Press Release
Press Release · Monday, October 5, 1998

Press Release
October 5, 1998
Documents and Teaching Activities Related to Glidden's Patent for Barbed Wire Now Available Online from the National Archives

Washington, DC. . . The National Archives and Records Administration announces a new project in the Digital Classroom section of its Website. "Glidden's Patent Application for Barbed Wire" presents Glidden’s 1874 patent drawing and description, offers suggestions for teaching activities that are correlated to the National Standards for History and the National Standards for Civics and Government, and provides links to images of additional patent drawings available online from the National Archives. The URL is

Life in the American West was reshaped by a series of patents for a simple tool that helped ranchers tame the land: barbed wire. Nine patents for improvements to wire fencing were granted by the U.S. Patent Office to American inventors, beginning with Michael Kelly in November 1868 and ending with Joseph Glidden in November 1874. Barbed wire not only simplified the work of the rancher and farmer, but it significantly affected political, social, and economic practices throughout the region. The swift emergence of this highly effective tool as the favored fencing method influenced life in the region as dramatically as the rifle, six-shooter, telegraph, windmill, and locomotive.

The background information describes the development of barbed wire and the teaching activities encourage educators and students to analyze the documents and draw conclusions about the impact of invention on the American West.

"Glidden's Patent Application for Barbed Wire" is the latest in a series of Digital Classroom exercises that the National Archives and Records Administration produces for teachers and students on the Website. Other subjects covered include exercises about the Constitution, the War with Mexico, and Watergate. For a full listing, visit

For additional information, please e-mail the National Archives Education Staff at, or call the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.


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