1910s/1920s Gendron Pioneer Tiller & Treadle Tricycle (American National badge)

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W.L DIEMER AMERICAN NATIONAL tricycle 1925 patent

Application filed March 5, 1924. serial No; 696,979. Patented July 7, 1925.


This invention relates to juvenile vehicles and particularly to imitation automobiles. It is found in practice that the addition of any feature to vehicles of this class which will cause them to imitate more closely regular automobiles tends to enhance their salability, and this is particularly true whore the operation of some part can be indicated audibly in some manner. The object of this invention is to enhance the commercial value and salability of imitation juvenile automobiles by the provision of simple and efficient manually controlled means which is automatically operable, upon the movement of a switch or control member, to emit a sound simulating that of a running engine.

…It is evident that a device of this character in connection with a juvenile vehicle will be very attractive to children as the cause of the rapid clicking sound emitted upon the throwing of the lever 28 has a certain mystery about it, inasmuch as the mechanismis enclosed under the hood of the vehicle, and the noise emitted resembles that of a running engine.

W.L Diemer patent: winding mechanism for pedal cars simulating engine sound

By the 1930s, American National of Toledo, Ohio was the world’s largest manufacturer of pedal cars. A report of a union dispute in 1939 states: ‘The American National Company is an Ohio corporation with plants located in Toledo and Perrysburg, Ohio. It is engaged in the manufacture of children’s vehicles, doll carriages and wheel chairs. During 1939 the Company manufactured and sold finished products of the value of $2,500,000, approximately 75 per cent of which were delivered to customers outside the State of Ohio.’

On 24th March, 1924, W.L Diemer of Toledo lodged the above patent, assigned to American National Co. It is the earliest patent that I have found bearing the company’s name. The book ‘Pedal Cars: Chasing the Kidillac’ states that the American National Company was established in 1925 as a holding company for various Toledo manufacturers: Toledo Metal Wheel, National Wheel, and American Wheel, with Gendron added to the roster in 1927. Nevertheless, it would appear that the American National Co was in existence earlier than this date. The advert below, apparently from a 1921 Butler publication, includes a claim by American National that they are the originators of juvenile automobiles.

The point of this research is the discovery of the tiller & treadle tricycle featured here, which has an American National name plate. With the ‘velocipede tricycle (pedal in front wheel) becoming the dominant design, tiller & treadle tricycles were mostly obsolete by 1925, which makes it quite rare. It would appear to be an earlier ‘Gendron Pioneer’ model that remained in stock and was rebadged when the companies merged.

1921 american national ad

1910s/1920s Gendron Pioneer Tiller & Treadle Tricycle

badged as American National

LENGTH: 39.5″


(Now sold)

This children’s tiller & treadle tricycle is in very good condition, missing only the rear cushion for the seat. A few parts have been over-painted in red. It’s rare to find one of these tricycles with a name plate, as the majority were sold to department stores and catalogue companies rather than direct from the company. This is a Gendron, presumably rebadged as an American National after the companies combined in 1927.

Peter Gendron’s 1887 tricycle patent was one of the first; he was also the first to design and patent the metal wheel used in these tricycles. The Gendron Wheel Co, established in 1872, was one of the first and largest manufacturers of children’s riding toys, tricycles and carriages, with a reputation for top quality products.




1914 gendron tricycles