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Gail Borden

inventor of the process for condensing milk in a vacuum

Gail Borden

Gail Borden, Jr. was born in Norwich, New York, on November 9, 1801. In 1816 he moved with his family to New London, Indiana, where he obtained his only formal schooling. In search of a milder climate to cure a persistent cough, Borden moved to Mississippi sometime around 1822. There he worked as a surveyor and teacher. In 1826 he became official surveyor for Amite County, as well as deputy federal surveyor.

Texas Pioneer

In late 1829, Borden settled on Galveston Island, Texas, where he farmed, raised stock, and engaged in surveying. By February 1830 he had become surveyor for Stephen F. Austin's colony. In 1832 he was named one of three members of the San Felipe Committee of Correspondence, and he represented Lavaca District in the Convention of 1833. In October 1835 he was appointed Collector for the Department of the Brazos, a post he held until 1837. In October and November 1836 he helped lay out the site of Houston. And, while busy with all these tasks, he prepared the first topographical map of Texas.

On October 10, 1835, Borden published the first issue of his Telegraph and Texas Register. He published the Telegraph in San Felipe until March 1836, in Harrisburg in April 1836, in Columbia from August 1836 to April 1837, and in Houston from May to June 1837, when he sold his partnership. After selling his share of the Telegraph, Borden became the first Collector of the Port of Galveston under the Republic of Texas. He held this post until December 1838, when Mirabeau B. Lamar removed him for political reasons. He held the post again from December 1841 to April 1843, resigning after a dispute with President Sam Houston. From 1839 to 1851 Borden served as secretary and agent for the Galveston City Company, for which he helped sell 2,500 lots. As an Alderman, Borden helped rid the island of gamblers, at least temporarily. He was an officer in the local temperance society, as well as deacon and clerk of the local Baptist church. In 1842 he directed insular defenses against an expected Mexican invasion.


Sometime in the mid-1840's Borden began experimenting with large-scale refrigeration as a means of preventing yellow fever. He also worked on a terraqueous machine, a type of prairie schooner that would go on land or water. In 1849 Borden perfected a meat biscuit made of dehydrated meat compounded with flour. He spent seven years trying to market the product on a worldwide scale, even moving to New York in 1851 to be nearer to trade centers. The product never really took off, however, and he was left deeply in debt.

In 1853 Borden sought a patent on a process for condensing milk in a vacuum, but it was 1856 before he received American and British patents. He then opened a factory in Connecticut, but it failed; he tried and failed again in 1857. Through Jeremiah Milbank, a New York financier, Borden was able to open another factory in Connecticut in 1858. Borden's success with this factory was assured with the intensified demand for condensed milk that came with the Civil War, allowing him to open another factory in Connecticut, two in New York, and one in Illinois; he also licensed other factories in Pennsylvania and Maine. Borden also invented processes for condensing various fruit juices, for extract of beef, and for coffee. After the Civil War Borden established a meat-packing plant at Borden, Texas, as well as a sawmill and copperware factory at Bastrop.


After 1871 Borden spent his winters in Texas because of the milder climate. He built a freedmen's school and a white children's school, organized a day school and a Sunday School for black children, aided in constructing five churches, maintained two missionaries, and partially supported numerous poorly paid teachers, ministers, and students.

Gail Borden, Jr., died in Borden, Texas, on January 11, 1874. His body was shipped by private rail car to New York to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Borden was a trustee of the Texas Baptist Education Society, which founded Baylor University.
Borden County was organized and named in his honor, in 1876.
The Borden Company was originally known as the New York Condensed Milk Company.

Famous Texans

Stephen F. Austin
Civil War

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This page was last updated on July 09, 2018.