The Tangled History of Barbed Wire by Robert Zaretsky [Boston Globe]
“Like inventors from Joseph Guillotin to Alfred Nobel, whose creations escaped their original purpose and were yoked to evil ends, Joseph Glidden would have been shocked at what became of his. In 1874, the Illinois farmer and New Hampshire native, fastening sharpened metal knots along thick threads of steel, created barbed wire. Thanks to its high resilience and low cost, the rapid installation of the coils and lasting dissuasion of the barbs, the wire transformed the American West. Ranchers could protect their cattle against predators, both wild and human, as they pushed the frontier ever further west. The wire itself came to be called 'devil’s rope.'”Previously. Previously. Previously.
“In this area you should go just behind me,” the stout man says, the th of his this buzzing like a bee. Then, as if to reassure me, he adds, “I’ve been here before, with other colleagues and journalists, and no one died.” I’ve traveled here, to the former Iron Curtain, still studded with the occasional land mine, in pursuit of a love story. It’s an improbable tale about two boys, a friendship, and a passion for birds. Twenty-five years earlier, in 1989, the man in front of me had hatched a plan to transform the former no-man’s land that separated Western Europe from the Eastern Bloc into an eco-corridor running through the heart of Europe. It was a preposterous idea. The Iron Curtain had been just that—a series of steel-reinforced barriers. Electrified fences, razor wire, land mines, trip lines, and machine guns: If it could stop, maim, or kill you, the Soviets put it there. Not exactly “eco.”
Barbed Wire no longer lines the Franco-Italian Alps. On the 11th of July this year, after working since 2002, mainly in the Mercantour National Park, the last of 134 tonnes of steel was finally removed for recycling by teams of volunteers. [more inside]
On November 24, 1874, Joseph Glidden was granted patent number 157124. The invention decribed within is the subject of striking images, body art, and painfully bad movies. Yet, the history of barbed wire is interesting enough to warrant multiple museums.