Texas Originals

Gail Borden Jr.

November 9, 1801–January 11, 1874

Gail Borden Jr. was undaunted by failure. In the 1840s he built a wagon meant to travel on land and water but did neither successfully. His nutritional biscuits made from dehydrated meat and flour were unpalatable. Yet Borden kept at it. In the 1850s, he developed a way to condense milk—and this time, succeeded on a grand scale.

Born in New York in 1801, Borden moved to Texas in his late twenties. He became the official surveyor for Stephen F. Austin’s colony and prepared the first topographical map of Texas.

In 1835, he began publishing a newspaper. He also served as the first customs collector for the port of Galveston. For several years, he sold lots on Galveston Island.

In the 1840s, Borden turned to inventing. He returned to New York to promote his meat biscuits. But it was his patented process for condensing milk that won the day. He opened several factories in the Northeast. Increased demand during the Civil War boosted sales. Borden’s invention soon turned the localized dairy business into a national industry.

Borden returned to Texas after the Civil War and became a generous benefactor of local schools and churches. He died in 1874 in the small Central Texas town that now bears his name. 

For More about Gail Borden Jr.

The Gail Borden Papers are held by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo in San Antonio. They include correspondence, documents related to land and livestock, financial documents, and records of the Texas Revolution.

The J. Gail Borden Jr. Papers, held by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin, contain correspondence, account books, and other materials concerning the farming and milk industry as they relate to Borden’s life and career.

Additional Gail Borden Jr. papers are held at the Galveston and Texas History Center at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston.

Selected Bibliography

Baker, Nina Brown. Texas Yankee: The Story of Gail Borden. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955 (for juvenile readers).

"The Borden Biscuit." Texas State Gazette, July 13, 1850. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

"Borden Disobeyed Orders; And That Is Why Houses in Houston Get Breezes." Houston Chronicle, February 17, 1935. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

"Borden Had Large Part As Pioneer." Houston Chronicle, August 30, 1936. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Crowley, Carolyn Hughes. "The Man Who Invented Elsie, the Borden Cow." Smithsonian, September, 1999. Accessed August 23, 2016.

"Dairy Industry Founded One Century This Month." The American-Statesman, May 28, 1957. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Dobie, J. Frank. "My Texas: Gail Borden, Surveyor, Printer, Patriot, Processor of Meat and Milk." Dallas Morning News, November 23, 1941. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Frantz, Joe B. "Gail Borden as a Businessman." Bulletin of the Business Historical Society (December 1948): 1–11. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Frantz, Joe B. Gail Borden: Dairyman to a Nation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951.

Frantz, Joe B. "Borden, Gail, Jr." Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed February 17, 2014.

"Gail Borden, First Editor and Texas Convention Envoy, Perfected the Safe Milk." The Amarillo Globe, 1993. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

"Gail Borden, First Publisher of Texas Newspaper in 1835." San Antonio News, November 1, 1935. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Grizzard, J. Henry. "Gail Borden Found Fame and Lost Fortune in Texas." Galveston Daily News, April 28, 1929. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Hendrix, Roberta C. "Some Gail Borden Letters." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 51 (1947): 131–142. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

King, Richard C. "Public Printing in the Republic of Texas." Texana 6, no. 4 (1968): 343–372.

Lunsford, Robert. "Editor with Eye to Proper Diet Surveys Galveston, Houston." Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1942. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

"The Meat Biscuit." Texas State Gazette, November 6, 1852. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Werlin, Rosetta H. "As Versatile as Da Vinci." Houston Chronicle, June 1, 1947. Gail Borden Vertical Files. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin.

Wharton, Clarence. Gail Borden, Pioneer. San Antonio: The Naylor Company, 1941.

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Portrait of Gail Borden Jr. by Atlantic Publishing & Engraving Co. N.Y. From The Cyclopaedia of American Biography, The Press Association Compilers, Inc.: New York, 1918.
Print advertisement in To the Klondike and Alaska Gold Fields, The Alaska Commercial Company: San Francisco, 1898.