Short History of Barbed Wire

The Beginning for the need of barbed wire was seen in the year of 1867 as a few men applied, that year for patents pertaining to restraining wire with sharp points to turn and to hold livestock.

The names of the men who applied that year were Alphonso Dabb, Lucien B. Smith and William D. Hunt. In 1868, Michael Kelly patented his “Thorny fence”. The next few years found Lyman P. Judson, Jacob Haish, the Marshall Brothers, I.L. Ellwood and Henry M. Rose patenting wire. These men could see the vast need for a fence that would hold live stock in a vicinity where neither poles nor rock were available, a fence that would be easy to erect and would last for a long period of time.

The millions of acres of plains states where fences would be needed were upper most in these men’s minds and they set out to get there share of business.

The first wires these men made were made on coffee mills, grind stones and some were even made in Blacksmith shops.

Some of the early wires had signal plates and wooden blocks and such so the live stock could see the wire. Livestock raised in pole corrals had a tendency to run through the wire as if it did not exist. This caused damage to the livestock, so tags and plates were installed to help stop the problem.

From 1867 until 1880, hundreds of wires were patented. Some men claimed patent infringements and there were quite a few court hearings. There is no telling how many hundreds of miles of Kelly. Scott and Sunderland wire was sold as wires are still found in nearly every part of the nation.

There were some men who had better backing and better advertising then others and by 1885, Joseph Glidden was the chief wire manufacturer in the United States. This was accomplished by the purchase of other wire plants, franchises and dealerships. Haish,Washburn, Scutt and other wire manufacturers had made their fortunes before Glidden set out to corner the wire mare market.

The men mentioned were all living in Illinois, Iowa and surrounding areas, and they could see the need for wire since they lived so near the Great Plains.

The earliest wire patent on record, I suppose, is the Merriweather wire patented at New Braunfels, New Braunfels, Texas in 1854. This wire, however, was not a barbed wire, rather, it was a smooth wire

As World War one came up, there was wire manufactured to stop or slow up troops on the battlefields. As time progressed and steel companies began putting wires on the market, two and four point wires became most common. The military wire currently being used for stockades and compounds is the most vicious of all previous wires.

So through the many years that wire has existed, there have been many different types, starting from a coffee mill and growing into one of the truly large businesses of the world.

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