barbed wireThe year was 1872, and Lucinda Glidden was perplexed. Her large wire hairpins were missing, and her daughter denied taking them for her own hair. She was contemplating the missing items as her whole family sat down for supper. Suddenly, she noticed her husband, Joseph F. Glidden, take two of the missing hairpins out of his pocket. Confused she asked, “Joseph, what are you doing with my hairpins?” He replied he was working on making a new fence to help keep their livestock in their yard. Lucinda was left with more questions than she had started with.

Joseph F. Glidden, from DeKalb, invented the most widely used barbed wire in the nation and patented his idea in 1874. What started out as an idea with his wife’s hairpins, turned into a popular and easy to produce barbed wire design that included two strands of wire twisted together to hold the barbs firmly in place. Previous versions of barbed wire had already existed, but it was Glidden’s design that made barbed wire a commonly used item on farmlands all around the country.

His design helped to forever change the outlook of the American Midwest. The barbed wire was well suited to mass production. Farmers quickly realized Glidden’s wires were the cheapest, strongest and most durable way to fence their property. Wood fencing was very expensive at the time, so Glidden’s wire gave even poorer farmers the capability to protect their farms and grazing herds of sheep and cattle. The large amounts of barbed wire fencing all over the Great Plains virtually brought the open range cattle industry to an end. Gone was the need to drive cattle over miles of unfenced land. Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire changed the farming and herding industries, allowing more people to protect their farms and animals. This was all thanks to the idea of one man and his wife’s hairpins.