The Devil's Rope
Ian Marchant traces the story of how barbed wire privatised America. He drives from DeKalb, Illinois where 'the devil's rope' was invented, to the Barbed Wire Museum at La Crosse, Kansas, calling along the way at the birthplace of Buffalo Bill and the wildest cow-town of them all, Abilene, where Wild Bill Hickock was marshal. 'Uncle' Joe Glidden's simple invention was patented in 1874. Within 15 years it had put an end to the wild west and consigned its mythology to the dime novels and the movies. In the place of cowboys, indians and outlaws came civil society, modern capitalism and the idea that land is there to be owned and exploited.