Radio Flyer

Radio Flyer

Kids have transportation needs all their own. Sure, there are bicycles and Big Wheels to travel the neighborhood, but what if something needs to be carried along? Ever try to haul a bunch of toys, a pile of dirt, or your pet on a bike? What you needed was a red wagon known the world over as a Radio Flyer. Versatile, indestructible, these metal workhorses have hauled tons of kid-friendly cargo for nearly a century.

The story begins with an Italian immigrant named Antonio Pasin, whose passion was handcrafting wooden wagons. He named his creations “Liberty Coasters” (after that famous statue in NY Harbor) and in 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 godsend 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.

The Radio Flyer was immortalized in the 1992 film Radio Flyer starring Elijah Wood about a couple of boys that build a wagon that could fly. Previous owners of these little red wagons can attest that they often did plenty of flying all their own, especially on a street with a big decline – and sometimes merely within their own imaginations.

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.

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