Friday, November 18, 2011

Homesteaders Used Barb Wire

Fencing and Barbed Wire
By Travis Maresh
Southeast Community College 

Imagine a world without any defined boundaries, a world where cattle and livestock roamed free. Everyone has seen barbed wire before, whether it is on a ranch or in a movie. I have been involved with fencing and barbed wire growing up so I have decided to learn more about the beginning of barbed wire. Today I will inform you about fencing and barbed wire. I am going to teach you about the history of barbed wire, the role barbed wire played in the 1900’s, and how barbed wire has evolved.

The history of barbed wire dates back to 1868 with Michael Kelly and patents had been awarded through 1874. However, according to C. Moore "Barbed Wire: It Isn't Just For Fences" (2003) there are more than 570 patented wires. The U.S. patent office recognized Michael Kelly’s patent in November of 1868. Kelly took two wires and twisted them together, resulting in a place for the barbs. Joseph Glidden received his patent in November of 1874 for his type of barbed wire. Glidden improved on Kelly’s design by locking the barb in place rather than hanging loosely. Glidden also invented the machinery to mass produce this type of wire.

Barbed wire played a large role in the Midwest. It was cheap to produce, easy to put up and needed little maintenance. Wooden fences were too costly, because of the lack of lumber in the open plains. Barbed wire was the solution to many of the farmers’ problems as barbed wire fences were much more cost effective.

According to McCallum (1965) "The Wire that Fenced the West," the farmers and the cowmen had two different opinions about fences. The cowmen were for the unwritten Law of the Open Range, which was the free access to grass and water. The farmers had to put up fences so the cattle would not ruin and trample their crops. This difference in opinion about the barbed wire fencing resulted in range wars between the two groups. Since watering holes were blocked, the cattlemen cut the fences, and in some cases lives were lost. According to "Fencing the Great Plains: the History of Barbed Wire," (2011) homesteaders used barbed wire to mark their boundaries.

Today, barbed wire is still prevalent in our lives, we can see it holding prisoners, keeping unwanted intruders away, or protecting valuables.  According to M. Bellis "History of Barbed Wire or the Thorny Fence," Barbed wire has been used in multiple wars since its invention. Miles of barbed wire were strung in World War I. British military manuals which date back to 1888 encouraged the use of barbed wire. Today, barbed wire is used in prisons, construction sites, and storage sites. To protect supplies barbed wire has been put up around buildings.

Barbed wire has been used in many ways; it has developed from a cattle fence into a protection device. Barbed wire helped farmers and homesteaders in numerous ways, protecting crops and establishing boundaries. From containing cattle to being used as a war mechanism barbed wire has changed over the course of its history.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about fencing and barbed wire. I have shared with you the history of barbed wire, the role it played in the 1900’s, and the evolution of barbed wire. We still use barbed wire 150 years after its invention, whether it is to confine cattle, or as a military device, barbed wire has come a long way. Fences and barbed wire gave the Midwest boundaries and established property lines. Yes, the cattle still roam free, just inside a fence.

Good fences make good farms. (2011). The Wilson Quarterly, 35(3), 63. Retrieved from OmniFile Full Text Select database.

Bellis, M. (n.d.). History of barbed wire or the thorny fence. Inventors. Retrieved November 02, 2011, from 

Fencing the Great Plains: The history of barbed wire. (2011). National Park Service. Retrieved from,%20final.pdf 

McCallum, H. D., & McCallum, F. T. (1965). The wire that fenced the West. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Moore, C. (2003). Barbed wire: It isn't just for fences. Antiques and Collecting Magazine, 108(8), 62-7. Retrieved from OmniFile Full Text Select database.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Subscribe to News from HOME

Subscribe to the official newsletter of the Homestead of America National Monument here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

2012 the 150th Anniversary of Homestead Act

Dear Friends:

Next year we will be commemorating a story we know very well, a story that covers 270 million acres, is tied to 93 million Americans, spanned 123 years and is directly tied to the development of the largest agriculture superpower in the history of the World!

In 2012 our Nation will observe the 150th Anniversary -- in what has been said is one of the most significant laws ever created in the history of the United States -- The Homestead Act of 1862! We are contacting you to ensure you are aware of this anniversary and to seek your consideration in joining us in commemorating this epic event in American History!

While communities and organizations throughout our Nation are preparing for this anniversary it is important for us to remember that Homestead National Monument of America, Southeast Nebraska and our community will be at the center of this anniversary.

Already a number of activities and special projects are under way including:

• A major national symposium will be conducted with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; this event will take place in Lincoln and at the monument.

• Main Street Beatrice will be decorated with commemorative banners and planning special exhibitions.

• Special quilt programs will be presented.

• 44-1 kids will be engaged,

• A special national exhibit on exploration will be brought to the monument.

• The Nebraska Humanities Council will be bringing to the community their 2012 Chautauqua Event.

The Historic Homestead Act of 1862 Document signed by President Abraham Lincoln will be traveling to Homestead from the National Archives in Washington. D.C.; this document is considered, like the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights, to be one of our Nation's 100 most important documents.

• Plans are also under way for a major event at the monument on Sunday, May 20, the day on which the law was signed by President Lincoln.

Further activities include working closely with the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce during this historic year to make the 2012 annual Homestead Days event extra special.

We hope you, your business or organization will consider joining in this historic event! Ideas on how you can join in the fun include:

• If your business or organization is planning on giving away promotional items in 2012, consider highlighting the Homestead Act's 150 th Anniversary.

• If you are planning on participating in the annual Homestead Days Parade, start thinking now about your entry. If you plan on tossing promotional items to the crowd, we hope you might consider highlighting our community's tie to homesteading.

• You might consider special displays, window decorations or promotions.

• Your group or organization might want to feature presentations or programs looking closer at the Homestead Act and its effect on our community or Nation.

• You might wish to sponsor one of many special programs coming to the community or monument.

• And we are sure you have great ideas that are not even listed here.

Fifty years ago our community threw a party for the Homestead Act's Centennial that included a variety of activities: a Proclamation signed by President John F. Kennedy, three parades, a Miss Nebraska Pageant, retail promotions, a new postal stamp was issued, along with many other community programs. In doing this the community gained pride while having a great time.

We hope you will consider joining us for afro, filled sesquicentennial! Should you wish to discuss any ideas and would like to call on us for assistance, the Friends of Homestead, along with the staff at Homestead National Monument of America, stand ready to assist you. You can reach me at 402-223-7217, or call the monument at 402-223-3514.

Diane Vicars
Friends of Homestead

P.S. You can pick up your commemorative poster at the monument starting October 1, 2011.