Barbed Wire

by Claudie Miller and Faith Martin

Joseph F. Glidden

Joseph F. Glidden is the creator of barbed wire. He first came up with the idea for the new fencing invention when his wife Lucinda began complaining about the livestock escaping into the yard. He made it out of smooth wire fencing and his wife's wire hairpins. He was not the first to patent a barbed wire invention, but his invention was an improvement of the previous fence made by Michael Kelly in 1868


Glidden was one of many to try to improve the first barbed wire by Kelly. Amongst them all, his was the most noticeable. He won his patent because unlike the other's, his letter mentioned a method of locking down barbs in place and also developed machinery for mass-producing the fences. He later got the patent, making a huge business selling barb wire fences to farmers.

Why Was It Better?

Glidden's invention was better than the others because he was able to find a way to lock the barbs in place while not losing the strength of the fence. He also was able to mass produce easier than anyone else while making sure everyone had the right amount of protection for their cattle. His barbed wire fence did not break as easy as anyone else's when the cattle would attempt to run.


Although barbed wire was good for making cattle pens safe, it was also used in some harmful ways. While people did decide to use it for good, some people caused range wars over land and even squeezed Native Americans further out of their homeland. Even with its harmful uses, however, we still find good use in it today for some of the same reasons and even more, like protecting prison yards and other important sites from any intruders or escapees.