Colorado County Biographies


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Gail Borden


(Editor’s note – The following bit of early history appeared in The Houston Post in a recent issue.)

Gail Borden performed his greatest contribution for the world’s food supply after he had reached the age of 55, and made lasting fame for himself.

He was born at Norwich, N.Y., in 1801, and received his patent No. 15553 for the “concentration of milk” on August 19, 1856. Not until he had lived half a century did Borden give mild a thought and it was only in 1860 when he was 50 that he was able to start the manufacture of his new product.

Borden was a Jack-of-all trades and was able to do most of them better than present day specialists. He was a surveyor and made the first map of Houston for the Allen brothers. Borden laid out Galveston and published the first newspaper in Texas, the Texas Telegraph, at Columbus, in 1835. In 1836 he moved the paper to Harrisburg and when Santa Anna’s army appeared he hauled his printing press to the banks of Buffalo bayou and sank it the murky waters. As soon as the Mexicans had retreated after sacking Harrisburg he raised his press and began publishing the paper anew.

Named Collector

He was named collector of customs at Galveston by the Texas Republic, but his mind was still full of inventiveness.

In his day the pioneer experienced hardship in carrying sufficient food during long journeys over the plains and on long voyages on ships. The latter Borden observed while collector of customs.

He produced a meat biscuit that would keep for a long period of time. This meat biscuit, or pemmican, was exhibited at the London fair in 1851 and won the “great council medal” and Borden was elected to honorary membership in the London Society of Arts.

Spending all of his fortune in building a plant to manufacture the meat biscuit, Borden’s great undertaking was doomed to failure due to strong and influential competition by army food contractors. As a result he lost everything in the venture.

Returning from Europe Borden observed that immigrant children became ill because of the inability to give them fresh and wholesome milk. So he turned his attention to concentrating milk – milk that could be stored in a ship, carried in a soldier’s canteen or transported across a desert.

Borden started his experiments in laboratories condensing milk using a vacuum pan similar to the type used in sugar manufacture. Later he applied for a patent on a “process of evaporating milk in a vacuum.” The patent office delayed in granting him a patent because they didn’t think it would work.

Five years later he was able to raise the money to build a plant and he met Jeremiah Milbank, who aided in his new undertaking. The Civil war proved that his process was practical, as it made it possible for the soldiers to have milk with them on all campaigns.

Died in Texas

His next invention, the prairie schooner, did not work as he intended it to do. Equipping a stage coach with sails, he was able to make it run on the beach, but out on the prairie the breezes would not propel it.

Although Gail Borden died in Texas in 1871 the Bordens are still represented on the board of directors of the great concern.

The Borden Produce company purchased the Morning Glory Creamery, manufacturers of butter, here in 1928. A. J H. Smith, the founder of Morning Glory firm, who also started on a small scale and later served eight states with his product, in charge of all of Borden’s milk and butter operations in Texas.

Following the purchase of the plant, Morning Glory butter was made a national brand and much of it is exported in large quantities to foreign countries.

Colorado County Citizen, February 21, 1935
Transcribed by Judy Talkington

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