Cool Designs for Cultured Kids - The Radio Flyer Wagon

Here’s how an ambitious Italian-American created a cheap, safe wagon and earned himself the name ‘Little Ford’
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Classic Red Wagon, 1940, by Radio Flyer, created by Antonio Pasin, as featured in Design for Children
Classic Red Wagon, 1940, by Radio Flyer, created by Antonio Pasin, as featured in Design for Children

From smoking to seat-belt-free cars, the early 20th century wasn’t a great time for product safety. Yet there is one remarkably popular kids’ toy that was created way back then, that has proved incredibly child safe - one of the reasons why we still see it in children’s hands cool parents' living spaces today.

"This iconic fire-engine red wagon with its shallow-sided steel tray, set of four robust black rubber wheels, pull handle and accompanying scrolling logo, has become as emblematic of American childhood as cream sodas and the sleepover,” explains our new book, Design for Children. “Its creator, Antonio Pasin, was an Italian immigrant living in Chicago. The son of a cabinetmaker, Pasin dreamt of a business of his own, making his first wooden wagon, the Liberty Coaster, in 1917. Seeking to make his wagons affordable for every family in America, Pasin drew inspiration from the new automotive assembly lines of the 1920s to mass produce his wagons in stamped metal – a move that earned him the nickname ‘Little Ford’. 

“The Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon was one of the safest toys of the period, with ‘nopinch’ ball joints to keep children’s fingers safe, and a controlled turning radius to prevent the wagon from tipping over. A century later, the company is still producing this timeless classic, now with Pasin’s grandson at the helm.”

 

Design for Children

Want a comprehensive, genre-defining survey of children's product and furniture design from the Bauhaus to today? Then buy a copy of Design for Children here. It's written by Kimberlie Birks, a New York-based design writer and editor who studied art history at Brown University and design criticism at the School of Visual Arts, where she wrote a graduate thesis on playground design.


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