Barbed wire served as telephone line for early homesteaders

Usually barbed wire (aka the Devil’s Rope) is decried as what divided up the West and brought an end to the vast open prairies.  In at least one case, we can see how it brought people together.

Early telephone companies found connecting rural homesteads too expensive so the farmers took matters into their own hands and used barbed wire to connect telephone services into their houses.  This resulted in Party Line style connection where everyone could hear whoever was on the line.  This was bad when you needed to have a private conversation, but useful to spread news, weather reports or the price of crops.  Sometimes it just helped people be less lonely.

The details are in this fascinating article.



  1. Harley Pebley

    Back in the early 90’s I was working on a telecommunications project for a county-wide fire department in California. Part of this project included installing then new mutli-drop, leased-line digital circuits to connect all the fire stations together. One of the more rural stations had significant problems staying connected. After 6 months chasing ghosts, the problem was finally found: there was a 1/4 mile link going through a barbed wire fence.

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