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Daily Archives: January 25, 2012

Varooom! Varooom!

I have wanted to restore a vintage pedal car for a long time. These things when restored right can sell for a small fortune. I have searched the internet for the ones I thought were the most unique. Of course I will never be able to squeeze into one of these little guys to drive but I can still appreciate the design and styling. They have started reproducing classic styled pedal cars but they can not compare to these fantastic steel babies. Here are a few that I really like…

Ok, I know it was made in 1971 but look at how cool it is!

Really? Why did they not have any of these around when I was a kid 😦

Wow! A trailer too.

Fantastic, look at the food tray attached to the side of the car.

 Ok, these were all very nice and I would consider myself lucky to own any of them but this one that steals the cake.Here is the 1950’s Garton Pink Kidillac Pedal Car, hope you think this one is as awesome as I do.

Here is the history of the pedal car:

When the automobile made its appearance, the pedal car soon followed. Pedal car history goes back to the 1890’s when most were modeled from the real cars on the road at the time.  Since their conception, pedal cars were all kids wished for.  But at the turn of the century, their cost meant they were playthings for only wealthy families. With many families reeling from the financial devastation of The Great Depression, pedal cars were often toys for upper class children.  Those not so fortunate played with basic homemade ride-on toys.  In the 1920’s and 1930’s the wealthy were catered to when it came to buying pedal cars since they were the primary buyers.  No pedal cars were produced in the mid-1940’s when all metal production was directed to the World War II effort.

Reaching the peak of popularity in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, pedal cars experienced a resurgence in the 1950’s to 1960’s with chain-driven models.  With postwar prosperity in the 1950’s, pedal cars grew more popular and were available in all major stores.  From the early 1920’s through the late 1960’s, pedal cars, like automobiles, were produced in many different models and colors.  Designed to incorporate the most current trends of the automotive world, pedal cars featured working lights and horns, moveable windshields and ragtops, chrome detailing and hood ornaments, and white wall tires and custom paint jobs.

Later pedal toy manufacturers recognized that there was a huge market for these pedal car ride-on toys and extended their business strategies to include manufacturing of other pedal toy products like pedal planes, namely the Red Baron, Shark Attack and Fantasy Flyer.  Manufacturers later extended their idea of the pedal car to all things pedal, including pedal trains, pedal trucks, tricycles, and even die cast models for those who just wanted a model of the models.  The idea of owning one of these pedal toys is trendy to this day as many pedal toy owners are not only purchasing these products as gifts for their children, but also as collectible items.  They have an emotional attachment to the memory that these cars bring to them. Once upon a time, they were in the original versions of these cars, like the 1965 Mustang car.

In the 1960’s, a fascination with space and air travel, the ubiquity of plastics, and new safety standards for toys brought an end to widespread metal pedal car production.  In the 1970’s the plastic car was introduced and the traditional steel pedal cars almost faded out of existence.  Children’s car manufacturing continued in plastic, but the design of the vehicles no longer captured the aesthetic of adult automobiles.  The pedal car era began almost as soon as the world embraced the automobile and ended when metal toys gave way to plastic.



Fred G. Johnson: A One Man Circus

I love the feelings these canvas pieces of art conjure up. They make me feel that there could be some creature or person yet to be discovered with amazing abilities or freakish talents. I remember when I was growing up my dad use to get free tickets for the circus from the Union Pacific railroad (He was a manager with the UP). We would go to the Arco Arena and watch “the greatest show on earth”, Barnum and Bailey Circus. I remember how excited I was and how cool it was to see all the acts and characters that would entertain us. Anyways, I know some of you are freaked out by clowns or sideshow entertainers but these pieces of art scream Americana! Today I will discuss the best known sideshow banner artist Fred G. Johnson.

Fred G. Johnson is considered to be one of the finest sideshow banner painters in the history of the circus and sideshow world. He had a 65-year career of banner painting, creating many works that are still prized by collectors and museums around the world. He worked for the O. Henry Tent and Awning Company in Chicago for 40 years from 1934 – 1974.

Known as the ‘Picasso’ of circus art, Fred G. Johnson designed advertisements for the Century of Progress Exposition, the 1933 World’s Fair held in Chicago, the city’s old White City and Riverview amusement parks, traveling shows throughout the country, and all the great circuses, including Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey and the Clyde Beatty Circus.

His banners have been exhibited at the State of Illinois Building, some now hang in museums, and others were auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York.

A native of Chicago, Mr. Johnson started running errands at age 14 for the United States Tent & Awning Co. Banner painter H. D. Cummings was looking for someone to clean pots and do odd jobs and took Mr. Johnson on. The older man taught him to paint, something he learned well without any formal training in figure or scene drawing.

Fred Johnson was the oldest living sideshow banner artist until his death at 98 years old in 1990.

His works were exhibited in July of 1989 at the State of Illinois Art Center Gallery as Fred G. Johnson’s Sideshow Banners. They also hang in the circus museums in Baraboo, Wisconsin and Sarasota, Florida.

Among his banners auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1981 were Minnie Ha-Ha the Monkey Girl, Josephine the Electric Girl, Albert the Rubber Skin Man, The World`s Strangest Married Couple and Dickie the Penguin Boy.


These canvas painting could get pretty large. The colors are vibrant and the imagery can be kind of strange but in my opinion they are very cool. These would be great framed and hanging on the wall in a game room. I have not had the opportunity to purchase one of these yet but my eyes are always searching. As with any piece of art condition is very important and these pieces of art were prone to paint loss. If you get a chance to grab one of these at a reasonable price then jump on it.

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