Of the myriad end products of the steel industry, none played a more strategic role in the evolution of the modern, vertically integrated enterprise than barbed wire. A unique solution to America's unique agricultural problem, the product attracted numerous manufacturers in the 1870s and 1880s. Profit margins, despite efforts to limit production and fix prices by means of pools, declined steadily, and firms that were not integrated backward into the production of rods (from which wire is drawn) had difficulty competing. Excess capacity and depressed prices convinced industry leaders like John W. Gates, Isaac L. Ellwood, and Charles F. Washburn that what was needed was a modern, fully integrated corporate holding company embracing every barbed wire manufacturer of consequence. The result was the formation of American Steel & Wire Co. in 1899 which, two years later, became an important component of the U.S. Steel Corporation.