In the Old West, ranchers and settlers needed a way to protect and keep control of their herd, as well as maintain their lands. A feat easier said than done, until the invention of barbed wire. Before barbed wire, fences had to be made either completely out of wood, or hedge rows were planted to make a barrier, but neither was a viable option in the West.
The search for that perfect style of wire sent inventors down a lot of interesting paths before landing on what is more recognized today. The museum has a collection of more than 8,000 different strands of wire, as well as having 1,300 strands on display. But even though barbed wire is still widely used today, that doesn’t mean that it is, or has ever been well liked by most cowboys.
Richard Spencer, a New Mexican rancher, tells the story of barbed wire from the cowboy’s perspective, as well as displays an old cowboy trick to fixing fence.
For more information on barbed wire, visit the Dickinson Research Center.