You’ve all heard of the famous Red Ryder BB gun, made infamous in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, and so on. And of course in the Christmas Classic A Christmas Story! Daisy Manufacturing started in 1882 by watchmaker and inventor Clarence Hamilton in Plymouth, Michigan, as the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company, to manufacturer a type of vane-less windmills that Hamilton invented in 1880.
By the mid-1880s the business was struggling, as transporting the heavy steel windmills by wagons throughout the southern part of Michigan, northern Indiana, and throughout Ohio was impractical. In January 1888 the company board met to consider closing the factory, but the motion to liquidate failed by one vote, that of general manager Lewis Cass Hough.
Around the corner from the windmill company, Hamilton also operated the Plymouth Air Rifle Company, to compete with the Markham “Challenger”, a new type of wooden spring-powered airgun shooting BB-size round shot invented by Captain William F. Markham (though some argued that the real inventor was George W. Sage) in 1886. manufactured by the Markham Air Rifle Company just across the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.
On March 6, 1888, Hamilton approached the windmill company board with an all-metal airgun design of his own and sought to use the factory blast furnaces to mold and stamp the metal parts necessary to build his gun. General manager Lewis Hough test fired the gun and exclaimed, “Boy, it’s a daisy!”, and the new gun was named the “Daisy BB Gun”. The board of the Windmill Company then decided to offer the gun as a bundled premium to every farmer who purchased a windmill.
This began many years of intense competition between Plymouth and Markham. The Daisy BB Guns continued to outsell its competitors, and by 1895 its sales and popularity had grown to the point that the Plymouth Company ceased the manufacture of windmills, began producing airguns exclusively, and the board voted to change the company name to Daisy Manufacturing Company.
Daisy’s continued market lead eventually led the Markham management to give up competing and quietly sold out to two Daisy executives in 1916, and Captain Markham himself moved to California. The acquired Markham Company changed its name to King Air Rifle Company in 1928, and continued to manufacture the Markham “King” Model air rifle until 1935, before ceasing operation all together in the 1940s.
In 1958, the company moved the corporate offices and manufacturing facilities from Plymouth to Rogers, Arkansas. My father-in-law, who was a plumber in Northwest Arkansas for over 50 years, was awarded the contract and did all the plumbing in 1956 and 1957 for the new Daisy building in Rogers. I had several friends who were employed there over the years, from assembly line to some in upper management. And, like many others in this area did business with them as well.
In 1993, Daisy was acquired by the private equity firm Charter Oak Partners. In 2016, Daisy was sold by Charter Oak to another private equity firm, Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., who combined it with Gamo Outdoor.
Daisy is best known for their inexpensive youth BB guns, modeled after lever-action rifles. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Red Ryder model, which is still in production today, despite the fact that the Red Ryder comic strip was canceled in 1963.
I have lived in Rogers for over 50 years and Daisy has been a great asset to our community for the past 62 years. If you are ever in Northwest Arkansas; I am sure you would enjoy visiting the Daisy museum and seeing all of Daisy’s storied history and the museum is located in Rogers.