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Gene Autry Cap Guns

Gene Autry was a singing, movie, and television cowboy superstar

During his career Gene Autry lent his name to a range of items for children, probably the most popular of which was the Gene Autry cap gun. Below are Gene Autry cap guns and related items for sale.

Below: A 1950 photo of Gene Autry and his horse, Champion.

A photo of Gene Autry and Champion, his horse

There are several versions of the cap gun made by several different manufacturers. Perhaps the most interesting story behind the making of a Gene Autry cap gun is the story of Gene Autry and the Kenton Hardware Company. For more information on this story, please scroll down. You might also like: Gene Autry Guitars.

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The Gene Autry Cap Gun: The Toy That Saved A Town

Gene Autry (Orvon Gene Autry, September 29, 1907 - October 2, 1998) rose to American superstardom in the the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s with phenomenally successful careers in singing, song writing, and acting.

Known as one of the entertainment industry's most popular singing cowboys and cowboy actors, Mr. Autry recorded more than 600 songs, wrote or co-wrote more than 250 songs, starred in his own successful weekly radio show for 16 years (Gene Autry's Melody Ranch), starred in more than 90 films, and produced and starred in 91 half-hour episodes of The Gene Autry Show for television.

To the people of Kenton, Ohio, however, Gene Autry was more than just a popular singer and actor: He was the town's personal hero and rescuer from economic disaster.

In 1937 the town was suffering extreme financial hardship due to the effects of the Great Depression on its leading industry, the Kenton Hardware Company. Founded in 1890 as the Kenton Lock Manufacturing Company, the business became the Kenton Hardware Company in 1894. It was well known for its highly successful line of cast iron toys and toy banks, but in 1937 the once strong company was reeling under serious financial strain.

Below: A 2012 photograph of the former factory of the Kenton Hardware Company. On the very right of the image is an historical marker that commemorates the company's history, including mentioning that the company was the manufacturer of the Gene Autry cap gun.

The former factory of the Kenton Hardware Company, maker of the Gene Autry cap gun

Formerly one of the biggest makers of iron toys in the world, poor sales were badly damaging the company's finances and causing the former giant to limit its employees to only working a couple of days a week.

The vice president of Kenton Hardware Company, Willard Bixler, dreamed that one highly popular toy could help turn the company around. He attached that dream to a children's iron cap pistol. Cap pistols in various models had long been one of the company's strongest sellers, and the new one envisioned by Mr. Bixler would be modeled after the one worn by cinematic cowboy superstar Gene Autry.

When Mr. Bixler contacted Mitchell Hamilburg, Gene Autry's agent, Mr. Autry soon sent the Kenton Hardware Company one of his own pistols for a model. In 1938 when the Gene Autry cap gun was put on the market it was an instant hit, and by 1939 more than 2 million Gene Autry cap guns had been sold worldwide.

The employees at the Kenton Hardware Company not only went back to work full time, the work force was doubled and the company still struggled to keep up with demand. The popularity of the first model of the cap gun gave birth to other models, and the Gene Autry cap gun became known as the toy that saved a town.

The Kenton Hardware Company closed its doors in 1952, but will always remembered as the maker of the Gene Autry cap gun and other fine iron toys.

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