Chain link fence has been around longer than you might think. "Wire-netting" was invented in Norwich, England; a machine was first built to produce it in 1844.
Norwich had been a weaving town for centuries making fine fabrics, but in the 19th century the business declined due to competition from cheaper fabrics made elsewhere. Norwich also had a history in metalwork and is located in a large agricultural area.
“Weaving” wire was a crossover startup idea. What they invented was chicken-wire; chain link fence developed later using heavier-gauge wire Anchor Fence claims to be the oldest chain link fence manufacturer in the USA, established in 1891 using weaving machines from Belgium (another large weaving center in Europe).
At the core of almost every chain link fence is steel wire. It is coated with zinc or a zinc alloy; it can be coated before or after weaving; galvanizing before weaving may result in more even coverage.
Zinc does not simply prevent rust by mechanically excluding water; it also has an electrochemical effect where the zinc corrodes rather than the steel. This helps preserve the integrity of the steel.
Many outdoor metal fittings are galvanized. Zinc is applied either by hot-dip or electroplating.
Zinc alloys such as zinc-aluminum are sometimes used instead of pure zinc. Vinyl-coated chain link often starts with galvanized wire as a base for further coatings.
Plastic Coated Wire
Plastic chain link fence can now be found in stores. Lightweight chicken-wire can be all-plastic, but most chain-link fence with a plastic finish is made of galvanized steel wire that has been through additional processes to add polyvinyl coating.
Some coatings are made of powders which are electrostatically applied to the wire and then heated to bond it. The coatings applied in this type of process can be pigmented, and so chain link fence may now come in black, green, brown and other colors.
Metal fence posts for chain link fence are usually also galvanized steel, as are the clamps for fixing the fence fabric between posts. Privacy slats may be made of aluminum or be all-plastic, such as HDPE (high density polyethylene).