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  Jenifer Holcombe Soykan






  This page is dedicated to tracing  the developments in Flexible Flyer sleds and attempting to give approximate dates to the various models produced by S L Allen Co. of Philadelphia, PA.  The dating scheme is based on several sources including dated advertisements, patent numbers, the very fine book by Joan Palicia referenced on page one of this site, and a few brochures by the company.

  We have made certain assumptions in dating the sleds. The most important assumption is that when changes were made, they were for better engineering.  Also, the graphics reflect a more simple design as the years passed.   Numerous writers have added anecdotal material as to when their families purchased their sleds and some sleds even have dates inscribed on them by the owners, along with their names.

  For an overall picture, we know that the first S L Allen patent was in 1889 and that the company was sold in the 1960s.  The U S Patent Office recognizes the company at its website: http://www.uspto.gov/go/kids/flexflyr.htm#this1 

 The sleds had flat runners until about 1907, wooden bumpers until 1915, and straight runners until 1935.  An articulated steering bumper came out around 1928, and those seem to be the major engineering modifications.  However, numerous nuances also occurred along the way and we will spotlight them in the following entries.  The entries will use examples from the sleds submitted by the various collectors to this site.

  Although S L Allen made sleds under other names such as FireFly or Yankee Clipper, those sleds are not included at this time.  Nor is the FlexyRacer, a wheeled sled for use on streets by insane dare devils.

  Since this is a "work in progress" and may contain errors, we invite all comments and corrections.  



  As stated above, the dates for the various models are based upon our best estimates.  Only steerable metal runner sleds are assessed since we have virtually no information on the earlier non steerable Flyer sleds.

First Series:  From after 1889 to about 1908, up to 6 sizes with flat runners.  At some point a goose neck runner came into being that extended the length of the runner on the ice.

B Series:  About 1908 to 1914, up to 6 sizes with grooved runners.  This was the last series with a wooden bumper and wooden side rails all the way forward.

C Series:  From 1915 to about 1928, this series utilized an all steel front end initiated on the Tuxedo Racer a few years before.  Part way through the series the logo on the center of the sled was modified.  In 1921 the eagle in the logo started carrying a sled whereas before it was an American shield.

E Series:  At some point an E series was made that, as far as we can tell, was identical to the earlier C Series.  We guess that it was short lived, around 1928.  Some Racer models have been observed with a D Series on them as well, but these two letters of the series are not well established.

F Series:  Around 1928 an articulated bumper came out in the F models.  We have observed F sleds both with the two piece bumper joined in the middle, and with the two pieces covered by a single piece.  This latter arrangement became the permanent bumper for all subsequent models and thus the rare F model with out the single piece over the top can be seen as a significant new development. This series also inaugurated the simple diamond patterns on the deck and handle.

G Series:  Estimated from about 1930 to 1935, the G series implemented the three piece bumper with the diamond pattern, and at some point added a "safety" end to the end of the runner.  While the metal bumper continued the straight yellow line seen since 1915, later G models came out with a pair of diagonal lines.  We assume that the diagonal lines coexisted with the Airline series.

Airline Series:  The Airline sleds came out in 1935 with the ends of the runners turned back to the top of the last cross support.  This major change was meant to prevent other sledders from impaling themselves on the sharp end of another's sled when running into them.  There were numerous Airline models, each with its own name: Ace (37"); Pilot (41"); Patrol (44"); Pursuit (47"); Junior (51"); Chief (55"); Racer (60"); Cruiser (65"); and (108").  The Airline names were eventually dropped with a number/letter replacing them, but with the same lengths as before, and the length being the model number.




Page added September 17, 2004