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Elsie the Cow

the official mascot of Borden dairy foods


Created as a print advertising mascot for the Borden Dairy Company in 1936, "Elsie the Cow" became the most popular brand mascot in the United States after a radio commentator singled her out in a 1938 broadcast.

In 1939, Borden sponsored an exhibit at the New York World's Fair that featured a herd of 150 Jersey cows and a Borden-developed rotary milking platform. Consumer surveys revealed that only 20% of the questions asked by exhibit visitors related to Borden’s machinery, while 60% asked which cow was Elsie (the other 20% of visitors asked where the nearest restrooms were). Borden responded by selecting "You'll Do Lobelia" (who had been born at Elmhill Farm in Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1932) and making her the center of its exhibit for the 1940 season.

By the time the New York World's Fair closed for good, Elsie had become a household name. By the end of that year, she had appeared in the movie Little Men, had gotten "married" to Elmer the Bull (who subsequently became the mascot for Elmer's Glue), and had given birth to Beulah. Taking advantage of Elsie's fame, Borden even took her on tour around the country in a specially outfitted truck, complete with a bed, dresser, and even personal grooming items.

On April 16, 1941, while on her way to Shubert Alley in the Theater District of New York City, Elsie's truck was hit from behind by another truck while stopped at a traffic light on Route 25 in Rahway, New Jersey. She suffered neck and spine injuries and was returned to her home at Moordenier Hills Farm near Plainsboro, New Jersey. Veterinarians determined she could not be saved so she was "put to sleep" and buried on the farm. Borden quietly christened a new Elsie and the promotional juggernaut carried on (Elsie's death and replacement was not widely reported in the media, so the general public never knew a switch had been made). In 1942, the new Elsie, along with "daughter" Beulah, even joined the "War Bonds Campaign."

In July of 1947, Elsie gave birth to a bull calf at Macy's in New York City. A naming contest was subsequently held, with "Beauregard" proving to be the most popular of the million or so entries. Elsie and Elmer's family grew again in 1957 when she gave birth to twins. Over three million entries were received for this naming contest, with "Larabee" and "Lobelia" ultimately being chosen.

Named one of the top 10 advertising icons of the century by Ad Age in 2000, Elsie the Cow remains among the most recognizable product logos in the United States and Canada.

Cremora (Bay Valley Foods)

New York World's Fair
Jersey (cattle breed)

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This page was last updated on June 28, 2018.