William Edenborn
William Edenborn was a businessman, inventor and philanthropist
A philanthropist is someone who engages in philanthropy; that is, someone who donates his or her time, money, and/or reputation to charitable causes...

, born in Altena
Altena is a town in the district of Märkischer Kreis, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The town's castle is the origin for the later Dukes of Berg. Altena is situated on the Lenne river valley, in the northern streches of the Sauerland.-History:...

 in the Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

 region of the Ruhr River Valley of the former Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, since Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. He immigrated
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1866 as a "financially poor youth yet rich in vision and courage" and eventually became a citizen.

Early years

When Edenborn reached the United States at the age of eighteen, he became a wiremaker
Wire drawing
Wire drawing is a metalworking process used to reduce the cross-section of a wire by pulling the wire through a single, or series of, drawing die. There are many applications for wire drawing, including electrical wiring, cables, tension-loaded structural components, springs, paper clips, spokes...

 by trade. He resided briefly in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, where he worked as a mechanic. He relocated to Cincinnati
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

, Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, and then St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

, which had a large German immigrant community.

In October 1875, Edenborn married the former Sarah Drain (1856–1944) and joined the Methodist Church. He worked in various jobs connected with steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 and wiremaking.

Wire inventions

Edenborn is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the inventor of barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

; Joseph Glidden
Joseph Glidden
Joseph Farwell Glidden was an American farmer who patented barbed wire, a product that forever altered the development of the American West.- Biography :...

 of Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 is appropriately credited for that. Edenborn patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

ed a machine that simplified the making of barbed wire and cut the unit price
Unit price
Average prices represent, quite simply, total sales revenue divided by total units sold. Many products, however, are sold in multiple variants, such as bottle sizes. In these cases, managers face a challenge: they must determine “comparable” units. Average prices can be calculated by weighting...

 from seventeen to three cents per pound
Pound (mass)
The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the Imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement...

. He also received a patent for his particular wire design, a "humane" version that did not harm cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. The original wire was sharp-toothed and contributed to Western range wars.

In time, Edenborn's company manufactured 75 percent of the barbed wire in the United States. His patented wire nail machine reduced the price of wire nails from eight to two cents per pound.

Edenborn's business later consolidated with the Southern Wire Company, owned by financier John Warne Gates
John Warne Gates
John Warne Gates , also known as "Bet-a-Million" Gates, was a pioneer promoter of barbed wire who became a Gilded Age industrialist.-Biography:...

, to form the Braddock Wire Company. In 1888 they organized the Consolidated Steel and Wire Company, a forerunner of U.S. Steel
U.S. Steel
The United States Steel Corporation , more commonly known as U.S. Steel, is an integrated steel producer with major production operations in the United States, Canada, and Central Europe. The company is the world's tenth largest steel producer ranked by sales...

 and USX. Edenborn served as a director of U.S. Steel.

Edenborn became extremely wealthy, eventually sold his share of the company to J.P. Morgan for $50 million, and his patent rights for another $40 million. He owned majority stock in more than twenty-five companies.

Life in Louisiana

Edenborn was known for his exceptional frugality, usually spending no more than $200 per year on personal expenses and serving guests mostly home-made sandwiches. He and his wife chose to live in Winn Parish, Louisiana
Winn Parish, Louisiana
Winn Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Its seat is Winnfield. In 2000, its population was 16,894.The parish has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it is water....

, although they owned more than a million acres (4,000 km²) of land in the state and could have lived anywhere. He named his farm "Emden" after a place on the Ems River near the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...


Emden is located on the Harrisonburg Road southwest of Atlanta
Atlanta, Louisiana
Atlanta is a village in Winn Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 150 at the 2000 census.Louisiana industrialist and inventor William Edenborn maintained the Emden plantation southwest of Atlanta, where he grew peanuts, cotton, and silkworms....

, Louisiana. At Emden, he obtained a patent for a device that distilled pine oil
Pine oil
Pine oil is an essential oil obtained by the steam distillation of needles, twigs and cones from a variety of species of pine, particularly Pinus sylvestris....

 for use in making turpentine
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene...

. He experimented with ways to protect cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 from boll weevil
Boll weevil
The boll weevil is a beetle measuring an average length of six millimeters, which feeds on cotton buds and flowers. Thought to be native to Central America, it migrated into the United States from Mexico in the late 19th century and had infested all U.S. cotton-growing areas by the 1920s,...

s, which became a scourge in the early twentieth century. He tried to raise silkworms. Encouraged by his friend George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver , was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. The exact day and year of his birth are unknown; he is believed to have been born into slavery in Missouri in January 1864....

, the scientist of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, he planted peanut
The peanut, or groundnut , is a species in the legume or "bean" family , so it is not a nut. The peanut was probably first cultivated in the valleys of Peru. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing tall...

s as an alternative commodity crop. Edenborn tried to use monkey
A monkey is a primate, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys...

s as cotton pickers.

Edenborn and State Senator
Louisiana State Legislature
The Louisiana State Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is bicameral body, comprising the lower house, the Louisiana House of Representatives with 105 representatives, and the upper house, the Louisiana Senate with 39 senators...

 Henry E. Hardtner
Henry E. Hardtner
Henry Ernest Hardtner was a Louisiana businessman and conservationist regarded as "the father of forestry in the South." He founded and named the town of Urania in La Salle Parish and served single terms as a Democrat in both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature...

 purchased a sawmill east of Winnfield
Winnfield, Louisiana
Winnfield is a city in and the parish seat of Winn Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 5,749 at the 2000 census. It has long been associated with the Long faction of the Louisiana Democratic Party and was home to three governors of Louisiana.-Geography:Winnfield is located at ...

 and named the site Urania
Urania, Louisiana
Urania is a town in La Salle Parish, Louisiana in the United States. The population was 700 at the 2000 census.Urania was established in the late 1890s by lumbering magnate Henry E...

 for the Greek
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 muse of astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

. The two, with Hardtner getting more of the credit, launched a successful reforestation
Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation....

 program, planting pine seedlings in areas where the trees had already been harvested. Edenborn's friendship with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 led to an invitation for him and Hardtner to join the outgoing Governor Newton C. Blanchard
Newton C. Blanchard
Newton Crain Blanchard was a United States Representative, Senator, and the 33rd Governor of Louisiana. Born in Rapides Parish, he completed academic studies, studied law in Alexandria, Louisiana in 1868, and graduated from the Tulane University Law School in 1870...

 in attending Roosevelt's White House Conservation Conference
Conference of Governors
The Conference of Governors was held in the White House May 13-15, 1908 under the sponsorship of President Theodore Roosevelt. Gifford Pinchot, at that time Chief Forester of the U.S., was the primary mover of the conference....

 in May 1908.

Edenborn had accompanied President Roosevelt on a bear hunting trip in Louisiana, when the president refused to shoot a bear with two cubs; this is one version of the incident leading to the popularization of the term "Teddy bear
Teddy bear
The teddy bear is a stuffed toy bear. They are usually stuffed with soft, white cotton and have smooth and soft fur. It is an enduring form of a stuffed animal in many countries, often serving the purpose of entertaining children. In recent times, some teddy bears have become collector's items...


Edenborn was friends with other wealthy entrepreneurs: the oil tycoons John Davison Rockefeller, I
John D. Rockefeller
John Davison Rockefeller was an American oil industrialist, investor, and philanthropist. He was the founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of...

, H.L. Hunt, the publisher Joseph Pulitzer
Joseph Pulitzer
Joseph Pulitzer April 10, 1847 – October 29, 1911), born Politzer József, was a Hungarian-American newspaper publisher of the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the New York World. Pulitzer introduced the techniques of "new journalism" to the newspapers he acquired in the 1880s and became a leading...

, and the brewers August Busch
August Busch
August Busch may refer to:*August Anheuser Busch, Sr. , 2nd generation brewing magnate*Gussie Busch, August A. "Gussie" Busch, Jr., , 3rd generation brewing magnate*August Busch III , 4th generation brewing magnate...

and the Anheuser family of St. Louis.

Railroad executive

In 1898, Edenborn had launched construction of the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company, which extended from Shreveport
Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport is the third largest city in Louisiana. It is the principal city of the fourth largest metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana and is the 109th-largest city in the United States....

 to New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

 and linked areas of his adopted state where the lack of transportation had prevented the development of industry. The railroad cost some $20 million. The project pumped $50 million into the state's economy at a time when the money was fully backed by gold. The obituary describes Edenborn as "fearless in this giant undertaking and was entirely unaided by finances other than his own." In addition to Emden in Winn Parish, the Edenborns maintained a residence in New Orleans, where they spent most of their later years to be near the railroad business office.

He was also a chairman of the board of the Kansas City Southern Railroad. With William Buchanan and Harvey C. Couch
Harvey C. Couch
Harvey Crowley Couch, was an Arkansas entrepreneur who rose from very modest beginnings to control a regional utility and railroad empire...

, Edenborn also owned the short-line, the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway
Louisiana and Arkansas Railway
The Louisiana and Arkansas Railway was a railroad that operated in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The railroad's main line extended 332 miles, from Hope, Arkansas to Shreveport and New Orleans...


The Edenborns owned two steamships named for themselves, the S.S. William Edenborn and the S.S. Sarah Endenborn. The former was scuttled in 1962 in Cleveland
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

, Ohio.

C. Geoffrey Mangin, in an article in North Louisiana History
North Louisiana History
North Louisiana History is an academic journal published twice annually in Shreveport, Louisiana by the North Louisiana Historical Association .-History:...

refers to Edenborn as a "robber baron."

Sedition Act

In April 1918, Edenborn was arrested in New Orleans for alleged violation of the Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 administration's Sedition Act
Sedition Act of 1918
The Sedition Act of 1918 was an Act of the United States Congress that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds...

, which forbade one from speaking "disloyally" about the United States military effort amid World War I.

Here are excerts from the speech given by the 70-year-old Edenborn:

There has been much talk about Germany coming over here and attacking the United States. We need have no fear that Germany will ever attack the United States. It would take a maritime nation to do that, because America is surrounded by water. America can look to other countries for any attacks in the future. Recently a certain prime minister (David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

) stated, 'Our nation is mistress of the sea, our nation has been mistress of the sea, and always will be mistress of the sea.'

The U.S. government claimed that Edenborn, mentioned in its complaint as "the father of the wire industry," had "breathed the arrogant spirit of Prussianism in its most hateful form [which constituted] seditious treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

, being in effect pro-German propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 of the most cunning, insidious, and demoralizing sort to the morale of the American people, having the direct effect of sowing seeds of discord, discontent, and hatred against a great government (Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

) with whom we are associated in bonds of brotherly love."

Another charged under the law was the Socialist Party presidential nominee Eugene V. Debs
Eugene V. Debs
Eugene Victor Debs was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World , and several times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States...

 of Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, who spoke against conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 in June 1918 in Canton
Canton, Ohio
Canton is the county seat of Stark County in northeastern Ohio, approximately south of Akron and south of Cleveland.The City of Caton is the largest incorporated area within the Canton-Massillon Metropolitan Statistical Area...

, Ohio. Debs' right to vote was revoked, and he served a long prison sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

, Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...


Death and legacy

Edenborn died in a Shreveport hospital on May 13, 1926 after having been felled by a stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 eight days earlier at Emden. At his death he was counted among the wealthiest men in the United States by the Wall Street Journal. His funeral may have been the largest in the history of the large Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport. Mourners sent twelve truck loads of flowers to his funeral and lined a concourse fifteen blocks long at the cemetery to pay their respects.

Henry Hardtner, a leading forester in the American South, and founder of the Natchez, Urania and Ruston freight railroad line, said of his friend Edenborn:

He brought millions of dollars to Louisiana, which he used for the development of latent natural resources. He was honest, temperate, charitable, and above all a just man.
He asked only reasonable service of his employees and was never fault-finding. Poor and Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 in life; rich and powerful in death, he approached the grave as one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Sarah Edenborn succeeded her husband as the head of the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company on May 19, 1926, the first woman in such a position in the state. The couple had two daughters, one adopted, and neither lived to adulthood. One was accidentally killed by a street car while horseback riding in St. Louis; the other died of diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

. Sarah was buried beside her husband on her death in 1944.

His obituary
An obituary is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant...

 further describes him:

"Always honest, always dauntless, always tireless, always a student and with a vision of his possibilities and duties, he forged constantly onward and upward from a penniless apprentice boy to the million dollar head of one of the greatest steel and wire industries of the world, his inventions and economics saving billions of dollars to humanity."

Edenborn Avenue in the New Orleans suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

 of Metairie
Metairie, Louisiana
Metairie is a census-designated place in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, United States and is a major part of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area. Metairie is the largest community in Jefferson Parish. It is an unincorporated area that would be larger than most of the state's cities if it were...

 in Jefferson Parish
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Jefferson Parish is a parish in Louisiana, United States that includes most of the suburbs of New Orleans. The seat of parish government is Gretna....

 is named in his honor. Because of the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company coming through Ascension Parish
Ascension Parish, Louisiana
Ascension Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is the fastest growing parish in the state. Its population is 107,215 which is 39.9% greater than the 2000 census...

, the city of Gonzales
Gonzales, Louisiana
Gonzales is a city in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 8,156 at the 2000 census. It has been called the "jambalaya capital of the world" and is famous for its annual Jambalaya Festival. Gonzales is part of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area.State...

, Louisiana, was briefly named "Edenborn" in his honor.
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