American Wagons: Chronology--20th Century


Figure 1.-- The photo shows three American sibling in Pleasanton, Texas during 1924. The wagon was a major play item for American children, especially the boys, during the 20th century. Unlike the bicycle, boys of all ages could play with a wagon. Note this one is of wood construction, but the metal wheels have rubber rims. The side seems to read Forward Coster'. For some reason the children don't vseem too happy about the photograph. The older boy wears a beanie and button-on sailor suit. The other two children have identical bangs, but we are not sure the youngest child in the waggon is a girl or boy. All three seem to be barefoot,

We do see boys with wagons at the turn-of-the 20th century, but that was when amateur snapshots became popular. We note one studio that had a nice wagon about 1905. Ir was identified as a Marswell wagon. The number of images changed dramaically when snapshots become available after the turn of the 20th century. Most boys growing up in America wanted their own wagons. An early example of American children with wagons is a group of unidentified children in 1907. It doesn't look red. The wagon became an entrenched boyhood item by the 1920s. But they were hand crafted wooden waggons and relatively expensive. This limited the number of boys who could have them. The classic Radio Flyer wagon was invented by Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin. He began making the standard hand-crafted wooden waggons (1917). Here we see the standard wood wagons that were still being made in the mid-1920s (figure 1). Pasin founded the Liberty Coaster Co. He created the red Radio Flyer (1927). This nay have been the beginning of the little red wagon, but we are not yet sure about that. The company couldn't keep ip with the demand for wooden wafons and hand stamped metal wagons were much faster to produce. It was the first steel wagon produced by the Liberty Coaster Co. We are not sure, however, if it was the firsr metal wagon. Until then we mostly see wooden waggons like the one here. Pasin named the Radio Flyer in honor of the Italian inventor of the radio. The Flyer bit seems tio have been the Lindburg mania at the time. All boys wanted them and many had them. We note them in Little Rascals (Our Gang) movie shorts in the 1930s. We see them in Sears catalogs during the 1940s. A reader writes, "Wagons were very popular for boys in the 1940s." I had one in the late-1940s and early-50s, Radio Flyer and recall it with considerable affection. Most boys got them. We see them changing in the 1970s when plastic trikes and waggons began to appear.






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Created: 4:50 AM 3/26/2011
Last updated: 4:50 AM 3/26/2011