Jacob Haish (1826-1926)
The marker is located at 309 Oak Street, DeKalb.
The DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association and The Illinois State Historical Society
Known for his inventive genius, eccentric personality, and generous philanthropy, Jacob Haish is perhaps most remembered as an inventor of barbed wire. Born in Germany, he immigrated to this country in 1832 and came to DeKalb County in the 1840s.
As a lumber merchant and builder, Haish learned about the West’s need for cheap, durable fencing to safeguard against livestock that roamed freely, destroying crops. At the DeKalb County Fair in 1873, he noticed a patented wood fence, designed with sharp metal barbs. From this design, Haish got the idea to make wire barbs and place them on wire that could be stretched between fence posts. A patent was issued on August 31, 1875 on Haish’s design, called “S” barbed wire.
Haish started manufacturing S barbed wire in 1874 and in 1881 erected a two-story factory wherein 100 men produced 30 tons of barbed wire a day and later, used automatic machinery to manufacture the wire. Other ventures included manufacturing of woven fencing, manure spreaders, cream separators, and other farm implements.
Between 1892 and 1895 Haish partnered with his barbed-wire rivals Isaac Ellwood and Joseph Glidden to bring Northern Illinois State Normal School to DeKalb, donating $14,000 for the school’s library.
Haish’s will directed much of his estate to the betterment of the community he loved, including $150,000 for the construction of the DeKalb (Haish Memorial) Library. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
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