This is a large collection of barbed wire samples mounted on boards and display boxes and in a suitcase. Barbed wire is actually steel wire to which barbs were attached at short intervals. It was used largely for fencing in livestock. Barbed wire was an American invention. Some sources claim it was patented in 1867 and first made commercially in 1874 by Joseph Garwell Glidden (1813-1906) who invented a machine for its manufacture and established the Barbed Fence Co. at De Kalb, Illinois, USA. However, in 1881 'Buckthorn', a steel ribbon wire, was patented but was expensive to produce and had gone out of fashion by 1900.
During the late 1800s Australian cattlemen were also making their own barbed wire and in the early 1880s patents were taken out by New South Wales and Victorian settlers originally from the Otago province in New Zealand. By this time barbed wire was being imported in large quantities from Europe and Canada. It was ideal for temporary enclosures for cattle on newly settled and lightly timbered land. It was also a much cheaper alternative to wood and stone fences and much easier to purchase and erect. It protected crops from animals, fenced water holes and provided boundary fencing.
Many hundreds of different types and styles of barbed wire were developed but they all featured sharp protruding points. Barbed wire fences were ideal for boundary fences and subdivision fences. Injury to stock was remote as long as the wire was kept well strained. Barbed wire was inappropriate for use in yard fences or fences where horses congregated such as near stables. Farm animals were injured by barbed wire when it was left lying around loose or allowed to become slack in fences.
Margaret Simpson, Curator