The History Of Barbed Wire Fencing
Throughout history, fences have been installed to contain or exclude animals. Initially, fences were created to keep cattle from roaming in neighboring pastures. As human population grew in the West, so too did conflicts between ranchers and farmers over how to manage land and livestock. These conflicts led to fence-cutting, land-grabbing, and even range wars.
Meet Joseph Glidden
Joseph Glidden was a farmer from DeKalb, Illinois. He was one of three men who developed the barbed wire that we know and use today. While he was not the first person to invent it, his specific combination of twisted strands of wire with fixed barbs made it more effective than previous designs. Early fences used single strands of wire, which were easily broken in cold weather or by wandering livestock. He soon realized that he could improve the fences by attaching barbs to the smooth wire. He began experimenting with this idea on his farm. He found that the twisted barbs slid along the straightened wire. He then worked to create a way to make the barbs stay in place by crimping them. He patented the new design on October 27, 1873, and he named it “Improvement in Wire-Fences” with an accompanying diagram that showed the two twisted strands of soft iron wire with regularly spaced and sharpened wire barbs. The barbed wire was not just a simple invention; it was revolutionary, and it changed the face of the American west.
Fencing Before The Barbed Wire
In early American history, farmers used different types of fencing to separate their fields. They used stone and timber if they had access to them, hedge plants, or zigzag wire fences. Often times, these fences were difficult to maintain and expensive to build and haul. They also took up a lot of space and could be easily destroyed by animals or other people. One solution to these problems was the use of barbed wire. The barbed wire was cheaper to buy and easy to erect than other options. The barbed wire was also much more effective in restraining cattle than the other alternatives, making intensive animal husbandry possible on a larger scale. In addition, the barbed wire did not monopolize scarce local resources like timber or require extensive labor costs to haul it. The invention of barbed wire was a momentous event in the history of America. It set off a series of patent wars and led to the creation of a new industry.
Impact Of Barbed Wire In Society
From securing the boundaries of arbitrary land parcels to dividing space in the midst of war, barbed wire has been used by people for a variety of reasons and with varying effects on people’s lives and feelings about their place in the world. In a time when people feared that the government was taking over their private property, enforcing enclosure laws, and cutting off the ability of farmers and ranchers to graze their cattle in open spaces, fences were necessary. But they weren’t without their consequences: range wars between cattlemen and farmers led to the destruction of thousands of acres of wide-open pastures, water holes and trails in the West. And while the inventors of barbed wire intended it for containing livestock, it soon found applications in warfare as well. Soldiers developed ways to throw themselves over or through barbed wire, ways to collect it, and even methods for using it as a weapon against the enemy.