SIC 3496

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing miscellaneous fabricated wire products from purchased wire, such as noninsulated wire rope and cable, fencing, screening, netting, paper machine wire cloth, hangers, paper clips, kitchenware, and wire carts. Rolling mills engaged in manufacturing wire products are classified in the Primary Metal Industries. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing steel nails and spikes from purchased wire or rod are classified in SIC 3315: Steel Wiredrawing and Steel Nails and Spikes; those manufacturing nonferrous wire nails and spikes from purchased wire or rod are classified in SIC 3399: Primary Metal Products, Not Elsewhere Classified; those drawing and insulating nonferrous wire are classified in SIC 3357: Drawing and Insulating of Non-ferrous Wire; and those manufacturing wire springs are classified in SIC 3495: Wire Springs.

NAICS Code(s)

332618 (Other Fabricated Wire Product Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,253 establishments operated in this category during the late 1990s. Industry-wide employment totaled 47,134 workers receiving a payroll of nearly $1.3 billion in 2000. Of these employees, 37,483 worked in production, putting in more than 22 million hours to earn wages of more than $837 million. Overall shipments for the industry were valued at more than $5.6 billion in 2000.

The miscellaneous fabricated wire products industry produces a wide variety of wire-based goods, including barbed wire, bird cages, conveyor belts, hog rings, and paper clips. The largest single product produced by the industry is noninsulated ferrous wire rope and cable, representing 12.9 percent of the total product share in the late 1990s. While ferrous and nonferrous wire cloth, ferrous woven wire products, fencing, and fence gates all claim significant shares of the market, the production of the majority of products produced by this industry is too limited to be represented statistically. The materials consumed by the industry include steel castings, plastics and bolts, stainless steel, and copper and aluminum wires. Steel wire is the most heavily consumed category of wire.

Background and Development

Barbed wire, the most famous of miscellaneous fabricated wire products, changed the course of American history. According to Henry D. and Frances T. McCallum, authors of The Wire that Fenced the West , "The introduction of barbed wire in the 1870s had remarkable social and economic consequences. Before the wire's invention, fences were intended to keep animals and trespassers out. Because barbed wire effectively kept animals in, the landholding concepts of cattlemen and small settlers changed radically with the new power that barbed wire gave them."

Before barbed wire, ranchers used plain wire, wooden fences, and natural hedges to mark their territory. These boundaries, however, were generally impractical, labor intensive, and highly penetrable. When a rancher had only his family to tend the animals, maintaining a fence around the perimeter of hundreds or thousands of acres was out of the question. Because containment was so difficult, the rancher kept his stock to a low, manageable number. Getting rich in the West off of cattle and horses required a considerable investment in cowhands and a steady cash flow to keep them. The invention of barbed wire paved the way for large herds of cattle that needed little supervision. Credit for the invention is generally given to Isaac Ellwood and Joseph Glidden, who saw a sample of a wooden fence with sharp wire projections on display at the 1873 DeKalb County Fair in Illinois, and quickly set about patenting and manufacturing barbed wire.

Barbed wire also influenced how wars were fought. Barbed wire was first used as a war defense system during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. In 1914, the American Steel & Wire Division of United States Steel Corporation and many other U.S. manufacturers sent mile after mile of barbed wire to Europe, where it was tangled into barriers that were impenetrable by ground forces. In World War II, a new military occupation was created as a result of barbed wire's use. "Frogmen" were trained to cut clearings for submarines and ship propellers through the carloads of barbed wire dumped by the Japanese into the sea.

Developments in the 1980s and 1990s. The number of establishments involved in this industry fluctuated wildly during the 1980s and 1990s. The value of shipments rose from $2.4 billion in 1982 to almost $4.1 billion in 1994. The industry work force grew moderately, rising from 36,800 employees in 1982 to 41,100 by 1994. In 1994, the 31,600 production workers in this industry averaged wages of $8.92 per hour. End users of these products vary widely, ranging from mattress and bedspring makers to tire makers, logging camps, and highway and building construction.

The Great Lakes region traditionally led the nation in shipments of miscellaneous fabricated wire products, due to the area's access to raw materials. By 1992, however, the regional breakdown had shifted. In the mid-1990s, Pennsylvania's 71 establishments ranked first in shipments for an individual state. Its shipments of $331.2 million represented 9.3 percent of the value of all wire products in the United States. The state's 2,700 workers averaged $10.61 per hour. Illinois ranked second, generating $321.0 million in shipments. Its 108 establishments employed 3,500 people at an average wage of $9.21 per hour. California's 125 establishments shipped $242.2 million and employed 2,500 people at an average hourly wage of $9.08. Missouri's 25 establishments shipped $229.9 million in goods. The 3,100 wire workers in Missouri averaged $7.41 per hour. Texas' 70 establishments shipped $198.0 million and employed a total of 2,500 people at an average hourly wage of $8.49.

Current Conditions

Industry shipments remained steady in the late 1990s, hovering at roughly $5.6 billion for both 1998 and 1999. Shipments in 2000 totaled $5.64 billion. The cost of materials declined from $2.62 billion in 1998 to $2.58 billion in 2000. Employment increased to 47,134 in 2000 from 45,424 in 1998, and the total number of production workers grew from 34,629 to 37,483 over this time period.

Industry Leaders

Engelhard Corp. of Iselin, New Jersey, a diversified firm involved in a variety of other businesses, led this industry in 1999 with overall sales of more than $40.5 billion. New York City-based Alpine Group Inc., which focused primarily on this industry, generated more than $919 million for its fiscal year ended April 30, 1998. UOP of Des Plaines, Illinois, placed third in the industry with sales of $770 million for 1997, according to the most recent results available on Infotrac databases. Columbus McKinnon Corp. of Amherst, New York garnered sales of more than $735 million for its fiscal year ended March 31, 1999. Belden Inc. of Clayton, Missouri rounded out the top five industry leaders with 1998 sales of almost $724 million.

Further Reading

Darnay, Arsen J., ed. Manufacturing USA: Industry Analysis, Statistics, and Leading Companies. 5th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group Inc., 1996.

Infotrac Company Profiles. Available at (2/12/99).

McCallum, Henry D., and Frances T. McCallum. The Wire that Fenced the West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census—Manufacturing. Available at (2/12/00).

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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