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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1967. Department of Geography.


Copyright 1967, the author. Used by permission.


The evolution of pioneer enclosures in Iowa to a fence climax represented by wire fencing in 1895 was characterized by continual changes in form and spatial arrangements.Each fencing form and its spread was the result of the interactions of natural and cultural factors.The Iowa fencescape, as it appeared from period to period on the agricultural landscape, was a product of the dissemination of fencing ideas and practices.Some particular Iowa fencing expressions were, nevertheless, the result of innovation.Each fencescape was a response to fencing needs in accordance with available resources.Furthermore, each at the same time was directly influenced by farmer choices, farmer ingenuity, and later technological advancements in the form of barbed and woven wire.

Iowa pioneer enclosures were most frequently influenced by the natural resources.Where timber was abundant the traditional wooden fencing practices, long common in eastern agricultural settlements, were used. Rail and stake and ridered rail fences received the first call for enclosures in the older, timber clothed southeast and northeast.Prairie fringe and prairie locations demanded, however, due to insufficient timber supplies, the use of enclosures which could be constructed of fewer materials.Board fences along with occasional sod-ditch enclosures were found.Innovation was also in vogue in these settings, not, however, to the exclusion of diffusion.

“Live” fences, on the other hand, represented not only an adaptation to specific natural conditions, but also a desire for permanent enclosures.Though usually over-stated by journalists of the day and later hedge students, the hedge which aided settlements for some, never attained the success described for it.Its imprint on the agricultural landscape of the day was, however, clearly evident and remained so for many years.

Barbed wire, itself a prairie invention, enjoyed an anxious reception by the Iowa farmer.When costs became consonant with the farmer’s income, wire fencing became universally used for replacement as well as for new fences.In northwest Iowa, barbed wire served as a pioneer enclosure, for it generally accompanied the settlement of this sector of the state.

Thus, we can conclude that the Iowa fencescape, while developing on a natural setting which offered differing amounts of prairie and woodland never before nor since encountered, basically underwent similar changes in fencing forms as did the entire American fencescape.

Advisor: Leslie Hewes