Sunday, November 25, 2018

Project in the works

I haven’t been blogging as often because I’ve been working on a bigger project... a potential book about Jacob Haish. I’m in the very early stages (this photo is the mess on the floor of my living room) but I’m starting to put my outline and stories together. I’ll keep you updated...

As always, any ideas or suggestions are welcome. Thank you for your support!


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Jacob Haish portrait finds new home

The Jacob Haish portrait now displayed at Founders Memorial Library | Photo by Jessi LaRue
A portrait of barbed wire baron Jacob Haish has finally joined images of his competitors Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood.

The portrait of Haish was dedicated October 9 in the new Founders Gallery, located inside the Founders Memorial Library on the campus of Northern Illinois University. The portrait was always intended to reside on campus, but it had never made it there, until now.

Historian Steve Bigolin gave remarks during the dedication, speaking about the university's founders: Haish, Ellwood, Glidden, and Clinton Rosette. The university, then called Northern Illinois State Normal School, wanted images of its founders to display on campus. Legend says Ellwood paid for the creation of his portrait, along with Glidden's. Haish had his own made, and not much is known about a potential Rosette portrait.

The portrait of Jacob Haish. Its measurements are 78"x 60"x 7.5" | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Bigolin said once all three portraits were created, Haish was "embarrassed" by the small size of his portrait compared to those of his barbed wire competitors. Instead of giving the portrait to the school, he gifted it to a niece, and it still resides with Haish family in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Ellwood and Glidden's portraits hung on each side of the Altgeld auditorium on campus. 

Haish then decided to have a bust made of himself, and that would sit in the original campus library (until that mysteriously disappeared decades later.)

Haish then had a new portrait created, but ended up liking it so much that he kept it for himself, instead of giving it to the school. The portrait was hung in his mansion, and stayed there until the night before the home's demolition in 1961. 
Portrait of Joseph Glidden in Founders Memorial Library | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Portrait of Isaac Ellwood in Founders Memorial Library | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Local lore tells us that members of the DeKalb Masonic Lodge, which Haish was a longtime member, "night requisitioned" the portrait the night before the home's demolition. The portrait would hang in two DeKalb lodge locations, until this year, when it was decided it would find its way to NIU, the home it was meant to have many, many, years ago. 

Ferald Bryan, member of the DeKalb Masonic Lodge, as well as president of the Friends of the NIU Library board, said it was not an easy decision to relocate the image of "Brother Jacob." But while renovating their temple building, members realized how much Haish loved DeKalb. After all, Haish helped found DeKalb and the university, he said.

"It seemed natural that it should come here," Bryan said. "More people needed to see it."

The portrait dedication ceremony October 9. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Images and a model of the Jacob Haish mansion on display during the portrait dedication | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The portrait now hangs proudly in the new Founders Gallery on the first floor of NIU's library, across from the portraits of Ellwood and Glidden. NIU President Lisa Freeman spoke during the dedication ceremony, noting the appropriate placement of Haish's portrait in the library, because of his "love of learning and passion for literacy."

As proudly as the portrait hangs, it is in need of repair. A tear in the portrait, as well as damage to the frame, are obvious. Experts have looked over the portrait and estimated that it needs $22,000 in repairs. 

Monetary donations are welcome to help fund the cost of restoring the portrait. 

Checks can be made to: "Northern Illinois University Libraries -- Haish Photograph Restoration"

Checks can be mailed to or dropped off at:

Libraries Administration
FO 428
Founders Memorial Library
Northern Illinois University
217 Normal Rd
DeKalb, IL 60115-2828

NIU President Lisa Freeman said in some ways, Haish was the "least credited" of DeKalb's founders. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Steve Bigolin said Haish's decision to make an even larger portrait of himself was because he could not be "outdone" by Glidden and Ellwood. | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Barbed wire field trips, booklets in the works

The cover of the Joseph F. Glidden pamphlet currently used in DeKalb elementary schools. | Image provided by DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association

DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association (DAAHA) is working to educate DeKalb students on the city's barbed wire barons.

Currently, DeKalb School District #428 has a booklet that teaches the district's second grade students about Joseph F. Glidden. 

"The teachers really like the format and commented that it would be nice to have one on other key DeKalb figures," said Donna Langford, DAAHA manager of operations. 

Dr. Anne Almberg of Founder's Elementary wrote one on Annie Glidden, Ellwood House wrote on Isaac Ellwood, and DAAHA volunteered to do one on Jacob Haish.

The booklets are used to meet the curriculum's English Language Arts standards, combining local history with reading and writing exercises. A grant for the schools will cover the cost of printing these materials.

A field trip is also in the works to help further students' understanding of the barbed wire barons, and funding is needed to bus students to these locations: the Ellwood House Museum, the Glidden Homestead and Historical Center, and the parking lot which was once the location of the Haish mansion.

DAAHA estimates the total cost is $4,435.31 for eight days (8 elementary schools and 22 classes) to visit these locations. A grant application has been made to help with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade busing for field trips.The busing costs for the 3rd and 4th graders is in addition to the $4,435.31.

Want to help DeKalb elementary students learn more about the founders of their very own Barb City?

Monetary donations are needed to make these field trips happen each year, so hopefully the second grade classes can take this field trip each fall. 

Any size donation is appreciated for the second grade field trips and will help the grant funds go further for the 3rd and 4th graders. DAAHA is a 501(c)3 and can provide thank you letters to each donor to document the donation to a charitable organization. 

Donations can be sent by mail to:
111 South Second St.
Suite 204
DeKalb, IL 60115

Please specify that your donation is to help fund the second grade field trips.

For more information, email or call 815-756-8737.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jacob Haish portrait dedication

Remember the story of Jacob Haish's larger than life portrait? The portrait once hung in the Haish mansion in DeKalb, before it was demolished in 1961. Local lore tells us that shortly before the home's demolition, the portrait was salvaged by Haish's "brothers" -- his fellow Masonic Lodge members.

The portrait has hung in the lodge for decades, but was recently moved to Founders Memorial Library at Northern Illinois University. There, it has been joined with images of Haish's fellow barbed wire barons, Isaac Ellwood and Joseph Glidden, to create the Founders Gallery. The gallery is located on the first floor of the college's library.

A dedication ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, at Founders Memorial Library, DeKalb. Local historian Steve Bigolin will speak about the history of DeKalb's founding fathers, including Haish. Refreshments will be served. Hope to see you there!

Flyer provided by Northern Illinois University Archives & Regional History Center

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Memories of the Jacob Haish mansion event

Detail of Jacob Haish mansion | Photo provided by Roger Alexander

From J.F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center:

Go beyond imagining or remembering a seemingly lost DeKalb landmark.
At 2 p.m. on September 9 at the Glidden Homestead, Jessi Haish LaRue will give a presentation on inventor, manufacturer, and DeKalb benefactor Jacob Haish’s ornate mansion. She will explore the house from construction to demolition and where some items ended up. LaRue, a Haish family descendant, is a writer who blogs regularly about Jacob Haish at The blog shares photos, interviews and news articles which relate to Haish's life. LaRue has been documenting her 4th great uncle's story since early 2016 in an attempt to spread the story of the "underdog of barbed wire."
The scale model of the home from NIU’s Regional History Center will also be on view. People who remember the house are invited to come out and share their memories.
“The Haish house was an important historical site that seems lost to us,” says Rob Glover, executive director of Glidden Homestead. “But Jessi offers a rare chance to go beyond imagining or remembering the house. Visitors will be able to examine photos of the house over time and see the model of it to get a 360 degree view.”
Haish is renowned for his “S barb” patented in 1875.
Jacob Haish was born March 9, 1827, in Germany and came to America in 1835 when he was nine years old. In his youth, he learned the carpentry trade from his father and “possessed natural mechanical ingenuity and displayed ready aptitude in the use of tools.” At 19, he moved to Illinois and then to DeKalb in 1853 where he entered the lumber business. He built many of the city’s most notable buildings, past and present, including the Glidden Homestead.
His first barbed wire patent is dated January 20, 1874. His “S barb” was patented August 31, 1875. He followed these with many later designs for wire and other innovative devices.
Also on Sunday, you can tour the home where Joseph Glidden and his family lived when he created his most famous invention, see a working onsite blacksmith shop, and walk where Glidden walked. Joseph Glidden developed barbed wire in DeKalb in 1873 and went on to patent numerous other inventions. Glidden’s brick barn, where an archaeological excavation has taking place, can be considered the monument for the invention of barbed wire, a symbol of innovation in the Midwest, the workshop of an iconic inventor. Programs at Glidden Homestead are made possible in part by the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund.
A full season of programs highlighting “Time Machine” continues at the Glidden Homestead in 2018. A program listing can be found at http://www.gliddenhomestead .org/events.html. The Glidden Homestead, located at 921 W Lincoln Hwy, is open Tuesdays 10-2 or by special arrangement. Admission is $4 per adult and free for children younger than 14. For more information, visit or e-mail or call (815) 756-7904.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Haish fountain finds second life

Remember the sidewalk and fountain that local collector Jim Hovis saved from the Haish property? Those items have recently found new life.

The fountain that once sat on Jacob Haish's front lawn is now surrounded by pieces of sidewalk from the same original location. Jeff Marshall, of DeKalb, arranged these pieces together, giving them a second life. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Details of the Jacob Haish mansion fountain -- barbed wire. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Jeff Marshall, Haish family descendant and enthusiast, has acquired these items and given them a new purpose. He has installed pieces of the limestone sidewalk beneath the original fountain that was featured on Jacob Haish's lawn.

Marshall, who owns his own landscaping company, was the perfect fit for putting this project together. With a little elbow grease, Marshall was able to revive some of the fountain's original color. He wanted the items to be displayed in a public place, but due to limited available options in the city of DeKalb, he installed these near his home. He encourages those who want to visit this display to contact him.

Click here to read the original story about the fountain, and click here for the original story on the sidewalk.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Haish engine at the Threshing Bee

A Haish Engine was spotted at this year's Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee. The engine is a 1911 model, with 1.5 horsepower, owned by Bob Ronning, of Somonauk. Special thanks to Grace Druien for providing us with these photos.

Haish Engine | Photo by Grace Druien

Haish Engine | Photo by Grace Druien

Haish Engine | Photo by Grace Druien

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Haish Estate Now History

The below article was printed in the December 2, 1959, edition of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle:

Haish Estate Now History
- - -
Last Large Holding of Industrialist Changes Hands

The once sprawling real estate empire of Jacob Haish, DeKalb industrialist and pioneer who died February 19, 1926, passed quietly into history about 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The deed to the last piece of real estate remaining in the estate --- the big Haish farm on Annie Glidden Road just north of DeKalb --- was quietly passed to Joseph Katz of DeKalb by attorneys for the sole surviving trustee of the estate, P.A. Nehring.

Katz purchased the farm at auction September 24 for a record price of $1,035 an acre, or $277,380 for the entire farm. This was approved by Circuit Judge Mel Abrahamson of Naperville October 30.

The deed was exchanged for the final check in the offices of the Chicago Title & Trust Company in Sycamore shortly before noon Tuesday.

Katz said that he planned to start subdividing portions of the farm as soon as practicable, but would also continue to operate the farm as a farm until it is sub-divided or otherwise disposed of in some manner.

The first step in the subdividing of the estate will be about 15 acres in the extreme southeast corner of the big farm which lies adjacent to the city of DeKalb near the north end of Normal Road.

Katz said that this block of land which extends west along the south line of the farm and will be about three streets wide to the north will be subdivided immediately as soon as annexation problems to DeKalb, the DeKalb Sanitary District, and zoning problems are settled.

The area will be called Rolling Meadows and will contain around 50 to 60 homes.

For the present, traffic from the new subdivision will be by way of Normal Road, although Katz said he had future plans for extending Hillcrest Drive westwards to the area and ultimately to Annie Glidden Road.

Katz discussed his plans with the DeKalb City Plan Commission Tuesday night, but purely in a preliminary stage. He said plans were not sufficiently developed to make a definite announcement.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Home Ownership Change Marks Passing of Noted Era in DeKalb

After Jacob Haish's death, the mansion was left to his longtime housekeeper Anna Anderson. Following her death, the mansion was sold to the First Lutheran Church in order to raise funds for other projects noted in Haish's will. For a few years before the demolition of the mansion, the First Lutheran Church hosted many events in the house.

In this DeKalb Daily Chronicle photo, "LeRoy Hayes points out the downstairs sitting room fireplace to his children, Sandra and Tommie. This is just one of the six marble fireplaces throughout the house. The public had an opportunity to see the mansion and changes made since early days, at an open house last week. | Clipping courtesy of Joiner History Room

This article was published in the August 12, 1955, edition of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle:

Home Ownership Change Marks Passing of Noted Era in DeKalb

An old community landmark, the Jacob Haish residence, has become the property of the First Lutheran Church, having been purchased from the Jacob Haish Estate. While the furnishings in the home are gone, there are still many of the appointments left which make of it an interesting and unique spot in DeKalb.

For the present, the church will use it as a parish house for its activities and for the intermediate department of its church school. On the second story, a four-room apartment has been arranged for the assistant minister and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. Waldo E. Ekeberg. The large and spacious rooms will make it possible to teach in the vicinity of 100 children. Several of the smaller organizations of the church are making plans for early fall meetings in the parlor of the residence. 

The Boy Scout committee has begun work in the basement where they will make headquarters for troop 33 when it gets into full swing in September. Several basement rooms will provide ideal situations for patrol work and for other scouting activity during the winter months.

Within the house itself, the elegant crystal chandeliers are still in place, as are several of the fine mirrors. The six fireplaces still grace the rooms of the house and add to its charm and beauty. The original paintings, which were done when the residence was built, still hang on the walls and are in a wonderful state of preservation. The four-season painting in the domed ceiling of the second floor is slightly damaged by dampness, but all of the rest show very well.

The cut glass in the door panels, the stained glass panels in many of the windows, especially in the dining and living rooms on the first floor and in the library room are still in excellent condition. 

Some of the statuary on the grounds has been removed, but in the main that which is near the house is still there. The old fountain, with the simulated barbed wire cable around it is an extremely interesting replica of the Haish era. Then, there is the likeness of Mr. Haish himself to the left of the front walk as one approaches the residence. The phrase "patentee of barb wire" is engraved on the back of the animal which forms the step rail of the walk. While some of these carvings have deteriorated from neglect, they still are indications of excellent workmanship which was so much a part of this landmark built 71 years ago.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Glover: The Haish-Glidden relationship

Robert Glover, the executive director of the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center, was kind enough to take a look at the dynamics of Joseph Glidden and Jacob Haish's relationship. Below is Glover's piece.

Joseph Glidden (L) and Jacob Haish (R)

By Robert Glover

The story of the relationship between Joseph Glidden and Jacob Haish is widely known to be one of fierce competition and prolonged dispute. 
But when we look closely at the ways they interacted together, their similarities in stature, and their contributions and legacies to the town they both adopted—neither having been there from birth—we see a much more complicated and interwoven picture.
Perhaps the most important Glidden and Haish interaction is the one that is most widely known. In 1907, Isaac Ellwood recalled, “In 1873 we had a little county fair down here about where the Normal school now stands and a man by the name of Rose that lived in Clinton exhibited at that fair a strip of wood about an inch square and about sixteen feet long and drove into this wood some sharp brads leaving the points stick out for the purpose of hanging it on a smooth wire which was the principal fencing material at that time. This strip of wood so armed to hang on the wire was to stop the cattle from crawling through. Mr. Glidden, Mr. Haish and myself were at that fair and all three of us stood looking at this invention of Mr. Rose's, and I think that each one of us at that hour conceived the idea that barbs could be placed on the wire in some way instead of being driven into the strip of wood. Mr. Glidden, Mr. Haish and myself, each one returned to our places of business with an idea of constructing a barb wire. Mr. Haish made what is known as the Haish barb and Mr. Glidden what is known as the Glidden barb.”
By then, the two men had known one another for a long time.  
Though both men had arrived in DeKalb before the town had settled on that name, virtually all of Glidden’s and Haish’s interactions from that time are lost. Joseph was a prominent farmer and political office holder and Jacob Haish was a carpenter and farmer, turned lumber merchant and building contractor. But there can be little doubt that in the small frontier town of DeKalb’s size, a little more than 1,500 people, they would have interacted to some extent.
Certainly though, their first recorded interaction comes in 1861, when Jacob Haish built the Glidden home for Joseph Glidden.
After the inspiration at the fair in the fall of 1873, Glidden, Haish, and Ellwood went to work, each producing his own improved version of armed fence.
Glidden had perfected his design and applied for a patent by October 27, 1873 and had begun manufacturing Glidden wire on the Glidden Homestead by November 1, 1873.
Haish had applied for his first patent December 22, 1873 and had, he contends in a story recalled several years later, that he had manufactured an early Haish wire in September 1873, where it “lay unused and unnoticed around his shop, except when he would remove it from a pile of rubbish to ponder over its utility,” Haish “did not, however, think it of practical commercial value and did not pay much attention to it” and was only moved to patent it when a local farmer offered to buy the discarded piece for fifty cents.
Certainly by December the two men are firmly in competition and yet, according to Haish, peace still reigned between them. Haish’s biographical account argues, “Up to 1876 there had been no discord between manufacturers and all were reaping the just reward of their own enterprise and progressiveness.” But a 1912 American Steel and Wire history contends that “an early and long-continued controvery [sic] respecting the priority of the inventions of Haish and Glidden” arose.
There can be little doubt that at least a fair amount of discord between the manufacturers ignited by June 25, 1874 when Haish filed a patent interference to block the patent application that Glidden had applied for eight months before. Glidden and his new business partner Isaac Ellwood resolve the interference by October 1874. Both Haish and Glidden continued to accrue several key patents in this time.
This dispute, in various forms, goes on until 1892, when the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case in Glidden’s favor.
But beyond their undeniably fierce competition, the historical record suggests that the two men shared more that differed.
Their stature in DeKalb in 1892, in sketches “used to show people outside the character of our citizens,” when they would be distributed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago a year later, is nearly identical. Both men were almost universally revered—often in the same language.
Glidden, “who in his ripe old age, crowned with wealth and honors, is passing the closing years of a useful life, in the full enjoyment of the personal and municipal prosperity which to a large extent is of his own creation.” He was “closely identified with all her interests, ever ready to lend his influence and capital to sustain enterprises calculated to advance local prosperity and encourage individual effort.”
At nearly 80, he was “possessed of good health, abundant property, the esteem of his surviving contemporaries, and the abiding respect of the younger generation, and better than all, the capacity to derive pleasure from all these gracious gifts.”
“As the inventor of the celebrated Glidden barb fence wire, and which was the foundation of his fortune,” Glidden’s “interests in DeKalb can be best learned by following these pages; to write it one must need write the history of the city.”
This is echoed in Haish’s biographical sketch that immediately follows.
“Few citizen have been more prominent in its commercial affairs than Jacob Haish. As the inventor, sole proprietor and manufacturer of the celebrated “S” barb fence wire, he has achieved fame and fortune,” the biography reads.  Haish “has ever been an important factor in the general prosperity of the town as having been engaged in several industries, giving employment to many men.”
“Like several of our people, to write the history of the life of Mr. Haish would be to write again the history of DeKalb, for his business career has been closely identified with the development of the city, and the record herein contained of the institutions with which his name and capital is associated, will show the keen interest of one who desires to contribute to the welfare of the community, where he has spent his successful life.”
And a few years later, this similar, overriding commitment to their town despite all of their deep differences drives an interaction that is perhaps their most far-reaching.
Both men committed materially to the race to bring a Normal School to DeKalb—Haish “grateful for an exceptional success in a fine financial enterprise, devoted other thousands to the endowment of a noble library” and Glidden, “the venerable and distinguished inventor of the famous barb-wire fence, donated the beautiful campus of more than sixty acres, bought from the Government with his earliest earnings, to the great cause of the scientific education of the children of the people.”
In the midst of this effort, Haish proposes a whimsical, but meaningful, idea to Glidden.“When DeKalb was making an earnest effort to secure the Normal School, Mr. Glidden donated sixty-four acres from his homestead for the institution. At the suggestion of Mr. Haish, in the presence of one-hundred and fifty of our citizens, Mr. Glidden broke the soil for our building with a pencil, the pencil being considered emblematic of literature and education.”
This shows that the men were not only on speaking terms, but that they were uninhibited by their past differences to the extent that they were open to thinking up poetic, as one source would call it,  and yet unconventional idea on Haish’s part and open to carrying it out in a large, public gathering on Glidden’s part.
Isaac Ellwood, in attempting to define what Haish and Glidden accomplished, would write in 1907, “In regard to the prosperity of DeKalb owing to the manufacture of barb wire Mr. Glidden and Mr. Haish are the two men, to put it comparatively, who planted the acorn that made the oak of DeKalb.”

Special thanks to Rob for allowing us to publish his writing here.