GAIL BORDEN JR. (November 9, 1801 – January 11, 1874) was a native New Yorker who settled in Texas in 1829 as a land surveyor, appointed by Sam Houston. He was also a newspaper publisher and an inventor. In 1853, he created a process to make sweetened condensed milk. Borden also helped plan the cities of Houston and Galveston in 1836. His process of making sweetened condensed milk enabled the dairy product to be transported to stores without refrigeration, to feed children aboard long ship journeys and to feed sick soldiers during the Civil War. This important food product continues to be available in grocery stores.
ELLIOTT BIRDSEY BRONSON was associated with Borden when he organized the Borden Condensed Milk Company of Winsted, CT., in 1863, with Theron Bronson. Elliott Bronson was recognized as an expert on Borden as noted in an article by Joe B. Franz, titled “Gail Borden as a Businessman.” [Bulletin of the Business Historical Society]. Borden, his son and daughter had lived in the Bronson family household for several years.
From his first-hand knowledge, Bronson wrote a wonderfully detailed and descriptive paper about Borden’s life and delivered it to the Winchester Grange [Winchester, CT] on March 26, 1912. Previously unpublished, the 11-page, 8 1/2 by 11, manuscript paper is titled “Paper Written for Winchester Grange” and provides private details about Borden’s invention processes, his complicated patent ownership, his Texas surveyor work under Sam Houston, his work with the Mexican government, his charitable work during the Civil War and his failures and successes. Borden’s disdain for suffering resulted in his desire and will to eliminate it through his food inventions.
Bronson begins his analysis of Borden by comparing his spirit of invention to other notables: “In these days of high development of the art of living, I sometimes wonder if we ever stop to think that our everyday blessings which we have come to look upon as everyday necessities, have practically all been given to this generation from comparatively few sources. Fulton gave us the use of steam. Morse the telegraph, Daguerre the art of photography, Bell the telephone, Marconi the value of electricity by wireless – Gail Borden gave us the art of preservation of meats and milk by the use of vacuum.
“I’ve heard him say that he gained the fundamental of this invention & the first idea of the working of the vacuum from watching the steam off the tea kettle. After repeated discouragements and expending all the money he had & could obtain, he evolved the plan of condensing in vacuum.
“Mr. Borden brought his son & daughter to my Father’s house and gave him a $20 gold piece, saying ‘that is last money I have in the world. Won’t you care for them until I can earn some more.’ They lived in our family for several years.”
Bronson writes that Borden “shipped [from Ohio] as supercargo on a flatboat to New Orleans and then went into the piney woods region of Mississippi and at first engaged in teaching...He was...appointed County Surveyor and Deputy United States Surveyor. He married here...removed to Texas...His first employment was...farming and stock growing...As the years passed by he became a prosperous and heavy stock owner. He was elected a delegate from the La Vaca district to the convention held in 1833 at San Felipe to define the positions of the colonies and to petition the Mexican government for separation from the State of Coahuila [Mexico]...He compiled the first topographical map of the colonies, and up to the time of the Mexican invasion had charge of the Land Office at San Felipe. As the war which brought about the separation of Texas came on, Mr. Borden with two others procured a printing press and published the only newspaper issued in Texas during the war...
“The Republic of Texas being...founded, Mr. Borden was appointed by President Houston first collector of the port of Galveston which city up to 1837 had not been laid out. Mr. Borden made the first surveys of the city in 1837 prior to his taking charge of customs. His first dwelling was a rough board shanty on the bay shore erected by two carpenters in one half a day. His office was in a room in what was known as the Mexican Customs House, which in the past was occupied as a dwelling by the Military commandant of the past Col. Turner.
“In 1839, he was appointed agent of the Galveston City Company, a corporation owning several thousand acres on which the city is built...During this time his attention was called to the need of more suitable supplies for Emigrants – while crossing the plains, the want of [supplies] involved great suffering and loss of life. He had a great innovative turn of mind and after repeated experiments there resulted a meat biscuit...[recipe follows] This biscuit received the award of the Council Medal at the Great Industrial Fair in London and a gold medal at the Fair of the American Institute in New York...Just as his success was crowning his efforts he was thrown into serious embarrassment by the plottings of parties interested in furnishing the ordinary bulky supplies for the army...Mr. Borden emerged penniless. But with a native endowment of courage he began anew the battle of life. While returning from a trip to England in the interest of his meat business...he became interested as well as distressed at the suffering of the babies aboard for want of fresh milk. It was the custom of ship owners to carry cows on ship to furnish the supply of fresh milk needed...On this voyage it was very warm and the milk supply was short...Mr. Borden expended much thought...and told the captain he proposed to prepare milk to be carried the whole voyage without injury and without the shipment of cows. The captain laughed him in the face and looked upon him as an erratic man with a crazy idea. But we know what great benefit to man those hours and days of thought resulted in. [Extensive explanation on the step-by-step method of producing condensed milk and his patent ownership]...
“The demand was heavy during the war. And in 1864 Mr. Borden who was an intensely loyal man in spite of his Southern marriage & life. [He] offered with the other members of the Co. to condense free all the blackberries the ladies of Colebrook, Norfolk, Winchester...would pick for the sick soldiers and the ladies responded nobly 95 bushels of blackberries being brought to the factory in one day. A large quantity of berries was thus prepared and sent forward to the Sanitary Commission for the use of hospitals & the sick soldiers...”
Toning to page with some staining on the first page. A few archival tape repairs. A magnificent historic and detailed explanation on the life of Borden and his profound contributions.
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