Baling wire is made of steel that is high enough in carbon to be strong, but has been annealed so that it is easy to bend. It comes in many sizes, and many lengths, and although sometimes plated, it is usually black in color and lightly oiled. In an urban area it is best known as re-bar or tie wire, and a major use is to tie together reinforcing bars while concrete is poured over them. This photo shows a small quantity purchased from Home Depot. It is still used to hold bales together in agricultural areas, although it has generally been replaced with plastic cord. I don’t bale hay, and don’t pour concrete that often, but I can’t imagine living without it. I have a lot of sophisticated tools and adhesives, but bailing wire is the most flexible of them all. And even though it is possible to purchase fancy devices to twist it together and otherwise form it, all you need to use it is a pair of pliers (lineman pliers are a luxury), or if such a thing is not available, you can often get by with your bare hands.
It has been around in for a couple of hundred years, although it first became plentiful in the late 19th century with the invention of the hay-baler. The photograph below shows part of the clutch lever on a large 100 year old track-laying tractor that I have owned for 40 years. It was clearly starting to crack at the point where the pivot hole for the rod leading to the clutch was drilled, and the natural solution by the original owner was to fasten a large nail to the lever with, of course, baling wire. The tractor was a basket case when I acquired it, and I dutifully restored it, but no-way was I about to weld the crack on the lever and remove this typical farm- type repair.
In fact, baling wire was so prevalent on farms that produced or used large amounts of hay, that in many cases it became somewhat of a hazard because of its ability to poke holes in things (including human flesh), and if wadded up and discarded in quantity, to form indestructible tangles (you’ve heard the term haywired?). But the good news, was (and is) its easy availability to solve endless problems. In fact, I remember encountering a saying when a kid, that it was possible to repair anything with baling wire and spit.
In my book, anything that performs as many functions in an unchanged form for 200 years and is cheap and easily available is a wonderful product.
Finally, the right team won the Rose Bowl. Happy New Year.