Thursday, July 10, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Samuel Leeds Allen patents the Flexible Flyer

Samuel Leeds Allen (1841-1918) was issued a patent on August 13, 1889, for the Flexible Flyer.

Samuel Leeds Allen patents the Flexible Flyer

A Flexible Flyer sled from 1936. Samuel Leeds Allen patented the sled in 1889. (Wikimedia Commons)
A Flexible Flyer sled from 1936. Samuel Leeds Allen patented the sled in 1889. (Wikimedia Commons)

Samuel Leeds Allen (1841-1918) was issued a patent on August 13, 1889, for the Flexible Flyer.

Allen came from a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family and established the S.L. Allen Company in the 1860s to manufacture lawn mowers and farm equipment, including some items of his own invention.

Allen was awarded almost 300 patents for a wide range of machinery, including the fertilizer drill, seed drill, potato digger, cultivator, furrower, pulverizer, grass edger and numerous other farm implements.

To diversify his product line and provide work to his employees during the winter, Allen sought to create a product that could be sold during the winter.

His passion for sledding led him to develop a series of sleds and sled improvements. Allen eventually conceived of a sled with runners that were weakened in the middle to act as a hinge to permit the front portion to pivot for steering. This led to the design which became the Flexible Flyer with "super steering"— a sled with a pair of laterally flexible runners attached to the frame in a way that permitted them to be bent sideways to a great extent and with little effort. He accomplished this by attaching the front pair of runner struts to a crossbar which floats (is not attached) relative to the seat. This permits the runners to flex sideways starting at a point just ahead of the rear struts.

Allen was issued U.S. Patent number 408,681 on August 13, 1889, for the Flexible Flyer. Many have designatied his home in Moorestown Township, New Jersey as the symbolic birthplace of the Flexible Flyer despite it having been built five years after the invention.

The Flexible Flyer trademark has proven to have as much lasting value as the Allen patent. A good trademark should roll off the tongue, lodge permanently in the brain, and be suggestive or fanciful (a phrase which is merely descriptive cannot, as a rule, be registered as a trademark).

Flexible Flyer is a hit on all three counts; it is short enough and employs alliteration to make it pleasing to say and easily remembered. It is hard to imagine a trademark more suited to the product it represents.

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