Gail Borden tried his hand at various professions including land surveying and publishing before he became an inventor. His first invention was a 'meat biscuit' that did not catch on. Then he turned his attention to the preservation of milk. Some say he decided to find a way to preserve milk for long periods when he found there was no milk on board the ship he was traveling while returning from a trip to England.
Many people had tried to find a way to preserve milk, but without success. The only method available was heating the milk every few hours. Prolonged boiling or constant heating scorched the milk. Borden found a way out. He used a copper kettle, otherwise known as a vacuum pan. Inside his vacuum pan a heating coil warmed the milk slowly and evenly, allowing gradual evaporation. After the water had vaporized, what was left was concentrated milk or condensed milk.
In a vacuum, milk evaporates at a lower temperature, so it does not get scorched even if boiled for long periods.
Borden received a patent for the invention in 1856. For the first time milk could be stored for days or weeks at a stretch without recourse to boiling. For the first time, too, it could be distributed over great distances. Borden opened a milk-condensing factory in New York, and began peddling condensed milk door-to-door. He enforced strict hygiene on farmers who wanted to sell him milk- he insisted they wash udders thoroughly before milking; sweep barns clean and keep manure away from milking stalls.
The technology pioneered by Borden was carried further when scientists found a way to remove the moisture from condensed milk to make powdered milk, which can last even longer.
The famous copper kettle of Borden still sits in a corner of the Agricultural Hall at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
What is condensed milk?
Condensed milk is milk from which a portion of water has been removed.
Who was the first to make condensed milk?
The American entrepreneur, Gail Borden.
He set up the first factory to make condensed milk in Connecticut, USA, in 1856.
Was it an instant success?
No. Borden had to close down the factory. He tried again in 1857 and failed again.
In 1858 he made a third attempt - and this time he succeeded. Condensed milk began to sell in a big way and Borden made a fortune.
Was Borden the only one making condensed milk in the nineteenth century?
No. In Europe a factory to make condensed milk came up in Switzerland around 1860. In 1867 the famous Milkmaid brand of condensed milk was introduced to the world.