0. E: Reed
STRIVE to do all the good possible for mankind." Thus advised one whose name is widely known in connection with various forms of concentrated food-Gail Borden. And the spirit which prompted these words caused him to become interested in the inventions which made him famous. Particularly is this true in his relation to the dairy industry. Although he did his work nearly a century ago his name is at present almost a household word.
Born of New England
parentage in 1801 at Norwich, New York, he was the eldest of a family of seven
children. It fell to his lot at an early age to become his father's helper
on the farm, and although his father was very anxious that he get as much
education as possible, these privileges were very limited.
In 1814 the family
moved to Cincinnati, in or near which place they remained during the following
year. In the spring of 1816 they followed the popular tide of immigration,
moving westward to Indiana on the Ohio River, where Gail lived until he was
21 years of age. In the meantime his health became so poor that physicians
despaired of his recovery, but, he determined to try a southern climate. Following
this plan he went as supercargo of a flatboat to New Orleans and having disposed
of his cargo he went into the piney woods of Mississippi where, combining
outdoor life with careful and temperate living, he regained his health. While
living here he was first appointed county surveyor, then deputy United States
surveyor. After his marriage in 1829, he moved to Texas, his father and father-in-law
having preceded him to this new and primitive country.
His first, employment
in this country was farming and stock raising. Although this work kept him
busy he found time for civic affairs as well and was elected delegate from
La Vace district to the convention held in 1833 at San Felipe, to outline
the position of the colonies and to petition the Mexican government for separation
from the state of Coahuila. Having been appointed by General Austin to superintend
the official surveys, he complied 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. When the Mexican War broke out Mr. Borden with two others, procured
a printing press and materials and published the only newspaper issued in
Texas during the war. He held the chief management of the paper and used it
as an agent, toward resisting the establishment of the Central government
by Santa Anna.
When the Republic
of Texas was finally established Mr. Borden was appointed by President Houston
as first revenue collector of the port, of Galveston, a city which had been
surveyed and laid out by Mr. Borden in 1837. The 12 years of his life beginning
in 1839 were spent as agent, of the Galveston City Company, a corporation
holding several thousand acres on which the city was built.
During this period
gold was discovered in California and the rush of the ''forty-niners"
came. Most, of these people were from the East, traveling in their big covered
"prairie schooners'' across the mountain passes, canyons, and deserts.
The greatest problem on these long, tiresome, and hazardous trips was the
necessity for a suitable food, and this was called to the attention of Mr.
Borden. He, ever alert and sympathetic to the needs of his fellowman, determined
to try to make a food that would be portable and easily kept from fermentation.
With this in mind he began experiments which resulted in the production of
a meat biscuit, the merits of which were immediately recognized. Then confident,
of the success of his project, he invested all his savings in the extensive
manufacture of his new food product. But just, as it seemed that success was
his, clever and scheming individuals who were furnishing the army with bulky
supplies saw their business was being undermined by the introduction of this
new concentrated product and adopted practices that caused Mr. Borden such
financial losses that he came out, of this adventure penniless.
doubtless was very discouraging, and a person with less perseverance would
probably have let, it end his ambition along this line. But Mr. Borden did
not give up; instead he used this as a stepping stone for what followed. He
immediately returned to New England and began experimenting with one of the
most important of all foods-milk. He knew milk to be the most perfect single
article of food-the only one, in fact, which when fed alone, will sustain
life, and yet the most perishable and the most difficult, to get to the large
cities in its original purity and freshness. If he could in some way solve
this problem how many thousands of infants in the large cities could be saved
and what a help to the sailor, the invalid, and the soldier at camp! So with
these things in mind he set about his problem.
He knew nothing
of the "germ theory" at, that time but had learned from his experience
with the meat biscuit, that if he could prevent the beginning of any decomposition
he would have little trouble. He had perceived that medicines were made by
boiling away the water from the plant juices and that sugar was made by condensing
the juice from sugar cane. So at, the very outset his imaginative mind conceived
the idea of preserving milk by the simple removal of water, accompanied by
the prevention of the entrance of any foreign matter into the milk from the
time it was drawn from the cow until the completion of the process. He probably
reasoned the thing out after considering the direct method of the nursing
young animal. Milk is nature's own and best food and when the young nurses
its mother there is no exposure whatever of the food to the air and, therefore,
no entrance of dirt from this source.
Mr. Borden was
aware of the fact, that. up to this time, many attempts had been made to solidify
milk, also to find a suitable substitute for it, hut he considered them all
failures to a certain degree-at least, they did not approach the excellence
he believed possible.
Many of his scientific
friends tried to discourage him in attempting to solidify milk which contained
its original amount of butterfat. They said he should first remove part of
the cream, then proceed. Borden would not be discouraged, however, and continued
experimenting with whole milk until his original object, was attained and
he had produced condensed whole milk.
But the public
is ever skeptical and ready to follow the advice of the philosopher who said,
"Be not the first by which the new is tried nor yet, the last to lay
the old aside." So it, was difficult and tedious work for Mr. Borden
to get, the public interested in his product and not until 1861, at the beginning
of the Civil War, did condensed milk become so widely used that. the demand
rapidly increased and soon far exceeded the supply.
In an early day
many denied Mr. Borden's claim for the original discovery of the only process
for condensing milk but facts will prove that there were no grounds for these
After many tests and experiments and careful observance of results Mr. Borden became more and more convinced that the protection from harmful atmospheric influences during the process of evaporation was highly essential. But he found many difficulties in his way when trying to carry out this method, a most troublesome one being the adhesion of the albumin of the milk to the sides of the vacuum pan. A very homely incident caused him to discover a means by which he could eliminate this trouble. While visiting at the home of a farmer friend he noticed that, the housewife greased the pot preparatory to making "minute pudding." He used the same principle, on his vacuum pan. Another difficulty he encountered was the foaming of the milk and the possibility of loss of milk by boiling over. Finally Mr. Borden overcame these obstacles to such an extent that, he felt he was justified in applying for a patent.
His first application
was made in 1853. In this he declared the chief feature of the process to
he evaporation in vacuo. He asserted very clearly the-importance of protecting
the milk from the action of the atmosphere in order to prevent incipient decomposition
and this was achieved by use of the vacuum. This application was refused because
it was said to lie; neither new nor useful. He was told that the vacuum process
was used both in the making of sugar and the preparation of extracts. Of this
fact he was already aware but, he also knew that it was used for an entirely
different purpose, namely, to avoid burning and discoloration. Several cases
were produced to prove that this process had been patented before, but. Mr.
Borden's attorney in London proved beyond all doubt that no one had ever used
a vacuum pan for evaporating milk under a patent. This settled the dispute
over the question of its novelty. Then only remained the problem of persuading
the commissioner that the vacuum was important. The commissioner wrote Mr.
Borden that, milk condensed with the care and skill which he had used would
give as successful results without a vacuum as with it. He informed Mr. Borden,
however, that if he could prove to him the necessity of the closed or vacuum
process he would grant the patent.
Immediately upon the receipt of this information Mr. Borden proceeded to obtain statements in the form of affidavits from several noted scientific men who, after trying out both the open kettle and the vacuum, concluded that, the condensation in vacuum was by far the superior method. Thus its usefulness was proved.
On August 19,
1856, more than three years after his first application, he was granted his
patent. About the same time he was also granted a patent in England.
Now he was ready
to begin the manufacture of condensed milk. Here again he met with reverses
and discouragements. Finally, however, Borden's Condensed Milk was placed
on the market, in a small way. But he had been to so much expense in procuring
his patent that he had very little funds left with which to finance the manufacture
of his product. Not until February, 1858, when he had interested Jeremiah
Milbank, a wealthy man of Wall Street fame, who furnished him financial aid,
did he have adequate means to develop his invention. At this time the New
York Condensed Milk Company was formed but progressed very slowly. Of the
many companies organized at different times to work -under Borden's patent,
the most successful was the "Gail Borden Eagle Brand."
In June, 1861, just after the outbreak of the Civil War, with the aid of Milbank, he opened a factory at Wassaic, New York, 84 miles from New York on the Harlem railroad. Had it not been for the war it would have taken much longer for condensed milk to become extensively used but it was found to be both nourishing and easily carried, thus making it, especially useful for the soldier in action.
In 1862 a factory was opened in Elgin, Illinois. In 1863 two others were opened at, Brewster, New York. A great deal of the credit, for the beginning of sanitary production and handling of milk belongs to Mr. Borden. Very early in his experimentations he discovered the difference between trying to condense milk which had been handled in a sanitary manner and that which had not. Those who knew of him and his works spoke lightly of this as the "absurdly fastidious neatness" of Mr. Borden. In an address delivered by X. A. Willard in January, 1872, on "Condensed Milk Manufacture, "Mr. Borden is quoted as saying:
"The success of the milk manufactured at our three factories known as the 'Gail Borden Eagle Brand,' is due to the attention which we give to the personal inspection of every department of the dairies on the farms, which is assigned to one person at each factory; the constant, examination of even- man's milk by samples taken and subjected to tests as to cream, sweetness and the time it, will keep after being brought from the dairies. In short, there is nothing manufactured requiring so much care and everlasting vigilance and attention as that of milk. From the time it. is drawn from the cow, until hermetically sealed in cans, it, requires that everything should be done with the utmost, integrity."
For the education of the producers who furnished milk to his factories he compiled and very rigidly enforced a set of 15 rules, several of the most, important of which are given below. They will illustrate his understanding of the importance of details to be observed in sanitary production of milk:
"I. The milk shall lie drawn from the cow in the most cleanly manner and strained thru wire-cloth strainers.
"II. The milk must be thoroughly cooled immediately after it is drawn from the cow, by placing the can in which it is contained m a tub or vat. of cold water deep enough to come up to height of the milk in the can, containing at least, three times as much water as there is milk to be cooled; the milk to be occasionally stirred until the animal heat. is expelled.
"XI. The Company shall clean and steam the cans at the factory, free of charge, but customers, shall keep the outside clean. The pails and strainers employed shall be by the seller thoroughly cleaned, scalded in boiling water, and dried morning and night.
"XIV. The cows are not to be fed on turnips or other food which would impart a disagreeable flavor to the milk, nor upon any food which will not produce milk of standard richness."
Mr. Borden has rendered a great service to thousands of people both in the past and at the present time; soldiers at camp and in hospitals during all the wars from the. Civil War to the World War, citizens both well and ill, and most of all, to the city-born baby. Before condensed milk was known, city babies and older children had been in many instances fed on milk which was not only greatly diluted but which had come from diseased cows and cows fed on distillery slops and sold as "pure country milk."
Gail Borden lived to enjoy a fortune made from condensed milk but did not live to see unsweetened condensed milk put up in sealed cans. This was not accomplished until 10 or 12 years after his death. In the early days no way had been discovered for sterilizing the unsweetened condensed milk so the fat would not separate in the can. This difficulty was later overcome by adjusting the temperature of sterilization and a homogenizer.
Although most of his fame came thru his work with milk, Mr.Borden accomplished a great deal with other foods. His meat biscuit already mentioned was shown at the first World's Exhibition at London in 1851 and won the Great Council Medal, the highest award attainable. At this time he was elected honorary member of the London Society of Arts. When Dr. Kane needed a concentrated food for his polar expedition Mr. Borden made pemmican, a food prepared from beef and fat and flavored with berries. Along with this food were preparations of tea, coffee, and cocoa requiring only the addition of hot water to produce the favorite beverage.
Mr. Borden died at the age of 73 in the little town in Texas which bears his name. He was a man with a hearty, frank, agreeable manner, a ready conversationalist with a fund of information and anecdote. Those who knew him best spoke of him as the model pattern of a kind-hearted and Christian gentleman, one who hated sham or deception. He gave away large sums of money for charity and no needy person asked in vain for financial aid. The vision and imagination of Gail Borden laid the foundation for one of the greatest branches of dairying and it is fitting that his name be enrolled among the great leaders of the industry.
E. Reed is chief of the Bureau of Dairying of the
United States Department of Agriculture at Washington, D. C. Previous to this he served as head of the Dairy Departments in the Agricultural Colleges of Kansas, Indiana, and Michigan, and before that was a member of the Dairy Department of the Missouri College, of Agriculture. He 'is a past president of the American Dairy Science Association, was a delegate to the world's dairy congress in. London in 1938 and has made other trips to Europe to study dairying there. He is in ideal position, to summarize the effects of the invention, of the condensed milk. process and the life of Gail Borden upon the dairy industry.