"Radio Flyer: America's Original Little Red Wagon Since 1917"
It all began in 1914 when 16-year-old Antonio Pasin immigrated from Italy. In Italy the Pasin family has been creating handcrafted furniture for many generations. Antonio’s desire to come to America was so strong that his family sold their mule to pay for the voyage.
Three years after arriving in America, Antonio bought some secondhand wood working tools and set up shop in a small rented room. It was here that he began to build wooden wagons. He worked solo building the wagons at night and selling them during the day until 1923 when he had earned enough business to hire another set of hands. His new company was named after the Statue of Liberty that had welcomed him into the country just 9 years earlier, The Liberty Coaster Company.
Soon thereafter the wooden wagons were being produced in metal. The metal stamping methods that were inspired by the auto manufacturers allowed LCC to produce more wagons in less time. Antonio also began to use many of the mass-production techniques of the automobile industry giving the wagon built “For every boy For every girl” the nickname “Little Ford.”
Along with hard times in the 1930s for America came a new name for The Liberty Coaster Company. Now the world’s largest coaster-wagon manufacturing company was to be known as Radio Steel and Manufacturing. It was during this decade that wagon model #18 was named Radio Flyer. The name was derived from American's fascination with the invention of the radio, combined with the feeling of flight experienced by children riding in the wagon. Also in the 1930’s the company began to roll the edges of the wagons under so the sharp metal did not scratch the children.
Even though Antonio’s company felt the hardships of the great depression there was enough demand that the company had to produce at least 1500 radio flyers a day. Even in these hard times Americans wanted their children to have the best they could afford. The simple wagon was enough to inspire imagination and creativity.
In 1933, the World’s Fair in Chicago was introduced to the world’s largest Radio Flyer, a 45 foot tall “Coaster Boy” with an interior showroom. Inside visitors could view new innovations as well as purchase a mini wagon for a quarter. One of the new wagons showcased at the World’s fair was the Streak-O-Lite. This coaster, inspired by the Zephyr streamline trains, was more aerodynamic than the Radio Flyer and came with the works: including control knobs and working headlights. Following the Streak-O-Lite came the Zep inspired by the first mass-produced aerodynamic automobile, known as the Chrysler Airflow.
Due to World War II the government was rationing metal in the 1940’s. This lack of material in combination with many of Antonio’s workers being sent to assist war efforts put a damper on the wagon producing business. The company began to produce what were known as “Blitz Cans.” These metal containers were mounted on the backs of jeeps, trucks, and tanks and carried up to five gallons of fuel or water for the troops.
Along with the suburbs and baby boom of post-war life came an increasing demand for the classic Radio Flyer. As the company continued to grow Antonio’s son took over for his father. He realized that suburban living was much different that of city life with lawns to mow and such. Therefore a new line of garden carts, and eventually wheelbarrows, were produced by the company. With the new generation heading the company new innovations also came. The Radio Rancher was an elaboration of the original wagon design with high sides for transporting younger children.
During the 1960s the red paint was tweaked to be non-toxic and more resilient. The front hinge was also transformed a bit adding a ball joint between the wagon and the handle. From there the company devised a way to control the turning radius of the wagon so it wouldn’t tip over.
The company now known as Radio Flyer Incorporated has continued to keep up with the trends of modern day America. Now wagons can be found in sleek designs modeled after mid-century classic cars, day-glo colors, and completely plastic. The newest Radio Flyer wagons were inspired by the popular all terrain vehicles of the 1990s. These wagons are of course known as All Terrain Wagons. They are a combination of metal and wood with the ability to go off-road.
In celebration of their 80th anniversary Radio Flyer built a second world’s largest wagon, this one obviously larger than the previous, coming in at 27 feet long, 21 feet high, and weighing over 7 tons.
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