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Barbed wire at Paso Robles museum: History with a twist

One of the largest collections of barbed wire is in SLO County

The west was won with wire. And there is a story behind each patent. The Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles displays the fourth-largest collection of antique barbed wire in the world — the largest west of the Rockies.
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The west was won with wire. And there is a story behind each patent. The Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles displays the fourth-largest collection of antique barbed wire in the world — the largest west of the Rockies.

It wasn't cowboys, covered wagons, gunslingers or prospectors that won the west.

According to Mark Nelson, president of of the California Barbed Wire Collectors Association, it was windmills and barbed wire.

The east could rely on abundant wood for fences, but western ranges didn't have surplus wood or water.

The open range began to close in the late 1860s as hundreds of wire designs were patented.

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The block wire is designed so that cattle that were unused to wire fencing would see it. More than 1,000 barbed wire designs are on display at the Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Each wire has a story.

Railroads needed proprietary designs so ranchers would not steal it for their own land.

Chinese workers homespun worn-out mining cable, weaving in cuttings for spikes.

Some wire had wooden blocks so cattle that had never seen a fence would see it and stop before breaking it.

One World War I wire design was so deadly the tank was invented to crawl over it.

The Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles has renovated its display of more than 1,000 barbed wire designs.

"This is one of the four largest collections of antique barbed wire on public display in the world," said Mark Nelson as he and other volunteers readied a new display at the museum.

A new exhibit at the Pioneer Museum titled "Wire and Thread" opened March 8 and features the barbed wire collection and a quilt display.

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Mark Nelson, president California Barbed Wire Collectors Association, puts up a new display board. The Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles is opening a new display of the largest collection of barbed wire west of the Rocky Mountains. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

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