Monday, December 26, 2022

Remembering my great grandpa

On Christmas morning, my great grandpa Artie passed. He had turned 92 years old in October. Although we live almost 8 hours apart, I always felt an immediate connection with him every time I was fortunate enough to visit. There were a lot of those familiar “Haish traits,” and to think that so many of them came directly from him— the drive to work hard, be stubborn and honest but loving, and the ability to exaggerate a story like you’d never believe— was special. He always had a big smile and restless energy. 

In spring 2016 after a visit with him, I came home, opened a new blog website and typed "A Twist in History: The Jacob Haish Story." My visit with him that weekend piqued my curiosity (even more) into my family history. It was a project I'd been debating starting for a while, but seeing his interest in it sealed the deal. He always told me he couldn’t wait to read my Jacob Haish book. I didn’t get it done in time for him to read it, but as time passes and I continue to work on it, he will be in my thoughts. 

I’ll always think fondly of my memories with my “grandpa Artie,” from watching “Mollie B Polka Party” on RFD-TV to talking about old family photos around the kitchen table. I’m happy he was able to meet my husband Chris and give him the nod of approval. 

I’m so sad that he is gone but very grateful for the time we had together.

Arthur Vernon Haish, 1930-2022

Haish blog interview with Artie Haish

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Personal update: I'm at Glidden!

What a crazy year it has been!

In April, I accepted the role of executive director of the J.F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center in DeKalb, IL. This is truly my dream job, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to enthusiastically share the story of Glidden, barbed wire, and DeKalb's history.

I briefly wondered if my new role at Glidden Homestead (the home of my fourth great uncle's biggest competitor) would pull me away from my study of Jacob Haish. However, if anything, it has allowed me even more opportunites to learn about the barbed wire story, my relative included. 

I'm so happy to be a part of the local history scene and museum life. I'm honored to have the opportunity to share the stories of both Jacob Haish and Joseph Glidden, and will continue to do so.

Happy to have you along for the ride as well! Thanks for reading.

-Jessi Haish LaRue

Monday, June 20, 2022

Article: Haish kindred fight to break $800,000 will

Orrin Merritt of the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society reached out with this note and image:

"I was accessing a book into our collection today and ran across an interesting news article, stuck between the pages, about Jacob Haish's will."

Click image to enlarge

To read more about Haish's will, click HERE

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

"Rattler" wire fence stretcher

"The Rattler" wire fence stretcher | Photo by Jessi LaRue
This wire fence stretcher, called "The Rattler" was patented by Jacob Haish in 1882 and was produced by his manufacturing company. 

Wire stretchers were essential for installing barbed wire, as they ensured that the wire had the proper amount of tension. 

Click here for information on the patent for Haish's wire stretcher, which he would market as "The Rattler."

Monday, March 21, 2022

Lecture Series Presents “Exploring Jacob Haish”

DeKALB – In 1875, Jacob Haish secured a patent for his “S Barb” wire design, claiming his spot as one of DeKalb’s “Barbed Wire Barons,” and a role in the development of the west.

While mostly known for his contribution to the barbed wire industry, Haish also patented and manufactured farming implements and was a banker. He left most of his fortune to the city of DeKalb, resulting in the public library and much more.

On Thursday, April 7, Jessi Haish LaRue, a Haish family descendant, will present and discuss “new” artifacts and research related to this lesser-known barbed wire entrepreneur. LaRue has been researching in the Joiner History Room since fall 2021 in an effort to make Haish-related items more accessible to the public and creating conversation regarding Haish’s impact.

The lecture, titled “Adventures in Research: Exploring Jacob Haish,” is part of Brown Bag Lunch/Local Lore, a collaboration between the Ellwood House Museum and DeKalb County History Center. 

The free one-hour program will take place at noon at the DeKalb County History Center, 1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore. A virtual option is also available. To register, visit

Brown Bag Lunch/Local Lore is funded in part by the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Haish Wire & Implement Co. letterhead

Haish Co. letterhead detail | Courtesy of DeKalb County History Center Archives

This letterhead for Haish Wire and Implement Co. advertises the company's woven and barbed wire, gates, staples, nails and stretchers. Haish's iconic rooster image is used as well.

Letter on Haish Co. letterhead | Courtesy of DeKalb County History Center Archives

The letter on this letterhead is addressed to Mr. E.E. Roberts of Oak Park, Ill., and reads:

"Dear Sir:-

This is to give notice to you, also the contractors, Foster Woodruff & Glidden that unless the school house now being erected in DeKalb, Ill., under your supervision, are completed by Aug. 1st, 1908 for every day's delay thereafter we shall demand damages.

Yours truly,


The letter is dated July 15, 1908.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Haish's "S" barb fence wire advertisement postcard

front of the postcard

The front side of the postcard reads: 

Forbidden Fruit. Can't get through Haish's fence.

"Papa uses the Haish Barb Fence. No danger for players here. Just look on the other side."

"I use the 'S' barb. No more dog fence for me. I have trained my dog for sporting."

back of the postcard

The reverse side of the postcard reads: 

"Jacob Haish, manufacturer of Haish's 'S' barb fence wire, patented August 31, 1875. DeKalb, Ill.

Barb Fast on Both Wires.

To the farmer and stock-raiser, a complete fence is a constant benefit; hence the pleasure afforded the inventor in offering to the entire country the enamel 'S' barb fence, which meets all the requirements of a stock fence. This assertion is made at the instance of many of the best farmers throughout the West, who witness to its perfect efficiency as a stock-proof fence, from the following facts: Two wires make a good stock-proof fence costing about 40 cents per rod. It requires less posts, less labor, and is built for less money than any other good wire fence. Stock never make a second attempt to get through it. (Use Haish's Wire Tightener, because it stretches the wire each way, and remains on the fence and can be turned with a wrench or crank.) It can be tightened with any wire strainer. The strain is equal upon both wires, lessening the liability of breaking. It is slightly twisted, so as not to weaken the wire. The enameling renders it absolutely rust-proof. THE BARBS PASS AROUND BOTH WIRES AND CANNOT TURN. The spread of the wires between the barbs preserves its tension. It is made of the best No. 12 steel wire. Breaking Strain is 100 per cent, over common annealed wire. It weighs 17 ounces to the rod, coiled on spools, weighing from 70 to 100 pounds, ready for shipment to any part of the globe. This fence gives the best satisfaction of any Barb Fence ever used.

The last consideration is the solid comfort the stock-raiser enjoys when relieved from the anxiety of watching crops, by using the 'S' barb fence. He rests peacefully at night and the heart throbs with an even beat as he quietly turns over."

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Haish's story featured in American West encyclopedia

The American West: A Multicultural Encyclopedia" features a section on Jacob Haish's history. In fact, he is the last entry in his particular volume, so he is even listed on the spine and on the index for all of the other titles in the series.

There are some factual errors in the description, such as his birth and death years, which I've corrected below. Even so, it's nice to see Haish considered a piece of stand-alone history.

"Haish, Jacob


Jacob Haish was an inventor and manufacturer, best known for devising and patenting the 'S' barbed wire.

Haish (b. Baden, Germany, on March 9, 1827) and his family immigrated to the United States when he was [nine] years old, ultimately settling in De Kalb County, Illinois. As a young man, after building a successful business as a contractor and lumber dealer in De Kalb, Haish began to experiment with barbed wire. However, when he tried to patent the result in 1873, he discovered that his townsman Joseph [F.] Glidden had applied for a similar patent only two months earlier. Although his challenge to Glidden's patent was unsuccessful, Haish persisted with his experiments until he developed the 'S' barbed wire, which he patented on August 31, 1875.

Haish's 'S' became the best-selling barbed wire in the West. Over the years, Haish continued to manufacture barbed wire and other products, including plain wire, nails, staples, and woven-wire fencing. He died on February 19, 1926, a few weeks before his 100th birthday."

Sunday, January 30, 2022

A unique view of the Haish mansion

Jacob Haish mansion in DeKalb, date unknown | Courtesy of the DeKalb County History Center Archives

I was thrilled to find this image in the Joiner History Room archives. I wasn't entirely sure what I was seeing at first, as this only existed in a negative format. With help from Rob Glover, director of Joiner History Room, we were able to digitally process this image so that others can enjoy it as well. Much better than holding a negative up to a light and squinting at it.

This image is wonderful because it gives us a unique view of the mansion; we typically see it from the corner of Third and Pine Streets, and in most of those images, we also see the Haish carriage house next door. This angle, taken from Pine Street, allows us to see a side of the Haish mansion that is not as familiar. From this direction, the carriage house would be directly "behind" the mansion. The house was demolished in 1961.

To scroll through my previous posts and photos regarding the Haish mansion, click here.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Unearthing "new" Jacob Haish items locally

This article was originally published in the winter 2021 edition of Cornsilk magazine.

- - -

I've been getting to know my uncle, two days a week, almost 100 years after his death.


Last fall, Rob Glover, Director of the Joiner History Room, invited me to explore the Joiner History Room archives for any Jacob Haish related items. I've been blogging about Haish, my fourth-great uncle, for almost six years now, and it was just assumed that I had seen most of the local archival items. After all, how much can really remain on a man who had no heirs and his house no longer stands?


I had so much to learn.


Starting the process was simple enough. Rob did a very generic search for "Haish" in the Past Perfect collection database and printed out a list that was 36 pages long. We've been working through the list for weeks now; I notate a few interesting items for each visit and Rob pulls boxes from the archives. Then I dig through files and folders like a child opening presents on Christmas morning.


Some items are surprising; I couldn't believe that the last few monetary checks from the Jacob Haish Estate were saved! Others are things I'd seen before, like a photocopy of that photo of Jacob Haish, the one everyone recognizes and is immortalized in a painting at Northern Illinois University. I've also seen items that I never even knew existed. I have audibly gasped, laughed, and said "wow!" as something "new," well, new to me, is unearthed.

As we continue to pull countless items related to Haish and his many ventures, such as barbed wire, farm implements, banking and more, I am truly stunned at how much wonderful history has remained local, and right in my "backyard" at the DeKalb County History Center. Better yet, these were items saved by someone who found them important, and they made sure they found their way to the Joiner History Room. For that, we are so lucky.


These are just a few unique items that have been "rediscovered." As I continue to research and learn more about items, they will be posted on my blog at


"Haish" pins

Two pins that simply say "Haish," with no more archival documentation other than their color and dimensions, these baffle me. Which Haish had them made? Was it Jacob? Did a relative run for political office? Perhaps a school spirit pin for the former Haish School in DeKalb? Much to my disappointment, my research and pleas for help on Facebook have continually come up short. 


Jacob Haish's signature

In my time researching Haish, there has been this odd, almost urban legend story surrounding him: that he was illiterate. Multiple sources have relayed to me that because of his immigrant status, arriving in the United States from Germany when he was 9 years old, that he could not read, write, or even sign his own name. That myth seems to be debunked, as multiple documents in the Joiner archives show Haish's signature. Two of the most legible and interesting instances are when he signed his name in pencil on lined sheets of paper; they were petitions encouraging school board ventures. He was a staunch supporter of schools and libraries in DeKalb and beyond.



Sophia Haish calling cards

In a stack of calling cards from various but prominent DeKalb ladies, I saw one for "Mrs. Jacob Haish, DeKalb, Ills." Sophia's was the best quality of the bunch, printed on a thicker paper with intricate scalloped edging. 


Calling cards, or visiting cards, as they are sometimes called, were used to announce someone's arrival, or left as a message for those who were not at home. I imagined Sophia Haish appearing at a fellow DeKalbian's doorstep and presenting her card. I wondered about the conversations she would have had regarding both pleasure and business. I think she may have done quite a bit of business talk, as Jacob often included her in his ventures and she was even co-president of their Barb City Bank.



Whether you're exploring the history of your home, school, or in my case, a very distant relative, the Joiner History Room at the DeKalb County History Center is a great resource. And just when you start to think you've seen it'll realize you've only cracked the tip of the iceberg. Call or stop by to start your research journey.