Arkansas may be known for its Ozark Mountain caverns and frontier history, but the state has its share of innovators. The inventors of the Bowie knife, affordable archery products and Klipsch speakers all hail from the Natural State. These inventions show that Arkansas' contributions to history go beyond a president -- Bill Clinton -- and diamond mining.
The type of knife that carries the name of James Bowie was actually first crafted by Arkansas blacksmith James Black, according to the Historic Arkansas Museum. Black’s knife, also known as the “Arkansas Toothpick,” was created for self-defense in the 1830s by settlers in the Arkansas frontier. Bowie came to possess one, and his fighting prowess linked him to the weapon. The knife kept the name after Bowie died at the Alamo in 1836. Black’s knife design was later copied by knifemakers in Sheffield, England.
Affordable Archery Products
Called the father of modern archery, Arkansan Ben Pearson invented the machine technology that enabled him to mass-produce bows and arrows and sell them at a price the average sports enthusiast could afford. His company, founded in 1927, is the oldest bow company in America and still sells archery products. The company was the largest archery products manufacturer in the United States for about 30 years, and Pearson promoted the sport through films, tournaments and demonstrations. He was inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame & Museum in Union City, Pennsylvania, in 1972.
Paul Klipsch perfected the speakers that continue to bear his name today. He was the first to realize that horn-type speakers have a richer sound than cone-type speakers. His Klipschorn speakers helped start the hi-fi era of sound in the 1940s. He initially sold his speakers from a tin shed in Hope, Arkansas, in 1946 and opened his first speaker factory in Hope in 1948. His speakers were primarily for commercial or professional buyers, but the Klipsch company seized the home theater market in the 1990s. Klipsch earned 23 patents before his death in 2002 at age 98.
The Wonder Horse
A popular toy horse for children, the Wonder Horse was invented by William Baltz of Pocahontas, Arkansas. Baltz made the first version in 1939 by suspending the horse from a wood frame using springs. His grandson enjoyed it so much that Baltz decided to mass-produce them, naming them after the Wonder State, Arkansas’ moniker at that time. The company Wonder Products started mass-producing Wonder Horses in 1949. In 1952, Wonder Products started making vinyl horses on black wooden frames and converted to metal frames in 1959.
- Historic Arkansas Museum: Knife Gallery
- Archery Hall of Fame & Museum: Ben Pearson, 1898-1971
- Klipsch: The Journey of a Legend
- Randolph County Museum: William Baltz and the Wonder Horse
- The Baltimore Sun: Kids’ Toy Springs up in Value
- Arkansas: Places to Go
- Arkansas Kids: Arkansas Trailblazers and Inventors
- Ben Pearson Archery: History
- Photo Credit Serrhel/iStock/Getty Images
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