Joseph Glidden was born in Clarendon, New York, in 1813. He became a school teacher but after marrying Clarissa Foster in 1837 he purchased a small farm.
In 1843 Glidden moved to Illinois. Later his wife, daughter and two sons all died. At the age of 38 he married Luvinda Warne. Soon after he was elected sheriff of the county.
In 1874 Glidden invented and patented barbed wire. Glidden fashioned barbs on an improvised coffee bean grinder, placed them at intervals along a smooth wire, and twisted another wire around the first to hold the barbs in a fixed position.
He established the Barb Fence Company at De Kalb in Illinois. Several other people claimed they had invented similar products and Glidden became involved in a three year legal battle. Glidden was eventually declared the rightful inventor of barbed wire.
In 1876, Glidden sold his half of the patent to Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company for $60,000 and royalties. He went on to become one of the most richest men in the United States. Eventually, Glidden owned a 250,000 acre ranch in Texas, a hotel, bank, and newspaper.
Joseph Glidden died in 1906.