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Daisy Outdoor Products is the world’s oldest and largest marketer of airguns and airgun accessories. With the town’s name stamped on every Daisy airgun made since 1958, Rogers (Benton County) is well known as the home of Daisy Outdoor Products. However, the company was not always located in Rogers, nor was it always in the airgun business.
Daisy traces its history to the founding of the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company in Plymouth, Michigan. Windmills in use throughout the country had traditionally been made of wood. The idea of a steel windmill was conceived by Clarence J. Hamilton, a watch repairman working in the front window of a drug and jewelry store in Plymouth. Hamilton secured a patent, and the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company was incorporated on January 9, 1882.
While the “Chicago” air rifle, made almost entirely of wood, had been made since 1886 by the Markham Air Rifle Company of Plymouth, it was Clarence Hamilton who first designed a metal air rifle. When the gun was first presented to general manager Lewis Cass Hough, he exclaimed, “Boy, that’s a Daisy!” With this expression, in 1888, the BB gun itself was named. The Plymouth Iron Windmill Company used it as a premium item, giving one to every farmer who purchased a windmill. By 1895, the company was totally devoted to the production of the airgun, and the name was changed to Daisy Manufacturing in 1895. An example of these early guns, often referred to as “wirestock airguns,” resides in the Daisy Airgun Museum in downtown Rogers.
In the early to mid-twentieth century, the company developed models of airguns and named them after recognizable Western circus and movie stars. The company produced the Buzz Barton, Buck Jones, Golden Eagle, Davy Crockett, Zorro, Annie Oakley, and, of course, the Red Ryder. Daisy’s now-famous Red Ryder BB gun, first produced in March 1940, was named after a comic strip character syndicated in newspapers nationwide and a hero of comic books, books, and the silver screen. The formal licensing agreement for production of a Daisy bearing the Red Ryder image was signed in 1939. Today, it is thought to be the longest continuous merchandise licensing agreement. Other than the period during World War II, when steel was unavailable, the gun has been continuously produced since 1938.
By 1956, many additions had been made to the original two-story brick factory building built in 1882 in Plymouth. Yet it was still inadequate to house the manufacturing processes required by the company. Daisy began a search for an ideal location of a new facility in a market that would offer an economical labor pool with a strong work ethic.
On December 10, 1957, the company symbolically broke ground in Rogers. In addition to a two-story office building, the manufacturing facility occupied 250,000 square feet (compared to the 150,000 square feet of the old Plymouth plant).
A Daisy airgun has always been a memorable Christmas and birthday gift and a rite of passage for young people. Receiving a Daisy can signify that parents believe their child is ready for the responsibility of an airgun. The 1983 movie A Christmas Story captured the longing of a young boy for his first Daisy and the emotional experience of finding it on Christmas morning.
Daisy began as a vertically integrated manufacturer—molding, stamping, die-casting, and tooling every component for every gun manufactured. However, in the 1990s, like most modern-day manufacturing companies, it began outsourcing components. This allowed the company to take advantage of the expertise, efficiency, and investment in research and development offered by establishing partnerships with specialty manufacturers.
No longer having a need for a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, the company moved its engineering, quality control, assembly, packing, and shipping facility to a smaller site in Neosho, Missouri, not far from the corporate offices and the Daisy Airgun Museum, which remain in Rogers.
In June 2007, Governor Mike Beebe joined Daisy in announcing that its assembly operation would be returning to Rogers. The new facility was operational by July 2007.
In June 2008, Daisy celebrated fifty years of being headquartered in Rogers with a “homecoming” event. Collectors, former employees, and retirees came from twenty-four different states and Canada to attend a three-day event. Highlights included a picnic and a swap-meet at which antique Daisy airguns were bought, sold, and traded. About 350 people attended a banquet which included Daisy’s president and the mayor of Rogers.
Throughout its history, Daisy has stressed the safe use of airguns for target shooting and has urged early adult training and supervision of young people in the shooting sports. In fact, Daisy pioneered the industry’s first shooting education program in 1955. Continually growing, Daisy-sponsored programs reach hundreds of thousands of young people each year. Daisy-sponsored programs begin with grassroots shooting education classes and culminate in the annual International BB Gun Championship Match, currently held each summer in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
For additional information:
Daisy Airgun Museum. Rogers, Arkansas. Online at http://www.daisymuseum.com/ (accessed October 20, 2006). (accessed October 20, 2006).
Daisy Outdoor Products. http://www.daisy.com/ (accessed October 20, 2006).
Joe C. Murfin
Daisy Outdoor Products
Last Updated 1/7/2013
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