Monday, January 16, 2012

Invention of the Day: Barbed Wire.

Railroads opened up the American West to farmers and entrepreneurs.  To secure their large newly acquired properties, prevent crops from being trampled by cattle, and for many other purposes, they needed a way to build cheap fences. The old method of erecting wooden fences didn't scale because wood was either not available on the prairie or too expensive to transport in large quantities. Simple wire fences, though cheap to build, didn't work either because they were too easy on trespassers, both people and cattle.

In 1873, J.F. Glidden invented the barbed wire fence, as we know today. According to his invention, the barbs on the wire fence didn't rotate around the wire itself, providing two-sided rigid thorns.

Ten years later, Edenborn and Griesche invented a barbed wire machine that greatly improved the efficiency of making the wire.

In the 20th century, barbed wire was extensively used by the military to create defensive positions.

I thank Paul Henderson, whose father was a barbed wire collector, for alerting me to this remarkable invention.

tags: invention, efficiency, problem, evolution, productivity, history

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