Find a Better Way
Peter Sommer was in search of a better way. A hundred years ago, while scratching a living from the earth in Tazewell County, Illinois, he and other farmers country-wide were breaking their backs splitting wooden rails to make fences. Not only was a wooden fence difficult to construct, it just could not stand up against the elements: more often than not, it would blow over, rot, or even burn down.
So Peter Sommer invented something better: a machine that could weave steel wire fence. Instead of wrestling with wooden timbers, farmers could protect their property with lightweight, weather-proof, easily erected fencing.
It was this invention that made life easier for millions of American farmers, and spawned a midwestern steel giant. At first Sommer could supply only himself and his neighbors with the new fence. Working overtime with his two eldest sons, P.W. and John, Sommer barely kept up with the demand.
With the steel-weaving fence machine he had built, Sommer and his sons could crank out about 200 feet of fence in a 16-hour day. Today at Keystone, one person operates a machine that can produce that amount in a fraction of an hour.