Toy, Space Gun, Space Control

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This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

James S. McDonnell Space Hangar

This very small "space gun" is a tin toy manufactured in Japan for export to Western markets, probably in the 1950s and 1960s. Although Nomura Toy of Tokyo produced this gun, that firm usually specialized in producing robot-themed metal toys, including several versions of an unlicensed "Robby" robot based on the popular robot character from the film "Forbidden Planet" (MGM, 1956). In post-WWII Japan, producing these metal toys began as a way to tap into an international market for "penny toys" or cheap playthings, such as this gun. By the late 1950s, however, Nomura and other Japanese tin toy manufacturers also manufactured creatively-designed, complex toys with moving parts and/lights that competed successfully with Western toymakers.

Fictional space heroes often carried space-themed versions of the Western's ever-present six-shooter or rifle. As a result, for several generations, pretend gun play with ray gun toys formed a central part of many children's imagined space adventures. Exactly how one blasted space enemies often reflected the newest technologies. In the late 1940s, "atomic" guns proliferated. "Laser" guns followed the creation of the practical laser in 1960.

Michael O'Harro donated this toy to the National Collection in 1993.