February 25, 2021
In the post-war boom of the 1950s, Americans were done with looking back. We were over it. Coming off of the second World War we were trying to make sense of the awesome and devastating power of the atomic bomb and looking forward to a future where we wouldn't need to harness such awesome power against our enemies.
The fear of our new destructive capabilities came out in strange ways. The atomic age gave birth to nuclear energy sets for children, silver ray guns, and brightly colored metallic toys. It also birthed an era of science fiction that showed a country grappling with its own destructive nature.
To be a child in the 1950s was to own a silver metallic ray gun. It was to zap and to be zapped. There were many versions of the silver metallic ray gun and most of them were manufactured by the J.&E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. The company went into business in the 1840s and sold iron cap guns before transitioning to something much more futuristic.
By the 1950s, cowboys were out and space age heroes from beyond the stars were in. J&E smartly switched their production line to items that looked like they came off an assembly line on Venus. There were four options for the would-be interstellar traveler, all of them featuring handles that looked like they may have been repurposed from a wild west six shooter but with barrels and bodies that were out of this world. Produced in shiny silver, they were must have items for anyone preparing to blast off.
After all that talk about the J&E ray guns it's important to tell you that the ray gun this boy is holding wasn't manufactured by J&E. It's most likely the sparking ray gun manufactured by Cosmic. Aside from its clean lines and the bulbous body that's both aesthetically pleasing and cumbersome, the real seller for this ray gun is the fact that sparks literally fly when you pull the trigger.
Thanks to the Cosmic company's one and done ray gun it was possible to actually see the nuclear energy that was being expelled as you pretended to vaporize your pals in the back yard. Cosmic didn't outfit their ray gun with isotopes or tiny bits of plutonium to get this effect, just a small piece of flint, but that didn't stop other toy manufacturers from giving radiation poisoning to a generation.