Have you ever stopped to think about fences and how they have evolved? Probably not. But, at DCS Industries, our passion for beautiful, custom fencing led us to enhance our knowledge of the history of fencing. Dr. Christina Kotchemidova of New York University has studied both the history and the cultural implications of fencing and provided the following thought-provoking facts about fences.
Fences are functional – they provide a barrier to keep unwanted visitors out, but they also have a larger meaning in society. Agriculture, family and property form the cornerstones of civilization, and all of these concepts evolved with the fence. In early human civilizations, tribes would farm by using a piece of land until it was no longer productive, then moved on to another location. The beginning of fences in early Mesopotamia allowed for the devoted care of land, as opposed to the stripping of it. The fence formed one of the most important elements of society – the recognition of private property. Early Hindu and Greek law stated that land must be kept in the family and passed down from generation to generation, firmly associating the fence with family home.
18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau credits fences as being central to society, stating, “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said ‘This is mine,’ and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.”
In early American history, the first fences were “worm” fences made of zigzagged stacks of wood that did not require posts, making them a labor and cost effective way to define property among the settlers. And consider the impact of fencing in the 19th century Westward expansion – settlers arrived to find huge areas of property that could not be purchased already fenced off by rangers. Barbed wire was invented in 1886 as a cheap and effective way of fencing off large western properties. The dangerous barbs also sent a clear message of aggression.
The Victorian era brought in lavish fencing designs in iron, featuring elaborate scrollwork, grids and designs. Victorian ironwork conveyed the message of social power, incorporating the strength of iron with artwork. It also allowed those outside the fence to view the property within, but from outside its well-defined borders.
Today, there are so many options for fencing properties, with a wide variety of styles in wood, metal and incorporating stone or block. The fence is still the first thing people see, and it is a reflection of pride in property ownership. Fences are also functional, especially when it comes to pool safety and general property security. A ramshackle or aging fence not only diminishes curb appeal, but reduces security and peace of mind. Today, a customized wrought-iron fence surrounding a pool area or entire property is not only an effective barrier, but also makes a statement in terms of personal style and pride in homeownership.