DeKalb is a city in DeKalb County, Illinois, United States. The population was 43,862 according to the 2010 census. The city is named after decorated German war hero Johann de Kalb, who died during the American Revolutionary War.
Founded in 1837, DeKalb remained a small community until the arrival of the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company in 1853. DeKalb's central location brought easier shipping of crops and access to larger markets. Agriculture was the primary economic activity until 1873-4 when farmer Joseph Glidden developed barbed wire and began commercial mass production of his new invention. Glidden sold half of his interest to hardware merchant Isaac L. Ellwood and together the two formed the Barb Fence Company.
Two months after Glidden filed his application for a patent, lumber salesman Jacob Haish also applied for a patent and on June 25, 1874 ran interference papers against Glidden's patent. After several years of legal wrangling, in 1877 Glidden's patent won and Glidden was declared the "Father of Barbed Wire".
In 1865, H. B. Gurler moved to DeKalb, and later attempted to create high-grade milk. Gurler began shipping his "Pure Milk" to Chicago in 1895.
The founding of Northern Illinois State Normal School in 1895 added education to DeKalb's landscape. It later became Northern Illinois University which is known for its business, nursing, education, engineering, and music programs.
The Melville Clark Piano Company started construction of a factory building in 1904. When it was completed in April of 1905 it was a three-story, 300 x 500-foot building. Wulitzer Pianos (and organs) were produced in this factory until December of 1972.
Agriculture again came to the forefront with the creation of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau in 1912, one of the first organizations of its kind. In the 1930s the DeKalb AgResearch Corporation (today MONSANTO) marketed its first hybrid seed corn.