Gliddens Patent Application for Barbed Wire. Teaching with Documents.Report as inadecuate

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Life in the western United States 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 U.S. inventors beginning with Michael Kelly in 1868 and ending with Joseph Glidden in 1874. Vast and undefined prairies and plains yielded to range management, farming, and ultimately, widespread settlement. As the use of barbed wire increased, wide open spaces became less wide, less open, and less spacious, and the days of the free-roaming cowboy were numbered. Before the invention of barbed wire, lack of effective fencing limited the range of farming and ranching practices, and with it, the number of people who could settle in an area. Wooden fencing was not practical, so the widespread use of barbed wire changed life on the Great Plains dramatically and permanently. This lesson plan uses the patent drawing and description of Joseph Glidden's barbed wire invention to study the way life on the Great Plains was changed by its use. The lesson plan provides teaching activities, including history and civics and government standards correlation, document analysis activities, such as comparing written and visual descriptions, creative interpretation activities, and further research activity. Patent drawing, description, and a written document analysis worksheet are included. (BT)

Descriptors: Academic Standards, Intermediate Grades, Land Settlement, National Standards, Patents, Primary Sources, Secondary Education, Social Studies, Student Research, Teacher Developed Materials, United States History

National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Tel: 866-272-6272 (Toll Free); Fax: 301-837-0483; e-mail: orderstatus[at] For full text:

Author: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.


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