The Fascinating History of Push and Pull Wagons

The Fascinating History of Push and Pull Wagons

For over 100 years, many Americans have grown up with push and pull wagons. Perhaps one of the earliest memories of your life is riding a Radio Flyer wagon with your brother or your sister on a sweltering summer day eating popsicles. While these iconic wagons in style and material have developed over the years, their purpose remains the same. They continued to be cherished by American children, and by the time they become parents, their own children, as well. But the history behind these simple wagons is more extensive than you think. For instance, did you know the creator of the old-school wagons we are familiar with today was an Italian immigrant?

That’s right! While pushcarts have been around for much, much longer, it was Antonio Pasin  (1897-1990) who invented the emblematic push wagon for children that we know today. When was just 16 years old, he moved to Chicago from Venice, Italy. The year was 1914, and Pasin was a believer in the American dream. His father was a cabinetmaker, and he also enjoyed woodworking. He proceeded to take various freelance jobs until he had enough money to have his own woodshop. In 1917 is when his career really took off.

In the said workshop, Pasin created the red wagon. Why he chose that color, in particular, is not known, but what we do know is that he chose to call the red wagon Radio Flyer, as he was a fan of both the radio and flying objects. Some people theorized that the color red was chosen because Pasin was Italian, and we are all familiar with the famous spaghetti and marinara sauce that compliments any classic Italian dish. The Radio Flyer company did experiment with other colors, but none of them were as commercially successful as the original red. 

Pasin’s invention was popular with children who were growing up during The Great Depression, bringing even just an ounce of joy to those whose families were experiencing significant hardship. In fact, about 1,500 wagons were being sold per day despite the economic crisis. This made Pasin’s creation stand out as the toy industry tremendously struggled during this time. The wagon even appeared during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. The booming success of the Red Flyer did not stop there, however.

Even after the Great Depression and World War II, the red wagon continued to sell well among the Baby Boomer generation, a generation marked by people born from 1946 and 1964. Pasin remained in Chicago for the remainder of his life, and his legacy is still apparent today 3 decades after his death. He was posthumously inducted to the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2003. His wife, Anna Pasin, remained in their Chicago home and lived to be 107 years old, passing away in 2016.

Since then, the push and pull wagon has evolved and been adapted into foldable wagons like the ones we offer here at American Outdoor Supplies. While the original design still exists today, it has helped set the standard for new wagons to be made for different purposes such as hiking. If you walk into any ordinary family retail store today, from Wal-Mart to Target, you most likely will see all different kinds of variations of the wagon for sale. It’s definitely not going anywhere, and will continue to exist for many more future generations to come. 

The simple-yet-useful push and pull wagon has stood the test of time and stretched out into many generations, reminding us that childhood is a time to be treasured by all of us. As Radio Flyer says, “Time flies. Enjoy the ride.”


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