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.
Never miss a local story.
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.