The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Brad Penka can't say enough about barbed wire's winning of the West. (Eli Reichman)

The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum

With more than 2400 variations of barbed wire, this La Crosse, Kansas, museum has a lot to teach the non-farmers out there

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“Barbed wire was a lifesaver for this region,” says Brad Penka, president and curator of the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, in La Crosse, Kansas. Let him count the ways: keeping animals, crops and vehicles apart and helping to make the treeless plains fencible and the United States a food exporter.

There are more than 2,400 variations of barbed wire. The first U.S. patent for a barbed fence attachment was issued in 1867. But it was not until 1874 that Joseph Farwell Glidden, a De Kalb, Illinois, farmer, patented a strand in which the barbs were held in place by twisted wire. Called “The Winner,” it would become the signature fencing of the American West.

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