The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956 Page: 218
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
quite a few head more. It was admittedly difficult to keep stray
cattle from falling in with the trail herds as they moved through
the open country. Besides, it was understood that when the Indian
Territory was being crossed a fat "wohaw" or beef would of neces-
sity be given up daily as tribute to the Indian tribes whose "pas-
tures" were being traversed. About 300oo,ooo head of cattle went
"up the trail" to Abilene, Kansas, in 1870, and about 700,000
head in 1871. It was just about this time that the idea of the wire
fence "with thorns on it" was shaping up in one or more inventive
minds somewhat farther north.
The official introduction of the barbed wire era occurred when
the United States Patent Office issued Patent No. 157124 to
Joseph F. Glidden of De Kalb, Illinois, on November 24, 1874,
for "an improvement in wire fences." The brief statement made
by the Patent Office continued, designating the new fencing as
barbed wire and pointing out its economy. Glidden was born in
New Hampshire on January 18, 1813. He grew up to be a farmer
and country school teacher, and in 1842 moved to Illinois, where
he purchased a claim of six hundred acres of land near the village
of De Kalb. It is said that in 1873, at a county fair, Glidden saw
an exhibit of a "cattle proof fence" which had been made by
hanging on strands of smooth wire long strips of wood with sharp
brads driven through them, with the points left sticking out.
Glidden promptly conceived the idea that barbs could be placed
on wire in some other manner, much simpler, and with much
more effective end results.6
Glidden's early production of barbed wire was accomplished in
the crudest type of factory, with equipment built by a local black-
smith. The demand for the new product was so instantaneous
and astounding that specimens of the wire were submitted to an
expert machine designer, who soon perfected an automatic ma-
chine for manufacturing it.' The United States Steel Corporation
oCarl W. Mitman, "Joseph Farwell Glidden," in Dictionary of American Biog-
raphy (20o vols.; New York, 1931), VII, 33o-331; Webb, The Great Plains, 299.
7The writer's grandfather, Norman H. Conger, with two brothers, purchased the
Miguel Rabajo Mexican grant in northwestern McLennan County in the early
187o's. As soon as the first barbed wire appeared on the market in this region in
late 1874 or early 1875, Norman H. Conger purchased a wagon load of it and
fenced a large pasture, running from near the Bosque County line on the north,
down past China Spring, to near Higginbotham Crossing on the Bosque River.
It is believed that this was the earliest barbed wire fence in McLennan County.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956, periodical, 1956; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101162/m1/236/: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.