Condensed Milk Popular During The Civil War

Man's experiments in preserving food leads to condensed milk.

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My husband's great-uncle, Gail Borden (1777-1863), lived in Galveston, Texas, in his earlier years, until he began experimenting with ways to preserve food items. He had little success, however, until his two young sons inadvertently led him to the idea that established his fame and fortune.

In the middle 1800s, Gail's children were preparing their lunch pails to carry to school. They also carried a small pail of milk to drink. One son had his mother put sugar in the milk he carried, but the other wanted his natural. After school that evening, their father noticed that they each had a bit of milk remaining. Gail tasted the milk and discovered that the unsweetened milk had soured, but the sweetened milk was fresh and unspoiled. With this breakthrough discovery, he began processing what is now known as condensed milk.

A magazine article in the late 1800s had this to say regarding Gail Borden's invention: "The first organization of Gail Borden's valuable invention took the title of Borden's Condensed Milk Company. The Civil War precipitated upon the company very heavy demands for its product, and the Northern Armies were supplied as extensively as manufacturing facilities would permit. It was a happy day when the Southern soldiers were lucky enough to get access to the Union supply train, and thereby obtain what was eagerly sought for by all the soldiers, namely Borden's Eagle Brand Condensed Milk. This popular brand of milk has been the standby of the day and the most valuable food product which the soldier in the field or the sailor at sea can obtain. Lt. Perry testified very highly of its value, and his expedition was well supplied with this indispensable article of food."

Mrs. Morris Borden Tucker
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


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