Gail Borden

Gail Borden

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Gail Borden, Jr. was a 19th century U.S. inventor, surveyor, and publisher, and was the inventor of condensed milk
Condensed milk
Condensed milk, also known as sweetened condensed milk, is cow's milk from which water has been removed and to which sugar has been added, yielding a very thick, sweet product which when canned can last for years without refrigeration if unopened. The two terms, condensed milk and sweetened...

 in 1853.

Early years

Gail Borden, Jr. was born in Norwich, New York
Norwich (city), New York
Norwich is a city in Chenango County, New York, United States. Surrounded on all sides by the Town of Norwich, the city is the county seat of Chenango County. The name is taken from Norwich, Connecticut. Its population was 7,355 at the 2000 census.Lt...

 on 9 November 1801 to Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The details of his childhood are unclear but he did move twice with his family while growing up, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, which became Covington
Covington, Kentucky
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 43,370 people, 18,257 households, and 10,132 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,301.3 people per square mile . There were 20,448 housing units at an average density of 1,556.5 per square mile...

 in 1814, and then, in 1816, to New London, Indiana
New London, Indiana
New London is an unincorporated town in Monroe Township, Howard County, Indiana, United States. It is part of the Kokomo, Indiana Metropolitan Statistical Area.The old school's nickname was the Quakers....

. It was in Indiana where Borden received his only formal schooling, attending school during 1816 and 1817 learning the art of surveying. In 1822 Borden set out with his brother, Thomas. They originally intended to move to New Orleans but instead, somehow ended up in Amite County, Mississippi
Amite County, Mississippi
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 13,599 people, 5,271 households, and 3,879 families residing in the county. The population density was 19 people per square mile . There were 6,446 housing units at an average density of 9 per square mile...

. Borden stayed in Mississippi for seven years, working as the county surveyor and as a schoolteacher in Bates and Zion Hill. He was well known around town for running rather than walking to school every morning. While living in Mississippi, Borden met his first wife, Penelope Mercer, whom he married in 1828. The couple had five children during their sixteen-year marriage. Borden left Mississippi in 1829 and moved to Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 after his brother and father. As a surveyor, he plotted the towns of Houston and Galveston, and was also involved with creating the first topographical map of Texas in 1835.

Telegraph and Texas Register

In February 1835, Gail and his brother John entered into partnership with Joseph Baker to publish a newspaper. Although none of the three had any previous printing experience, Baker was considered "one of the best informed men in the colony on the Texas-Mexican situation". The men located their newspaper in San Felipe de Austin, which was centrally located among the colonies in eastern Texas. The first issue of the Telegraph and Texas Register
Telegraph and Texas Register
Telegraph and Texas Register was the second permanent newspaper in Texas. Originally conceived as the Telegraph and Texas Planter, the newspaper was renamed shortly before it began publication, to reflect its new mission to be "a faithful register of passing events"...

appeared on October 10, 1835, days after the Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 began. As editor, Gail Borden strived to be somewhat objective, avoiding blatantly biased or partisan opinions unless a counterpart was also provided.

Soon after the newspaper began publishing, John Borden left to join the Texian Army
Texian Army
The Texian Army was a military organization consisting of volunteer and regular soldiers who fought against the Mexican army during the Texas Revolution. Approximately 3,700 men joined the army between October 2, 1835 during the Battle of Gonzales through the end of the war on April 21, 1836, at...

 and his brother Thomas took his place as Gail's partner. Historian Eugene C. Barker
Eugene C. Barker
Eugene Campbell Barker was a distinguished professor of Texas history at the University of Texas at Austin. He was the first living person to have a UT campus building, the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center, named in his honor. The structure is part of the Center for American History and was...

 describes the paper as "an invaluable repository of public documents during this critical period of the state's history".

As the Mexican army moved east into the colonies, the Telegraph was soon the only newspaper in Texas still in operation. Their twenty-first issue was published on March 24. This contained the first list of names of Texans who died at the Battle of the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

On March 27, the Texas Army reached San Felipe with word that the Mexican advance guard was approaching. According to a later editorial in the Telegraph, the publishers were "the last to consent to move". The printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 was dismantled, and the Bordens brought it with them as they evacuated with the rear guard on March 30. The Bordens retreated to Harrisburg. On April 14, as they were in the process of printing a new issue, Mexican soldiers arrived in Harrisburg and seized the press. The soldiers threw the type and press into Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou is a main waterway flowing through Houston, in Harris County, Texas, USA. It begins in Katy, Fort Bend County, Texas and flows approximately east to the Houston Ship Channel and then into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico...

 and arrested the Bordens. The Texas Revolution ended days later.

Lacking funds to replace his equipment, Borden mortgaged his land to buy a new printing press in Cincinnati. The twenty-third issue of the Telegraph was published in Columbia on August 2, 1836. Although many had expected Columbia to be the new capital, the 1st Texas Congress instead chose a brand-new city, Houston. Borden relocated to Houston, with the first Houston issue appearing May 2, 1837.

The newspaper was in financial difficulty, as bills were rarely paid. In March 1837, Thomas Borden sold his interest in the enterprise to Francis W. Moore, Jr.
Francis W. Moore, Jr.
Francis W. Moore, Jr. became the second mayor of Houston, Texas in 1838. He was elected twice more and served as mayor of the city in three consecutive decades, the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s.-Telegraph and Texas Register:...

, who took over as chief editor. Three months later, Gail Borden transferred his shares to Jacob W. Cruger.

Political Career and Early Inventions

In Texas, Borden found a new calling, politics. He was a delegate at the Convention of 1833
Convention of 1833
The Convention of 1833 , a political gathering of settlers in Mexican Texas, was a successor to the Convention of 1832, whose requests had not been addressed by the Mexican government...

 where he assisted in writing early drafts of a Texas constitution. He also shared administrative duties with Samuel M. Williams during 1833 and 1834 when Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

 was away in Mexico.

Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

 appointed Borden as Collector of Customs at Galveston in June 1837. He was very well liked and performed his job well, raising half of the government income during this period through his collection on importations. Houston's successor to the presidency, Mirabeau B. Lamar
Mirabeau B. Lamar
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was a Texas politician, diplomat and soldier who was a leading Texas political figure during the Texas Republic era. He was the second President of the Republic of Texas, after David G. Burnet and Sam Houston.-Early years:Lamar grew up at Fairfield, his father's...

, removed Borden from office in December 1838 and replaced Borden with a lifelong friend from Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

, the honorable Dr. Willis Roberts, a new arrival to the Republic. Roberts' son later was appointed Secretary of State of the Republic. Lamar was said to have known Roberts for 25 years. However, Borden had been so well liked that the newcomer was resented. The Galveston News frequently criticized the new regime about malfeasance.

When a shortage of funds came to light, Roberts offered to put up several personal houses and nine slaves as collateral until the matter could be settled. It was later determined that two resentful desk clerks had been embezzling funds, but this came too late for the hapless doctor, who lasted in the job only until December 1839. Any hopes Borden had of reinstatement were dashed when Lamar appointed someone else. Houston later re-appointed Borden to the post and he served December 1841 to April 1843, resigning over a dispute with President Houston. Borden had since turned his attention to real estate matters.

It was during his time as an employee of the Galveston City Company that Borden first began to experiment. After the death of his first wife, Penelope, on September 5, 1844 from yellow fever, Borden began experimenting with finding a cure to the disease via refrigeration. He also developed an unsuccessful prototype for a terraqueous machine, which he completed in 1848. By 1849, however, Borden has lost interest in his other endeavors and was focused on a condensed beef-broth and flour mixture that he had created. Borden believed strongly in this product, which he marketed as a beef biscuit pemmican, and it would come to be his sole focus. It was also during this time of early experimentation that Borden met and married his second wife A.F. Stearns.

Borden immediately got to work marketing his new beef biscuit and in 1850, it was endorsed by the U.S. Army. He was also able to sell them to Dr. Elisha Kane for use on his Arctic expeditions in the 1850s. In 1851, Borden travelled to London, England to attend the Great Council Exhibition, where his beef biscuit won a gold medal. These early successes inspired Borden to leave Texas for New York City in hopes of successfully marketing the beef biscuit to a wide audience. His efforts, however, proved unsuccessful and left him almost completely broke. Luckily for Borden, while marketing the beef biscuit he had also been working on a process for condensing milk through a vacuum producing pure, long lasting condensed milk.

Meat biscuits

About 1849 his attention was drawn to the need of more suitable supplies for emigrants crossing the plains, and after some experimenting he produced the "pemmican", which Elisha Kane
Elisha Kane
Elisha Kent Kane was a medical officer in the United States Navy during the first half of the 19th century. He was a member of two Arctic expeditions to rescue the explorer Sir John Franklin...

 carried with him on the Second Grinnell Expedition
Second Grinnell Expedition
The Second Grinnell Expedition of 1853 was an American effort, financed by Henry Grinnell, to determine the fate of the Franklin's lost expedition. Led by Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, the team explored areas northwest of Greenland, now called Grinnell Land...

. The "meat biscuit", a simple, economical, and efficient form of portable concentrated food, was invented by Borden. This article gained for him the Great Council Medal at the 1852 London World's Fair
The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations or The Great Exhibition, sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition in reference to the temporary structure in which it was held, was an international exhibition that took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October...

, and he was elected an honorary member of the London Society of Arts. Meeting with opposition from the army contractors, he was unsuccessful in the manufacture of his biscuit, and lost his entire means.

Condensed milk

In 1856, after three years of applying and refining his model, Borden received the patent for his process of condensing milk by vacuum. At that time he, again, completely abandoned his previous pursuit, the meat biscuit, to focus on his new product. Having lost so much money in his beef biscuit endeavors, Borden was forced to seek out partners in order to begin production and marketing of this new product. He offered Thomas Green 3/8 of his patent rights and gave James Bridge 1/4 interest on his investment and together the three men built a condensery in Wolcottville, Connecticut, that opened in 1856. Green and Bridge were eager for profits and when the factory was not immediately successful they withdrew their support and it was closed down in less than a year. However, Borden was so confident in his product that he was able to convince them, along with a third investor, Reuel Williams, to build a new factory, this time in Burrville, Connecticut, which opened in 1857. However, like many corporations that year, this second factory was hurt by the Panic of 1857 and had trouble turning a profit. The following year Borden’s fortunes began to change, however, when he met Jeremiah Milbank
Jeremiah Milbank
Jeremiah Milbank American businessman, was a successful dry goods commission merchant, speculator in Texas territorial bonds, manufacturer, and railroad investor. His most successful business efforts were the New York Condensed Milk Company which he co-founded with inventor Gail Borden and the...

, a financier from New York, on a train. Milbank was impressed by Borden’s enthusiasm for and confidence in condensed milk and the two became 50/50 partners. Together they founded the New York Condensed Milk Company.

Following the founding of the New York Condensed Milk Company, sales of Borden’s condensed milk began to improve, and the outbreak of the Civil War, soon after, created a large demand for condensed milk from the Union Army. In 1861, Borden closed the factory in Burrville, Connecticut, and opened the first of what would come to be many condensed milk factories in New York and Illinois. Around this same time, Borden married his third wife Emeline Eunice Eno Church.

As the Civil War continued the New York Condensed Milk Company was forced to expand quickly to meet the growing demand. Many new factories were built and licenses were granted to individuals to begin producing condensed milk in their own factories using Borden’s Patent. Despite the quick growth of the company, Borden put a high value on sanitation and created cleanliness practices that continue to be used in the production of condensed milk to this day. While all of this rapid growth was occurring, Borden continued to experiment with the condensing of meat, tea, coffee, and cocoa, and in 1862, he patented the condensing of juice from fruits like apples and grapes. Borden attempted to incorporate these other products into the New York Condensed Milk Company but the greatest demand was always remained for the milk and so it remained the company’s major product.

Later Years and Memorials

Borden died in 1874 in Borden
Borden, Texas
Borden is an unincorporated area in southwestern Colorado County, Texas, located four miles northeast of Weimar.The community was known as Harvey's Creek Settlement before the U.S. Civil War. After the war ended Gail Borden returned to Texas and, at what would become Borden, built houses for...

 in Colorado County, Texas. His body was shipped by private car to New York City to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery
Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx
Woodlawn Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in New York City and is a designated National Historic Landmark.A rural cemetery located in the Bronx, it opened in 1863, in what was then southern Westchester County, in an area that was annexed to New York City in 1874.The cemetery covers more...


Borden County
Borden County, Texas
Borden County is a rural county located in the U.S. state of Texas. In 2000, its population was 729. Its county seat is Gail. Gail and Borden County are named for Gail Borden, Jr., businessman, publisher, surveyor, and inventor of condensed milk...

, in which he never set foot, was named for him posthumously, as was its county seat, Gail
Gail, Texas
Gail is a Census Designated Place in Borden County, Texas, United States. Located at the junction of U.S. Highway 180 and Farm to Market Road 669, it is the county seat of Borden County. The town and county are named for Gail Borden, Jr., of Houston, the inventor of condensed milk...

. The New York Condensed Milk Company also changed its name, in 1899, to honor Borden. A version of company continues even today. Now called Eagle Brand, the company’s website cites its origins in 1856 with the opening of Borden’s first factory.

In 1892 Samuel and Alfred Church, stepsons of Borden and residents of Elgin
Elgin, Illinois
Elgin is a city in northern Illinois located roughly northwest of Chicago on the Fox River. Most of Elgin lies within Kane County, Illinois, with a portion in Cook County, Illinois...

, Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, purchased and donated the Scofield Mansion at 50 N. Spring Street to house a new library for the residents of Elgin. Samuel and Alfred’s only request was that the library be forever and always known and called the Gail Borden Public Library
Gail Borden Public Library District
Gail Borden Public Library is a public library district located in Elgin, Illinois, USA. District boundaries include the cities of Elgin, South Elgin, Bartlett, Streamwood, and Hoffman Estates...



Borden was distantly related to the accused murderess Lizzie Borden (1860–1927) and Robert Borden
Robert Borden
Sir Robert Laird Borden, PC, GCMG, KC was a Canadian lawyer and politician. He served as the eighth Prime Minister of Canada from October 10, 1911 to July 10, 1920, and was the third Nova Scotian to hold this office...

 (1854–1937), Canada's Prime Minister during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...


See also

  • William Whiting Borden
    William Whiting Borden
    William Whiting Borden was a Christian missionary to Northern China and the heir to the Borden, Inc. family fortune.-Life and work:...

    , grandson
  • Robert Laird Borden, distant relative and Prime Minister of Canada

External links