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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Haish, barbed wire story featured on podcast

This SUPER interesting podcast, Fascinating Nouns, has a new episode about the history of barbed wire featuring an interview with local historian Steve Bigolin. 
Click here: and play "The Barbed Wire Barons" episode to listen. At the 38:30 mark, the host gives a shout out to A Twist in History. So cool, and worth the listen!
Fascinating Nouns, thank you for putting a spotlight on the barbed wire story!

- Jessi (Haish) LaRue

Friday, April 6, 2018

PHOTOS: Fire Destroys Haish Shop

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives
We are continuing to share Jacob Haish-related images from the Floyd Ritzman Collection. The Joiner History Room has generously allowed me to share these images on this website.

These photos capture a fire that completely destroyed Jacob Haish's manure spreader factory in 1914. The May 20, 1914, edition of the Sycamore True Republican called the fire the "heaviest fire loss in the history of DeKalb." 

According to the article: "All of the contents of the big shops, which included some 200 completed manure spreaders, and a great amount of other products and raw materials, were completely destroyed." To read the complete article, click here.

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

Haish Spreader Factory Fire | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives

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From the Joiner History Room website: "Over 700 photos from the Floyd Ritzman Collection which are part of the Northern Illinois University Digital Library are now available on Flickr at This collection of photos, taken in and around DeKalb County, was formerly part of the Taming the Wild Prairie website. Thanks to Matthew Short at NIU for making these historical photos available."

According to the Joiner History Room's website, "Floyd R. Ritzman (1885-1975) was a teacher and administrator in the DeKalb public school system. His passion was photography." Special thanks to the Joiner History Room for allowing me to share these images.

Monday, April 2, 2018

POSTCARD: Smokestack struck by lightning

I discovered this postcard on Ebay, and its image has quite the story to tell. The postcard, which shows the Haish building which stands at Ninth and Locust Streets in DeKalb, reads:

"Haish's New Electric Power and Gas Engine Plant, DeKalb, Ill. Smokestack struck by lightning Saturday, July 28th, 1906."

The front side of the Haish postcard. | Photo by Jessi LaRue

The back side of the Haish postcard. | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Documentation courtesy of the Joiner History Room offers a little more insight on this image:

"The building picture on the reversed side is of The Jacob Haish Company, Power & Gas Engine Plant, located at Ninth & Locust Streets. The Power Plant was discontinued prior to 1915, the Gas Engine Plant was discontinued in about the year of 1916. The property was sold to Hurley Machine Company and was purchased in 1924 by the Nehring Electrical Works from the Hurley Machine Company. The three [story] building was remodeled into a two [story] steel structure and an addition of two stories and one [story] was built adjoining this building at the west end in 1936, all as it now stands in 1956. A one [story] structure was built east of this building in 1930 and another structure in 1941, as it now stands in 1956. The present Office Building at Ninth & Locust Streets, was built and finished in early 1938, all the above building and remodeling was done by the Nehring Electrical Works."