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Radio Flyer, The Little Red Wagon [PHOTOS]

Radio Flyer wagon
The Radio Flyer Wagon. (amazon.com)

Admit it. As a kid, you had a little red wagon. Or, you inherited one from your older siblings.

Dad's wagon
My Uncle’s and Father’s “Pathfinder” wagon, circa 1930. (Craig Allen photo)

No matter its maker’s name (and even its color), a wagon was just a part of youth. Pure Americana!

Radio Flyer, the quintessential little red wagon, has sold more than 100 million wagons since its founding almost a hundred years ago.

So what is the wagons’ story?

It is the creation of Antonio Pasin, who came to the U.S. from Italy in 1914, at the age of 16. The son of a cabinetmaker, he settled in Chicago and started a business that made wooden cabinets for phonographs.

But, the wooden wagon that he built to cart around all his tools soon became more popular than his cabinets. Customers kept asking him to make a wagon for their kids!

So, a new and unintended business was born in 1917. Pasin initially sold his wooden wagons to Chicago-area stores.

Pasin would name his growing company “Liberty Coaster” in 1923, after the Statue Of Liberty.

After getting a single, wholesale order for 7,000 wagons, a factory was built in Chicago.

Starting inĀ 1927, Pasin replaced the wooden body with stamped steel, taking advantage of assembly line manufacturing techniques–and scrap metal–from the ever-growing auto industry! This earnedĀ him the nickname “Little Ford.”

The company would be renamed “Radio Steel And Manufacturing” in 1930…

So…where did the name “Radio Flyer” come from?

It came out of Pasin’s fascination with both the newly-invented radio, and the start of air travel. Neither part of the name had any connection to the new steel wagons…the name was just a marriage of “buzzwords” of the day!

Initially, the wagons came in many colors, but the red model always sold the best.

The all-steel, seamless little red wagons sold well through the depression of the 1930′s. So well, that upwards of 1,500 wagons rolled off the assembly lines on a daily basis!

Sales exploded with the growth of “baby boomers”…making it hard to imagine a 1950′s or 1960′s neighborhood without a wagon full of kids having fun in the sun!

In the 1970′s, the company broadened its manufacturing base to include wheelbarrows, garden carts and outdoor furniture (sold under other company private labels, like Sears).

Radio Flyer trike
Radio Flyer Trike. (amazon.com)

Since the 1990′s, Radio Flyer has branched out into making scooters, tricycles, and training bikes.

Radio Flyer scooter
Radio Flyer Scooter. (amazon.com)

And, buyers can now customize their little red wagons online–adding canopies, padded seats, and custom engraving!

Radio Flyer Ultimate Comfort Wagon
Radio Flyer Ultimate Comfort Wagon. (amazon.com)

Since 2002, the company has produced plastic as well as the metal-bodied wagons.

Last year, Radio Flyer’s sales hit $76 million! And, the company is still run by the Pasin family!

Curt & Wagon
My brother using the Radio Flyer in 1980. (Craig Allen photo)

Sure, I had a Radio Flyer wagon…it was so loved, so used (and abused), that it barely made it through all 4 of us kids. I do recall that near the end, there was no “tread” left on the hard rubber tires…and (as you can see in the photos), the axles were bent from the weight strain over the years! I believe some strategic welding lengthened my Radio Flyer’s life…

Jennie & Wagon
Jennie, one of the neighbor kids, and the beloved wagon. Note the front wheels… (Craig Allen photo)

Somewhere in the stack of home movies, is the reel with the Radio Flyer hooked up to the back of Dad’s riding mower…and my sister and I are riding in the wagon, having the time of our lives! I was probably around 4 years old…

Aah…memories!

Please feel free to share your “little red wagon” memories!

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