The English proverb or saying,
“Necessity is the mother of invention,”
certainly applies to the life of an Italian
immigrant named, Antonio Pasin.
This post was written before the
newest part of the post was imagined.
Radio Flyer is coming out with a
new “riding toy,” an Italian car:
What will children think of a smaller
version of a Tesla Model S? 🙂
Their daddies, uncles and other fancy
car aficionados will be pleased.
Antonio Pasin came to America from
Italy, in 1914, at the age of 16.
He was the son of a cabinetmaker,
whose family settled in
Antonio started a business of making
wooden cabinets for phonographs.
The wooden cart or wagon he built to
carry his tools in was a creation that
became popular among parents who
saw it as a place to put children and
pull them along behind them.
This is the story of the creative
development of the Radio Flyer
In my family, we had a red, metal
wagon with wooden slats which were
inserted into their places to hold the
three of us while going through a fair
or park. When we grew older, if my
memory serves to remind me, how
useful this was to carry a cooler of
food, beverages and blankets.
I remember a few times taking my own
children to the Fourth of July fireworks
in a large red wagon.
My grandchildren are lucky to have
seats in their heavy and durable
plastic Little Tikes’ brand wagon.
The tradition of having a wagon to cart
children or stuff in, continues in our
family. A wagon is so handy:
sometimes a place to put jackets,
snacks, diaper bags, and prizes won
at the Delaware County Fair.
Here is a recent memory:
My oldest daughter, Carrie, came by
with their yellow and orange Little
Tike’s wagon to collect me for the
late September’s All Horse Parade.
We stuck a large blanket, sweet and
salty snacks, water bottles in a
lunchbox with one of those blue
frozen blocks, toys and Micah in it.
While coming across this saved article
in my notebook, kept since the Summer,
2012, it brings smiles,
and nostalgia for times
long passed by.
One of my favorite memories is my
father pulling us all down the sidewalk
in our Radio Flyer wagon to a
‘progressive dinner’ in our suburban
neighborhood in North Olmsted, Ohio.
I am holding a tray of hors d’oeuvres,
on my lap while brothers are
trying to sneak a few.
Antonio Pasin’s original name for his
wooden wagons was,
He had felt the influence of Liberty
(from his new homeland and the
Statue of Liberty) along with the
forward-thinking concept of wagons
“coasting” along city and much later,
Once Antonio Pasin started getting
larger orders, including one that was
for 7,000 wagons, he opened their
factory in Chicago.
He began making the wagons from
steel. He used some borrowed
techniques and scrap metal from the
auto industry. He also chose to name
his first steel wagon, “Radio Flyer.”
This was his homage to the invention
of radio and also how airplanes,
and the flight industry, were taking off.
In the middle of the Depression, Pasin
decided to expand his business,
against all sensible advice.
He took out a $30,000 loan,
risking his existing business
and family home.
He also used the money to produce a
statue of 45 feet height, of a boy riding
a wagon, to become part of the exhibits
at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
He sold beneath, “Coaster Boy,” little
miniature souvenir wagons for a
quarter apiece. The souvenir sales
repaid the loan and the statue
created “quite the buzz”
When Antonio reached his 70’s, he
allowed his son, Mario, to rename
company Radio Flyer.
To branch out and adapt the business,
they included in new lines,
garden carts and
This is a good example of how
businesses expand and adapt
to the times they are in.
In 1997, Antonio’s grandson, Robert,
son of Mario, took over business.
This family business has expanded
from those reliable and durable wagons,
carts, wheelbarrows and lawn and patio
furniture to embrace current fads.
Introducing new products such as
scooters, tricycles and training
Still a modern financial success story.
Customers may design wagons
online, adding canopies,
padded seats and
Robert emulated his grandfather
by creating his own, “Coaster Boy,”
so to speak. He has a 15,000 pound
replica of the original Radio Flyer,
outside the Chicago headquarters.
This is where the offices are located.
The sad part of the story, (don’t
get me wrong- I am not judging this
business), is that the Chicago factory
has closed. Competition in pricing and
wages, led to this move. They became
outsourced in their production since
2004. The proceeds climbed to
$76 million in 2012.
Following up on Antonio, he passed
away at the grand age of 93 and as of
2012, my source at this time of writing,
his aged but still living wife, Anna,
was 104 years old.
I hope she is still
The business story mentions Anna still
kept a little red wagon on the porch of
their home in Chicago suburbs.
I also believe the Pasin ancestors will
appreciate the sacrifices and stretches
of budgets Antonio and Anna
made along the way.
This is an incredible story of
‘rags to riches.’
How practicality in Antonio’s choice
of a wagon, to cart his tools from
carpentry job to job, led to one of the
most memorable ‘icons’ of the
1950’s and beyond.
Are you ready for a child-sized
Tesla Model S?
Wonder if they may
create someday a