Toy wagons, those that are large enough to give rides to children or to haul packages of newspapers for a newsboy, were first made in the 1880s in the United States. Most were made of wood that was painted red. Newspapers were sold to newsboys by the bundle. The boys kept them in a wagon and moved around the city, shouting the headlines to sell the papers. Most of the boys were homeless and this is how they earned a living.
In 1899, the newspaper owners raised the price of 10 papers sold to the newsboys from 5 cents to 6 cents. It started the famous newsboy strike that tied up traffic and caused fighting in the city. The boys eventually won the strike and a better price.
The newsboy wagons were usually made of painted wood with the name of the newspaper on the side. Some, like this one, had built up sides that could be removed. The type of wheel on the wagon helps to date it. Early wheels were metal with a rubber rim. Later wheels were rubber.
Another clue to the age of the pictured wagon is the name of the paper. The paper was started in 1883, destroyed by fire and started again in 1900. William Randolph Hearst bought it in 1921, around the time the paper’s name was changed to “Detroit Times.” It closed in 1960.
The most famous toy wagon was manufactured by Antonio Pasin in 1917 in Chicago. He made the Liberty Coaster in 1921 and the famous red Radio Flyer in 1927. His company became the largest wagon maker in the country. The wagon at the Cowan auction sold for $160.