Barbed Wire

Few inventions had more impact on the development of the West than did barbed wire. Patents for barbed wire were granted between 1868 and 1873. Barbed wire allowed for effective and economical fencing, which in turn led to an increase in the land available for farming, since the foraging sheep and cattle could now be held at bay.

The growth in barbed wire production was phenomenal. In 1875, about 600,000 pounds of barbed wire was produced and sold in the United States. Just six years later, in 1881, that number had risen to 120 million pounds.

Not content with the profits that were coming from this growing industry, the manufacturers came together to form the Wire Trust. Its purpose was to inhibit competition and raise prices, which it was successful in doing. In 1911, the leaders of the Wire Trust were indicted for violating provisions of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Among those indicted was a son-in-law of J.P. Morgan.