Barbed wire is a fencing wire with sharp barbs placed at regular points on the wire strand. These barbs are designed to cause discomfort to an animal or person to discourage them from passing through or over the fence. It is commonly used in agriculture to prevent animals from escaping and on top of high fences or walls to discourage people from climbing the structure. Barbed wire has also been used in times of war to fortify an area or to slow opposition troops down. Barbed wire fencing is widely used for these many applications because it is inexpensive and can be easily constructed quickly and easily. If you have ever wondered who created this simple and effective fencing, keep reading to find out.
Who invented barbed wire?
As more people spread across the United States the ranchers needed a way to prevent other people from encroaching on their land. The railroads also wanted farmers to find a way to keep animals away from the tracks. This led to a surge of fencing inventions that bear some resemblance to modern barbed wire.
The invention of barbed wire is sometimes credited to Lucien B. Smith, who was awarded a patent for the invention in 1867 and was one of the first to come up with a solution to the above problem. However, there were 6 other patents issued for similar products in the same year and similar products that had already been patented. For example, a similar design was patented in 1860 by Leonce Eugene Grassin-Baledans.
Smith’s design never went into production and the problem remained until 1873 when Joseph Glidden, Jacob Haish, and Isaac L. Ellwood discovered an invention, made of wood and metal spikes made for hanging on a fence wire to deter cattle, at a County Fair in Illinois. The three studied the crude design and thought that the spikes could easily be added to the wire instead. This is where the idea for the first commercially available barbed wire began.
Glidden, Haish, and Ellwood all submitted separate patents, which led to years of legal battles. Glidden won the final legal battle in 1892 and his barbed wire, known as “The Winner,” became the model of the modern barbed wire we know today.