Kaspar Wire Works

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: General Entry

Published: February 1, 1995

Kaspar Wire Works, in Shiner, a family-owned manufacturer of wire and sheet-metal products, developed from the introduction of barbed wire in Texas. The business was established in 1898 by August Kaspar, the son of a Swiss Lutheran missionary and a native of Fayette County, who had worked as a ranchhand before moving to Shiner in 1890. In 1895 he discovered that the original smooth wire that barbed wire replaced on the Texas range could be used to make wire baskets; his first supply came from discarded wire collected from pastures. After making the first baskets by hand using only pliers, Kaspar acquired cutting, straightening, and twisting machines to expand the business. Distribution initially, around 1902, was to country stores by Model T, later via railroad and Herder trucks, and later by mail order to answer customers' specific needs. Efforts to patent the original basket failed, and intense competition forced the business to diversify into everything from farmer's feed baskets to horse muzzles and poultry coops. In 1897 Kaspar purchased 100 acres three miles west of Shiner and established his first plant. In 1904 he ceased farming and went into the wire-basket business full-time. A second building was completed in 1930. The firm made wire baskets for cotton compresses in 1919 and expanded into fly swatters, easels, florists' supplies, garment hangers, and shopping carts. Wire supplies, totalling as much as 40,000 pounds in a single shipment in 1923, came from a Galveston wire mill after 1926, and subsequently from American Steel and Wire, a part of United States Steel. In 1924 Kaspar's son Arthur H. purchased the business, which eventually employed up to 430 people. Kaspar's grandson later served as vice president and general manager. The firm survived the Great Depression but in World War II, aside from ammunition boxes and a few military goods, largely shut down because of limited steel supplies. Sales of $79,000 in 1945 more than doubled by 1950, as the company expanded its assembly-line manufacture with new machinery. By the 1990s the firm had the largest electroplating plant in the Southwest and produced up to 70,000 newsracks annually for sale in the United States and abroad. The firm spun off its own tool and die shops into a separate business, known as the Kaspar Die and Tool Corporation, in 1968. Among the several hundred mass-production items made by the firm in the 1990s were gym baskets, screen-door grills, soft-drink racks, computer components, and display racks.

Builders of Texas Files, Texas State Library, Austin. Arthur H. and Don G. Kaspar, The History of Kaspar Wire Works, Inc. (Shiner, Texas, 1981).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Kaspar Wire Works,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kaspar-wire-works.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995