Barbed Wire

From Ohio History Central

On June 25, 1867, Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio, patented barbed wire. Shortly thereafter, several other inventors patented inventions for similar products, but Smith patented his first, allowing him to claim that he invented barbed wire. Eventually manufacturers produced more than 1,500 different types of barbed wire. Smith claimed that his fencing, made of iron wire, was "especially adapted to use in the prairies of the Western States, where timber is scarce and fires frequently sweep over them." Smith suggested that Westerners should use iron poles to support his fencing to make it more fire resistant.

Smith's invention revolutionized the West and created tensions between farmers and ranchers. The cheap cost of barbed wire allowed farmers to fence in their fields, preventing ranchers' livestock from feeding off of the farmers' fields. It also made it more difficult for cattle drives to cross farmers' lands. Violence sometimes resulted between the farmers and the ranchers. Eventually, ranchers began to recognize that barbed wire helped them as well. If ranchers used barbed wire to surround their fields, they could prevent other people from encroaching on their lands and keep their livestock from getting confused with someone else's herds.

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