Yes, we are here!

In times like these our hobbies become lifesavers. At GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE and FARM COLLECTOR, we have been tracking down the most interesting and rare vintage farm machines and collections for more than 80 years combined! That includes researching and sourcing the best books on collectibles available anywhere. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-866-624-9388 or by email. Stay safe!

The History of Barbed Wire

A brief history of barbed wire and barbed wire collecting

| May 1999

  • Antique barbed wire

  • Different types of barbed wire
    Fig. 1: C.A. Hudge: "Spur Rowel"Fig. 2: H. Reynolds: "Necktie"Fig. 3: "Saw Tooth" Ribbon WireFig. 4: Cline's "Rail"Fig. 5: Stubbe: "Plate"Fig. 6: A. Ellwood: "Spread"Fig. 7: Kelly's "Diamond Point" with Crimped-on BarbFig. 8: J.F. Glidden: "Winner"
  • Getting it tight: A barbed wire stretcher.
    Getting it tight: A barbed wire stretcher.
  • A barbed wire lifter, as shown in an early hardware catalog.
    A barbed wire lifter, as shown in an early hardware catalog.
  • Glidden Wire
    Glidden Wire

  • Antique barbed wire
  • Different types of barbed wire
  • Getting it tight: A barbed wire stretcher.
  • A barbed wire lifter, as shown in an early hardware catalog.
  • Glidden Wire

Coiled around fence posts, lying in junk piles and ditches, strands of farm and ranch history tell a story of the past. Barbed wire, with more designs than most people could imagine, shows great ingenuity and commercial competition from the 19th century.

First used in ranchers' attempts to control stock and wild animals, the sharp-pointed wire has been used in other ag applications as well. Those include operations with hogs that never give up trying to root under woven wire and board fences. Today, interest in barbed wire collecting remains keen with organizations, shows and a new reference book available for novices and veteran collectors.

The idea for the original barbed wire likely occurred just prior to 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law, says collector John Mantz, Bakersfield, Calif. The Homestead Act allowed claimants of 160 acres of government land to establish a home and receive ownership after five years of residency and improvements.

But the problem of buffalo and free-grazing cattle destroying crops soon reached disastrous proportions, adds John (who's also executive director of the American Barb Wire Collectors Society). And the split rail and rock fences used on eastern farms were not available in the west.

In 1867, several individuals applied for patents on barbed wire fencing after smooth wire designs proved mostly ineffective. Alphonso Dabb, Lucian B. Smith and William D. Hunt are credited with starting the "Barbed Wire Boom."

"But none of their wires ever saw production," notes John, "with the only known patent specimen of Smith's invention being a series of small wooden blocks joined by short pieces of wire with sharpened nails protruding from each side of the blocks.

9/20/2009 3:13:10 PM

I would like to find an expert on woven wire to help me date samples of wire taken from old fences. Any suggestions are appreciated. Ron 931-239-8453 or email


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.

Facebook Pinterest YouTube


click me