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It was the primary domestic producer of piano wire and crinoline wire, which became an affordable alternative to whale bone in the popular hoop skirts of the 1850s and ’60s.Washburn and Moen produced tons of telegraph wire and after Washburn’s death the company secured a patent for and mass produced barbed wire, which fenced the homesteads of the American West. Butterfield, a professor and lead fundraiser at financially struggling Lincoln College in Kansas, visited Washburn’s home in Worcester, Mass.
Ichabod Washburn worked his way from indentured apprentice to captain of industry.The businessman was also a fervent Congregationalist, abolitionist and philanthropist who believed in the rights of all people to an education.Washburn was sent before the age of 9 to learn leather harness-making because his widowed mother could not provide for him.His innovations in wire led some to call him a father of the industry.
His company, Washburn and Moen Wire Works, named for Ichabod and his son-in-law and partner Philip Moen, was the largest wire producer in the world for a time.in October 1868, the businessman apparently liked what he heard.