Did you know that Gail Borden, Jr. was born today in 1801? He is best known for inventing sweetened condensed milk. Condensed milk is milk from a cow, which has had water removed during a preservation process. Sweetened condensed milk has sugar added. If the container is unopened, sweetened condensed milk can last for years without refrigeration. Borden’s process used a vacuum pan and low pressure to remove water from milk. Before condensed milk, fresh milk spoiled quickly and was only available in areas close to where cows or other milk animals were located. Sweetened condensed milk is still used today in cooking and many desserts.
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Gail Borden was on a trip from England to the United States. Cows were kept on board to provide milk for the passengers. Regrettably, the cows were diseased. Several children who drank the contaminated milk died. Gail Borden was inspired to find a way to preserve milk safely.
The Civil War boosted demand for preserved foods; condensed milk became a regular part of a soldier’s meal. When the soldiers returned home, they promoted the food, making Borden’s condensed milk a success.
Gail Borden, Jr. also worked as a land surveyor and newspaper publisher. Gail and his brother, John, published one of the first newspapers in Texas. When the Mexican Army moved into the Texan colonies, Borden’s newspaper was the only newspaper in Texas still in operation. When the Mexican Army came close enough, they seized and destroyed Borden’s printing press and arrested the Bordens.
President Sam Houston appointed Borden as the Republic of Texas’ Collector of Customs at Galveston.
Before working on condensed milk, Borden tried to create dehydrated meat biscuits based on the Native American food pemmican.
Gail Borden’s “Dairyman’s Ten Commandments” were of equal importance to the development of the milk industry. They required dairy farmers selling milk to Borden to follow strict rules on keeping cows, barns, and equipment clean.
During the Civil War Borden’s largest processing plant condensed 20,000 gallons of raw milk a day.
The name of Gail Borden’s company was the “New York Condensed Milk Company”. In 1899, the company changed its name to the Borden Company to honor Gail Borden.