Kids have their own transportation needs. Sure, they can use a bicycle or Big Wheel to get around the neighborhood, but what if there are items that need to be carried along? Ever try to haul a bunch of toys, a pile of dirt, or your beloved pet on a bike? Chances are, they might not arrive intact at your destination. That is, until the advent of a small red wagon known the world over as a Radio Flyer. Versatile, practically indestructible, these metal workhorses have hauled tons of kid-friendly cargo for almost a century, and show no signs of slowing.
Our story begins with an Italian immigrant named Antonio Pasin, whose passion was handcrafting wooden wagons. He named his creations “Liberty Coasters” (after the famous statue in NY Harbor) and, by 1923, he took a cue from the blossoming auto industry, switched to steel, and began mass-producing his wagons for children all across America. One particular version, Model #18, became forever known as the Radio Flyer (an homage to the inventor’s fondness for radio and aviation) and was heavily advertised at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, via a 45-foot tall statue of a kid sitting in one of his wagons. From that point, seemingly every kid that saw one was quick to add it to his or her Christmas wish list.
A perfect accompaniment to any child with a paper route, Radio Flyers were sturdy enough to transport pets, toys, even other children. Other models would follow over the years, including the Zep and the Streak-O-Lite (complete with working headlights). For larger loads, one might even consider the Radio Rancher (introduced in the 50s), which sported higher side rails for more secure hauling. In the 70s, perhaps the snazziest of the bunch was offered, the Fireball 2001. The dragster of the wagon family, it came with a roll bar, mag wheels and nifty paint job. Today, while the traditional metal versions are still available, Radio Flyer also offers a line of rugged plastic wagons, as well as sports utility wagons, complete with shock absorbers.
Immortalized in its own 1992 film (of the same name), the Radio Flyer is firmly entrenched in our collective childhood. If you didn’t have one, you probably knew someone that did, and you were a little envious. It’s been that way for almost a century now, and the Radio Flyer shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
If your childhood included tugging a Radio Flyer around the neighborhood, we do hope you’ll take a moment and share your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to a true toy classic.