Thursday, July 16, 2009

Progress on the Barbed-Wire Article

The University of Wyoming has a collection of materials from late-nineteenth century advertising of the new invention that so changed the American West. Two of my favorites, found yesterday, are these cards from Jacob Haish. The first promises that Haish's wire will protect even the forbidden fruit of Eden (the fruit of the tree, the young girl, the exotic animals?).

The second features a well-dressed woman on the back of Haish's "cock of the rock" racing wire and stretchers to the farmer.

Finally, proof of the need for barbed wire, given the railroads now criss-crossing the West. The Wyoming Stockmens Association kept a big book in which it listed each cow killed by a train, several dozen every month. Barbed-wire fences were the answer.

Although not the perfect answer according to this account in the 1882 Daily News of Denver:

There is work for the Humane Society among farmers and other people building long fences and using “barbed wire.” In fact, it would be a noble work if the society could prevail upon the Legislature to pass a law prohibiting the erection of “barbed wire” fences. In this part of the country, and doubtless in other farming districts, a large majority of the fences around farms, pastures, etc., are built of “barbed wire,” which is strong, twisted wire, with sharp-pointed teeth or barbs wove in the wire three or four inches apart. Scarcely a day passes but one can hear of the death or fatal injury of a cow, calf, horse or colt which has run into the fence (which cannot be seen far away), and so cuts its head and body as to result seriously and often fatally, and it is not seldom that valuable blooded stock is caught in the barbs of these terrible fences and cut literally to pieces.  The foregoing is brought out by a sickening sight that met the eyes of passengers on the accommodation train between Collins and Loveland, yesterday morning.  A herd of milk cows was feeding along the line of the railroad track, and as the train came rolling along a number of the cows started to cross the track.  The engineer blew his whistle loud and shrill, and the frightened cows began to run in every direction.  One unfortunate ran headlong into a wire fence near the track and jumped head and fore legs through the fence and there hung on the sharp barbs, and as the rear car passed by the passengers saw the brute hanging there on the sharp barbs kicking and bellowing, the piercing instruments sawing and cutting into her body deeper and deeper as she struggled for liberty.  If the man who built the fence had a heart, not as hard as stone, and could have seen that terrible butchering, he would have solemnly sworn never again to build a barbed wire fence.

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