Daisy Airgun Museum

Wholesome Americana in northwest Arkansas

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The small and excellent Daisy Airgun Museum tells the story of America's most iconic manufacturer of air guns, including the famed Red Ryder, the most common first gun for many generations of American children.

The museum is located in the center of Rogers, Arkansas, about a mile south of Daisy's manufacturing facility in the same city. Admission is only two dollars, and exhibits can be thoroughly examined in about an hour. The gift shop offers Daisy airguns at bargain prices, including remanufactured basic models as low of $15.

While powder arms are powered by burning gunpowder, air guns are propelled by compressed air. As the exhibit shows with airguns as old as 1770, air guns have been around for a very long time. Back in the eighteenth century, some airguns were comparable in caliber and kinetic energy to powder guns.

The Daisy story begins in 1882, with the founding of the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company, in Michigan. Making windmills from iron rather than wood was a good idea, but the windmill market was declining. One of the founders made an air gun in his spare time. When another founder gave it a try, he exclaimed "That's a daisy!"—a common expression of praise at the time.

By 1895, the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company had changed its name to Daisy Manufacturing Company and had stopped making windmills. In 1958, the company closed its aging facility in Michigan, and opened a new factory in northwest Arkansas—becoming the leading edge of an economic revival in the region.

The Museum tells the Daisy story from the 19th century to the present, using exemplar guns, vintage advertising, newspaper and magazine articles, and excellent narrative text. There's even a reproduction of the original Daisy.

Daisy made a lot of different items over the years, including toy guns, pop guns, and even powder arms for a short period. During World War II, manufacturers were not allowed to use steel for the domestic market, so Daisy employed its expertise in stamping steel to make artillery canisters, spark plug gaskets for military vehicles, and other war materiel.

But what has made Daisy great has been its air guns. They're not the precision models for Olympic competitors, but rather an affordable and reliable first or second gun for American youth.

Most famous of the Daisy air guns is the lever action Red Ryder. Gene Shepherd's memoir, later made into the movie A Christmas Story, captures the popularity of the Red Ryder after its 1938 introduction (and for decades afterward).

Incidentally, as the exhibits explain, the particular model that Ralphie aspired to in A Christmas Story, didn't exist on the market. Ralphie wanted a Red Ryder an engraved stock containing a compass and sundial. Daisy never made such a gun until 1983, when the company produced a Christmas Story limited edition.

There's a lot more to learn at the Daisy Museum. Did you know that when astronaut Alan Shepherd became the first man to hit a golf ball on the moon, it was a Daisy logo ball?

Moon shots aside, the Daisy story has been at the wholesome core of America's gun culture for 137 years. The Daisy Museum tells the story with pride and love.

After you finish the Daisy Museum, you can drop by the showroom and store of A.G. Russell Knives, also located in Rogers, Arkansas.

 

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  1. Good read, thanks for posting.

    Anyone here have any info re the bb muzzle velocity (about 250 fps) of the modern Red Ryder compared with those sold back in the day?

  2. Great post, thanks.

    “Back in the eighteenth century, some airguns were comparable in caliber and kinetic energy to powder guns.”

    That remains true in the 21st Century. People are taking dangerous game, including African water buffalo, with air rifles. Google it.

    1. Asking about the Red Ryder in particular. My recollection is that mine (new to me about 1947) dispatched a considerable number of “invasive species” and a few rats at up to about 10 yards. A friend says the newer ones won’t do that. Someone here might have some experience. Google had no answer that I found, ergo the question.

  3. Wholesome Americana in northwest Arkansas

    It’s interesting bit of nostalgia and history. But I fail to see how an airgun museum promotes “moral well being”.

    1. Nostalgia for Americana is wholesome. The promotion of unifying and innocent cultural motifs and icons is always wholesome, no matter the culture.

    2. Truly sad regexp that you “fail to see”.

  4. I’m a member of CFCU in MI, the former Red Ryder BB Gun Employees credit union, which decorations on their wall in their Plymouth HQ readily show.

  5. “Back in the eighteenth century, some airguns were comparable in caliber and kinetic energy to powder guns.”

    It was also true in the 19th century, when Col. Moran tried to murder Sherlock Holmes with one. (The Adventure of the Empty House)

    Also interesting: to use a sundial, one must have the “style” (time-telling edge of the gnomon) adjusted parallel to the axis of the earth’s rotation, and its angle of elevation must correspond to the latitude of the location where it’s being used. So I doubt if Red Ryder or Ralphie could use one effectively. In fact, I very much doubt if the Daisy model came with an adjustable gnomon.

    1. An old truth is that tools sold to kids as part of a larger product (cereal box toys, action figure mechanisms, McDonald’s binoculars) are often useless.

    2. If one wants to be that picky; one would also note that a compass of that time period would not work very well with all the metal in close proximity.

  6. “The gift shop offers Daisy airguns at bargain prices, including remanufactured basic models as low of $15.”

    Small typo. Should be “…as low AS $15…”

    (I no longer see any way to directly contact an OP. When I click on Kopel’s name, it does not show any way to send him a private note, which of course would be preferable for tiny edit heads-ups, like this one.)

  7. It’s got nothing to do with Constitutional rights, with the Second Amendemtn. You guys just like to shoot guns. Freud is a better guide here than the Duke Law School scholars.

    1. It took longer that I had thought it would for a penis-obsessed liberal to chime in. Thanks for your asinine comment.

    2. You do realize that Freud thought it was the anti-gunners who were exhibiting the pathology, right?

      1. I was not aware of that. Can you provide a reference, please?

        I am aware of this, form Freud:

        “All complicated machines and appliances are very probably the genitals — as a rule the male genitals — in the description of which the symbolism of dreams is as indefatigable as human wit. It is quite unmistakable that all weapons and tools are used as symbols for the male organ: e.g., ploughshare, hammer, gun, revolver, dagger, sword, etc.”

        I believe it is this to which captcrisis was referring.

    3. Does it hurt being that ignorant Cap?
      Or just normal for a Progressive prole?

      IIRC the Army had a little saying:
      This is my weapon,
      This is my gun,
      One is for shooting,
      One is for fun!

  8. Once upon a time the concepts of duty, honor, country, chivalry and skill with arms were synonymous with “American.” Some might think this was a good thing, or “wholesome.”

    1. Exactly!

    2. Let’s see…

      Approx. only 15% of people have served in the military / govt / law enforcement.
      Approx. only 30% own at least one weapon.

      So the VAST majority of Americans have NOT done any duty to serve their country, nor swore to uphold and defend (i.e. honor), the nation, nor have any skill with arms.

      Or does displaying a MAGA bumper sticker count?

      1. “So the VAST majority of Americans have NOT done any duty to serve their country, nor swore to uphold and defend (i.e. honor), the nation, nor have any skill with arms.” If true a pity, if not a shame and disgrace.

        Odd that what was once regarded as a given is now controversial . . . but then Judeo – Christian Western Culture (foundation of the greatest country ever) has been in a state of accelerating decay for about the past sixty years, as evidenced by many who post here.

      2. I don’t know why you tied all of the other ones to “country.” You can be dutiful, honorable, chivalrous, and skilled with arms without it being in service to a country. Unlike WJack, I’d say most Americans are still at least half of those. Also unlike WJack, I’d say most Americans weren’t skilled with arms by the turn of the 20th century. We had a rather large influx of immigrants from countries that didn’t allow peasants keep arms and a new focus on city life. It doesn’t take away from the fact that they were Americans.

        1. It is obvious that being in the military, or being a police officer, or owning arms is not a prerequisite to having a sense of duty, honor, country, chivalry, and skill with arms. It should not be necessary to point out that merely being present in this country (legally, or not) does not make a person an “American.”

          The strange thing (at least to me) is the hostility of some here to the concepts, and to owning arms, but then there are those among us who think you can have a viable “America” without borders.

      3. According to Gallup, about 48% of households own guns. That 30% excludes children, felons, and those who don’t fucking answer stupid surveys if they own guns.

    3. Once upon a time the concepts of duty, honor, country, chivalry and skill with arms were synonymous with “American.”

      The conservative credo: Once upon a time my favored morality was shared by everyone!

      Authoritarian nationalism disguised as nostalgia is still authoritarianism.

      Read up on your history. I’ve been reading biographies of Dirac, Oppenheimer, and histories of the Manhattan Project lately. The 1950s were not what you think they were.

      1. I was reading newspapers in the 1950s, but I have also read several authoritative works on the era.

        You really ought to consider thinking before you type pot / kettle remarks.

        1. I, too, have read newspapers of the era. I also collect Boy Scout Handbooks, which align with your narrative.

          But the thing is that not everyone was a Boy Scout, and the press in the 1950s was certainly not as free both internally and externally as it is today.

          Get out of fantasy land that the 1950s was a time of mom and apple pie.
          As I said, that kind of nostalgia for a time when stuff you didn’t like was unamerican isn’t actually nostaliga, because that time didn’t exist. It is some authoritarian nationalism, however.

          1. Wow , woke up Humpty!

        2. Great! Tell us all about the KKK, church bombings, lynchings, Jim Crow.

          I’m sure they received some media coverage.

          1. I like the stats on the sheer number of drugs housewives took.

          2. Victim of progressive educators?

            1. Funny you keep using that bit of snark thinking it’ll get you out of an argument where you got a bit ahead of your skis.

  9. BB guns. The gateway toy to real guns and NRA membership.

  10. […] Daisy Airgun Museum – The museum is located in the center of Rogers. […]

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