Boys' Clothing for Different Outdoor Activities and Events: Soap Box Derbies--Countries

Figure 2.--This image is from a Soap Box Derby in the Netherlands during 1950.

The Soap Box Derby originated in America durin the 1930s and no where else has it proven so popular. We are not sure just when the Derby spread to Europe. We do know that after World War II (1939-45) the Soap Box Derby also caught on in Europe. The popularity in Europe varied greatly from country to country. WEhave very limited information from individual countries. It appears to have been particularly popular in England and the Netherlands. We believe it was popular in several other countries as well, but few details are currently available to us. In some countries such as the Netherlands they continued to be popular into the 1980s! The Derby continues to be a popular event in America.


The Soap Box Derby was created by the American press photographer Myron E. Scott in the 1930s. He once saw boys going down a hill in their self made cars. These cars were often made out of soap boxes, hence the reason for the name. It was his idea to organize soap box races. These races were an immediate success in America e. In America it was one of the major youth evnts. About 4 million people attended the 1949 national soap box races in Akron, Ohio. American kids have many more options today than in the 1930s, but the Soap Box Derby continued to be a popular choice by many boys and girls.


The Soap Box Derbies were also very popular in England. Wehave noted Cubs and Scouts building racers.


The Netherlands was one of the European countries in which the Soap box Derby was most popular. The event attracted lots of spectators as in America. One problem in the Netherlands is that the country is very flat and there are not a lot of hills. As a reslt, in the Dutch races, the cars were often pushed by other boys. Of ourse this often put more of a premium on the strength of the pusher than the design of the car. When there was a real hill available, the original American races were used. The cars as in America were made by the boys themselves, sometimes with help from their fathers. The winners were honoured like real sportsman.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 27, 2001
Last updated: December 27, 2001