Western Machine Co., his own machine shop and contract manufacturing business in 1946.
  • Prior to his most successful invention-the telescoping shopping cart-, Watson applied for and was granted four patents for mechanical valves, pumps, and gauges, none of which were ever licensed or manufactured.
  • The telescoping shopping cart that Watson designed required no assembly, and could be compactly stored by pushing one cart into another, much like the carts of today. He manufactured several examples in his Western Machine Co., and they debuted in 1947.
  • Watson applied for a patent on his shopping cart in 1946, but it wasn't until 1949 when Sylvan Goldman, the inventor of the first shopping cart (patented in 1940), stopped contesting it and granted his rights to the patent to Watson in exchange for licensing rights.


Compiled from the following sources:
-Sklar, Jeanne. TELESCOPING SHOPPING CART COLLECTION, 2000, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.