Three Interesting Facts About the History of Fences

Three Interesting Facts About the History of Fences

Posted in: Fencing

As the Smithsonian points out, "Fences are icons of the American landscape." Americans, for better or worse, have staked out their homes and territories over the course of centuries by using fences.

You might think you know everything there is to know about fences. But do you? Here are three interesting facts regarding the history of fences.

1. The Barbed Wire Fence
During the mid 1800s, American settlers -- largely farmers -- were moving to the South and West in search of new land. Where they had previously lived in the Northeast, stones or wood for walls were plentiful, as was labor. In a treeless land with few stones, though, stone and wooden fences were difficult to come by. In absence of these, farmers searched for acceptable substitutes. In 1873, barbed wire fencing was invented at the De Kalb County Fair in Illinois. A farmer presented the initial idea, and the concept took off from there. Later, barbed wire would serve as inspiration for chain link fences.

2. The Great Wall of China
Most people are at least a little familiar with the Great Wall of China. Construction started as early as seventh century B.C., with earlier walls being later connected, becoming a longer, more formidable barrier. Most of the existing wall dates to the Ming Dynasty. Many thousands of workers likely died while building the wall. Contrary to persistent myth, the wall is not visible from space. This isn't surprising, considering that, while long, the wall is not more than several times wider than your average vinyl fence.

3. Stone Walls to Nowhere
If you ever visit Ireland, you might notice that there are a whole lot of stone walls that seemingly lead nowhere. Often, they will go straight up a mountain before petering out. Many of these walls were built during the time of the Great Famine, which followed the potato blight. The Irish were disproportionately reliant on potatoes, which led to widespread starvation, as well as disease. Ireland saw fit to ration out some food -- however, they wanted people to work for it. For this reason, they ordered them to build walls and roads. This also helped clear the ground for farming. Many of the Famine walls are still standing to this day, and some are used as modern fences for livestock.

What outdoor fences -- either old or modern fences -- intrigue you? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Brett Crouse