Friday, December 4, 2009

What is Barbed Wire, Alex?

You Jeopardy fans will recognize my 'answer in the form of a question'. The answer for this question is:

"Collectors of this 'devil's rope' look for 18-inch pieces with unique barbs, prongs, points, prickers, and stickers."

Yes, barbed wire collecting is very popular. Who knew?

Barbed wire is sometimes credited with taming the West, because it enabled ranchers to fence-in their cattle (and you only have to watch one re-run of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, or The Big Valley to know the importance of good fencing!). It was a huge innovation because there was not the money nor the labor to create wooden or stone fencing and for decades inventors were searching for a wire fence that could stand up to herds of cattle. The breakthrough came from someone whose name is well-known to 21st century Americans - Glidden.



Others had ideas for adding barbs to wire, but none were successful. In the 187os, Glidden patented his idea for two strands of wire - one smooth and one barbed - twisted together. Voila! (Okay, if you've watched Deadwood, you know that they didn't say Voila in the west, but you get the idea . . .) As is always the case with a great invention, others inventors copied it and lawmakers legislated it. To find out more about its interesting history, check out the Barbed Wire Museum website or read more about the Supreme Court ruling in Glidden's favor here.


By 1890, fenced pastureland had virtually replaced the open range in the western United States and eventually there were over 570 barbed wire patents and more than 1,000 different patterns. So as a collector there are lots of choices - choose a pattern or even wire from a certain location - like D-Day wire from the Normandy beaches. So, this might be the perfect gift for the person on your list who has everything - odds are he/she does not have any barbed wire.

I'd love to hear about your collections - even if you stick to more typical things like china or stamps!

4 comments:

  1. I love this post. Is this a lead to your deer situation? I collect old roses.

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  2. Who knew people collected barbed wire? Well, know I do thanks to you. I have a cousin who would like this, it would be a great addition to all his old farm implements and collection of cast iron pots. Me? I collect seashells, of course.

    Interesting post, can't believe there's even a museum dedicated to barbed wire!

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  3. WHo knew!!?? I actually really like the drawings though- neat designs. I collected elephants, admittedly!

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  4. Jim - I would try this with the deer except I'd probably end up snagged in it myself. We saw 7 deer in the yard across the street today about 5pm! As for collections, your roses are the best thing to collect - if you have a green thumb!

    Rhonda - Maybe you could surprise your cousin with some barbed wire! And, I also collect shells - I don't know why because I never find the really large ones, but there's just something nice about picking them up while walking on the beach.

    Emmie - I like the drawings as well - it just shows that anything can be presented artistically!

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