In 1885, across the railroad tracks from the Plymouth Iron Windmill
Company was the Markham Manufacturing Company, which
produced wooden tanks and cisterns. In 1886,
Captain William F. Markham (no one seems to know why he called himself
"Captain") came across a design for a wooden air rifle. He
changed the name of his company to Markham Air Rifle Company
and began manufacturing a rifle which they called the
"Challenger". The design wasn't patented until
1887. It was inexpensive to manufacture and of simple design.
Some historians claim that it was the first mass-produced air
rifle that turned a profit. In 1888 they made a few minor
modifications to the design and changed the name to "Chicago". The name "Chicago" came from the
name of the city where their distributor was located.
This model appears to have been popular, because they
continued to manufacture it until 1910.
Across the tracks, in 1888, Plymouth Iron Windmill Company started manufacturing the first all metal bb gun,
(the "Daisy"), putting quite a dent in Markham's sales. That prompted Captain Markham to start manufacturing the
"King" in 1890, a sheet metal bb gun with a cast
iron receiver. It had a break-open cocking mechanism. This began many years of intense competition between Daisy
and Markham. Although Markham held the most (and newest) patents, and
was often the first to manufacture a new design, Daisy was the bb gun
that most boys wanted to own. Daisy was much better at
marketing than Markham.
In 1897, Markham, Daisy and a few other air rifle manufacturers entered into a marketing agreement that
would be impossible under today's laws. They agreed to fix the prices of bb guns and even entered into mutual marketing agreements. These agreements could well account for the
"Daisy" and "Sentinel" models both appearing in the same ads. There is some disagreement as to whether the
was a Daisy or a Markham gun.
In 1916, Daisy executives bought controlling interest in Markham Air Rifle
Company. Captain Markham moved to California.
In 1928, Markham Air Rifle Company changed it's name to King Air Rifle Company.
That year, Cass Hough (Grandson of
Lewis Cass Hough, president of Daisy) took over sales and marketing of
King Air Rifle Company. Most of
King's guns were being sold to Sears and Roebuck. Daisy refused
to sell directly to Sears (with the exception of the Model
1935. This was due to Sears' policy of discounting, which
would have had a negative effect on Daisy's other customers.
During the Great Depression, King Air Rifle Company suffered
huge losses, while Daisy experienced a thirty percent
reduction in sales. In 1931, the King plant was closed and
from then on, all King guns were manufactured at the Daisy plant.
Although King guns had always been as good as Daisy's, most
boys preferred to own a Daisy. In fact, Daisy's famous
Buck Jones Pump Gun was made with the 1931 King No. 5 Pump
After 1940, King bb guns were no longer manufactured.