On The Fence
March 6, 2008 9:50 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by DWRoelands (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
On that topic, I ran across this while trying to dig up some family patents the other day.
posted by tkolar at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2008

The invention decribed within is the subject of striking images scars.
posted by racingjs at 10:16 AM on March 6, 2008

I interned at the Glidden house while I was studying History at NIU. Very cool place.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:18 AM on March 6, 2008

Best barbed wire collection I've ever seen was at the Thomas County Historical Society museum in Thedford, Nebraska, a tiny town (200-some people) in the middle of the Nebraska sandhills. Hundreds and hundreds of samples, labeled and cataloged. According to the lady at the museum, the collection it was the life's work of a now-deceased local gentleman, and had been on loan to the University of Nebraska for years before coming home to rest in Thedford.
posted by dersins at 10:28 AM on March 6, 2008

How is it that people still think Barb Wire was a bad movie? It's a post-apocalyptic retelling of Casablanca with Pamela Anderson playing the Rick character as a half dressed wasteland bounty hunter with twin Desert Eagles and an attack RV?

I mean, when you think about it, you really have to wonder why it took another 50 some years for them to come up with this visionary update to the original.

Hopefully, they will get around to doing the remake of Citizen Kane with Julie Strain fighting mutant alien-human hybrids in Hellmouth at the Arctic circle.
posted by quin at 10:31 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

In undergrad, a friend and I invented a data structure that was mostly linear, but could have nodes poking off to the side in places. We called it a bahwahr, based on the visual analogy and the local patois.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:41 AM on March 6, 2008

No discussion of barbed wire and film is complete without a discussion of the barbed wire scene in Suspiria, reproduced in unfortunately grainy and fairly NSFW (mostly due to audio) detail here.
posted by lumensimus at 10:43 AM on March 6, 2008

Barbed wire has also been used in telephone service lines; Cisco later celebrated the deployment of "talking wire" by using the medium for ethernet.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:50 AM on March 6, 2008

If your last name is Dwyer, there's a fair chance you'll name your daughter Barb. (Or is it that some women named Barb can't resist marrying a Dwyer?)
posted by pracowity at 10:54 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Its also just loads of fun to work with. A spool is quite heavy, which you'd think would be obvious but most people who try to pick one up for the first time start with one hand, which is quite funny to watch. Thick gloves won't, actually, protect your hands so you have to handle it carefully. More important, most people, when carrying something heavy, hold it against their body to help distribute the weight more easily; you really don't want to try that with a spool of barb wire, which again you'd think would be obvious, but a surprising number of first timers don't apparently consider until they've poked themselves.

The only really good thing about barb wire fencing is that it lasts roughly forever, so you don't have to do as much repair as you'd fear. But on a big enough ranch there's always some to fix.
posted by sotonohito at 11:13 AM on March 6, 2008

I've been to the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, TX. It's right on old Route 66. Incredible place...I couldn't believe how many types of barbed wire there were/are. They had all kinds of interesting period tools, displays, pictures, and other associated goodies too. Very worth a visit next time you are traipsing across the Texan Panhandle on old Route 66....
posted by PhiBetaKappa at 11:21 AM on March 6, 2008

One of my most prized possessions is a length of barbed wire taken from the Branch Dividian compound in Waco. Helpful tourist hint: if you're going to show up unannounced at a former cult compound at midnight on a Friday, don't do so wearing a CIA sweatshirt. The lady camping out in the lean-to at the entrance of the site, who turned out to be the wife or ex-wife of the leader of one faction of the group involved in a lawsuit & off-and-on small arms battle for custody of the property, almost took my friend & I both out with one blast of her shotgun. She was asleep the next day though, when we took a tour of the little museum/gift-shop run by the mother of the leader of another faction, a sweet little old lady who's probably still out there waiting for Koresh to rise from the dead. Insanity runs deep into the earth in that place.
posted by scalefree at 11:23 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I weep for everyone with a barbed wire tattoo around the bicep. Who could have known that it would go so wrong.
posted by 517 at 12:02 PM on March 6, 2008

Thick gloves won't, actually, protect your hands so you have to handle it carefully

I've found, in my barb wire days, that thick leather gloves work the best, and denim bibbed overalls. I still have scars on my arms from being lazy and trying to roll underneath a freshly installed fence to staple it in rather than climbing through or over the top. And nothing beats a fence post to the chin when the hydraulic pounder shreds the top of the post.

Installing barb wire is actually quite therapeutic and relaxing. Lots of long walks in open fields.


Nice links. Thanks.
posted by chugg at 12:22 PM on March 6, 2008

I would just like to point out that barbed wire's progeny razor wire is some of the nastiest stuff I've ever had the displeasure of working with. Even with protective gear that wire sticks to your clothes and snags on absolutely everything. I can't even imagine dealing with it in the wild. *shudders*
posted by slimepuppy at 12:24 PM on March 6, 2008

The click of the fence strecher was my mantra. Nice post*!

*Heh, I made an accidental funny. And gloves are for the careless!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:26 PM on March 6, 2008

I too spent years building barbed wire fences, all across southern Alberta & the Rocky Mountain foothills, with a friend from architecture school who'd invested in a pounder and a beat up old GMC.
Great times, those days walking out wire across that glorious landscape. And my forearms are criss-crossed with the scars to remind me.
posted by Flashman at 1:53 PM on March 6, 2008

How the world so dearly loves a cage.
posted by bitslayer at 2:35 PM on March 6, 2008

How the world so dearly loves a cage doesn't want their cows to be stolen, lost, hurt, or in the corn.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:45 PM on March 6, 2008

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