If you, like me, are a fan of US movies and TV series, then the iconic Radio Flyer will be more than familiar. Indeed, I know they must be sold in other parts of the world, but like so many everyday iconic items of US life – check out our earlier post on Iconic US Sweets/Candies – Iconic American Candy – Part 1 – I don’t think I have seen one for sale in the UK. Certainly, when my kids would have loved such a product they weren’t available.
For generations, US kids have carted themselves, several siblings, pets, toys and other important treasures in these charming red trolley wagons. A wonderful item of great simplicity that’s use is limited only by the depths of a child’s imagination. As American as “Milk Duds” but what’s their story?
2017 saw the celebration of the first hundred years of the Radio Flyer. Antonio Pasin, a Venetian born son of a cabinet maker who, aged 16, in 1913 arrived in New York City to start a new life. In 1917, in Chicago, he started building wooden toy wagons and selling them to local shops. He was a jobbing joiner who built the wooden wagons to carry his tools.
Demand for the wagons led to Pasin forming the Liberty Coaster Company in 1923, and ten years after he made his first wooden wagons he was making pressed steel versions and selling them for just under $3.00. He was very interested in the many production techniques used in the local car industry, earning himself the nickname “Little Ford”. In the 1930’s he produced several versions of his “Liberty Coaster” including The Streak-O-Lite” and The Zephyr that echoed the Chrysler Airflow.
Renaming the company in 1930 the Radio Steel and Manufacturing, the brand name “Radio Flyer” stemming from Pasin’s fascination with the pioneers of Radio (Marconi) and Flight (Lindbergh).
Production was interrupted during the latter stages of the Second World War and turned to oil drum manufacture but the company survived. In 1987 Radio Steel and Manufacturinf became “Radio Flyer Inc” which has been overseen by Pasin’s grandson, Robert as CEO, since 1997.
The company’s range of Radio Flyer and associated products grows annually and aside from being voted a great company to work for, its iconic products are rooted deep in the warmth of the American psyche.
Images used with grateful thanks – Radio Flyer Inc., ClassicCars.com and Vintage Vending Inc.
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