Large numbers of American farmers and ranchers settled on the Great Plains right after the Civil War. Fences were needed to establish boundaries for cattle and other animals, and the best and most practical fences to install proved to be barbed wire fences.
These fences were constructed with steel wires that were strung between fence posts. The wires were one, two or three stranded with short sharp-pointed lengths wrapped around or between strands to make the fence prickly. Fences typically had three or four tiers of wire to enclose cattle; cattle shy away from any sharp object.
Wood was commonly used for fence posts, but farmers in Kansas had a problem because suitable trees were not available locally. Instead of wood, Kansans used rock posts quarried from abundant, local limestone. The stone was very strong and durable and posts lasted for one hundred years or more. The Bluestem Quarry and Stoneworks has a nice history of these Limerock posts.
Each of these bookends shows two limestone posts with three tiers of barbed wire attached between them. The pieces of wire are real, and sharp, and are of several different types.
Barbed wire is quite collectible. Some two thousand types are available, and collectors prefer about eighteen inch lengths. The bookends are probably very attractive to barbed wire collectors and to Kansans for their state history. While we bought these at the Charleston Antique Mall in Las Vegas, NV, the Ellis County Historical Society in Hays, KS is selling a selection of limerock bookends on-line.