April 21, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Barbed Wire

Prior to the invention of barbed wire, cattle and sheep grazed on an uninterrupted landscape, like bison, and were freely herded long distances in search of fresh grass. With few trees and rocks, the West lacked sufficient native material for fences and walls. When barbed wire arrived, farmers were able to protect cultivated land from roaming animals, and within a few years, thousands of small homesteaders were fencing off the open range. This was good for the farmers but not for the ranchers, who were now unable to move their animals from pasture to pasture or drive them long distances to market.

Key dates

1863—Michael Kelly develops a fencing material with points attached to twisted strands of wire.
1867—Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio, receives the first patent.
1874—Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood start The Barb Fence Company and develop machinery to mass-produce the product.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: barbed wire, barbed wire fence, ellwood fence

Written by Catherine W. Ockey