Special Report: Arkansas Inventor Ben Pearson

Special Report: Arkansas Inventor Ben Pearson

Ben Pearson from Pine Bluff is famous for revolutionizing archery tackle.
Freeman Owens' first movie camera
Freeman Owens' first movie camera
Arkansas has more to offer than just Razorbacks and rice. Arkansans have changed the world through inventions.

In a FOX 16 Special Report, we explore some of the most interesting inventions Arkansans have dreamed up.

Ben Pearson from Pine Bluff is famous for revolutionizing archery tackle. Close family friend Bob Purvis says Pearson was a genius. "He had an inventive mind, and a pair of hands that could make anything."

What Pearson created with those hands made him a pioneer of modern archery. He is credited with creating and developing machinery to mass produce bows and arrows. Purvis says Pearson made it possible for normal, ordinary folks to have a bow and arrow.

Between the 1930'S and 1960'S, Ben Pearson Incorporated became one the largest employers on Pine Bluff, manufacturing around 3,000 bows daily. Pearson sold the company in 1968 due to health reasons and the company fell apart. Pearson died from a heart attack a few years later, but his contributions to the world live on.

Purvis says he hopes the legacy is more than a few old bows and arrows. "I hope the legacy is a lot of people, particularly my generation who grow up in the 1950's that learned archery and bow hunting because of Mr. Pearson's work, I hope we are passing that along to our children and grandchildren."

Pearson's expertise extended past production. In 1999 he entered the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame thanks to his deadeye accuracy in the competitive world of archery.

While on a hunting trip in Alaska in 1965, Pearson took two bears within 3 weeks of each other. At the time, the polar bear was the world's largest ever to be taken by bow and arrow.

Pearson is remembered as an archery icon who paved the path for generations to come to enjoy the sport. Michael Emery, a Horace Mann Magnet Middle School student recently competed for the State Championship says while he's never heard of Ben Pearson, he appreciates the advances he made in the sport of archery. "I'm kind of glad that he did, because if he hadn't, none of us would be here right now."

Purvis says Ben Pearson was a giant in his day, who made a tremendous contribution to a sport millions of people around the world love. His love for the outdoors drew him to Prim, Arkansas where his son runs a resort called Longbow Cabins. Visitors come from all over to visit Pearson's hideaway.

Pearson isn't the only inventor from Pine Bluff. Freeman Owens changed the movie making business forever by perfecting the process of putting sound on film.

Owens constructed his own 35mm movie camera at the age of 16 in 1908. He was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame for inventing the first synchronized sound and film apparatus in 1923. Owens is credited with nearly 12,000 inventions and held 200 patents during his lifetime.
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