Editor's note: The following text is from two Australian newspapers printed in the 1890s. Thank you to Contributing Scholar George A. Thompson for finding, cataloging and transcribing this article. The language, spelling and grammar of the article reflects the time period when it was written.
"Crazy Uncle Gail's" Idea and What Came of lt. - Northern Star (Lismore, New South Wales, Australia), June 10, 1893.
About forty years ago Gail Borden, a civil engineer of New England ancestry, conceived the idea that milk could be boiled down in a vacuum till from the liquid condition it became substantially solid, and in that state, preserved by means of another Yankee invention -- the sealed tin can -- it could be kept for any length of time. Mr. Borden had lived much in the south, particularly in Texas, and he had seen the great need of such an article as his invention would produce if his idea was practicable. He began experimenting on this and other ideas that teemed in his overflowing brain.
Eighteen years he experimented with the milk condensing. He made a success of the condensation, but he could not make it a financial success. He spent all the money he got on his new ideas, for there were so many of them. People who knew him, especially the neighbors, made merry over the milk condensing notion. They would have believed a.man conld take wings and fly to heaven bodily as easily as he could condense milk and ship it all over the world. The man who would think of such a thing was nothing less than off his head. So they called him "crazy Uncle Gail," these kind neighbors.
But Uncle Gail had a son, John G. No man except perhaps Edison is at once inventor and financier. Gail Borden had to wait till his son John was grown before the milk condensing became a financial success. Gail was an inventor, and Providence kindly sent him a son who was a financier, the only trouble being that Uncle Gail had to wait eighteen years till the son was old enough to take hold of the financial end of the business. Then it became one of the greatest successes on record.
The elder Borden waited patiently and hopefully. At last, when it began to look as if the enterprise would be a go, Uncle Gail said one day, "If I thought the condensery would ever consume as much as 5,000 quarts of milk a day, I should be satisfied and happy."
Well, there are now six great Borden milk condensing plants in various parts
of the country. Two of them are in Illinois. Not long since 1 visited one of the New York factories. It was not one of the largest, yet it alone consumes 33,000 quarts of milk a day, manufacturing daily 10,000 pounds of the finished product. What the whole six factories consume may be calculated from this. The condensed milk goes all over the earth. Peary took it to the north pole with him. Explorers flavor their coffee with it under the equator in Africa. Best of all, "Crazy Uncle Gail" lived to see the enterprise he had set his heart on assume almost its present colossal proportions: then he rested from his labors with the sweet consciousness that he had helped mankind.
Visitors are allowed in every part of the Borden condenseries. The tall and good looking superintendent of the one I visited in Wallkill valley, Mr. Smith, himself conducted me through the departments of the factory and gave me every facility for obtaining information. The milk, with granulated sugar stirred into it, is boiled down in vacuum in great shining copper tanks. I am proud that the invention belongs to America.
The first thought of one visiting the condensery is that no one need ever be afraid to use condensed milk. The factory is absolutely the cleanest place I ever saw. The floor of the machine shop where the cans are made is scrubbed every Saturday; ditto the engine room. Gail Bordon, of blessed memory, had a sort of craze for cleanliness, a beneficent craze which his son held after him. The firm make their own tin cans at the factory, and you will be surprised to know that girl machinists do the work. They are cleaner and more deft with their fingers than boys would be, and making the little cans requires neatness and precision. They make excellent wages, I was told.
At various conspicuous places this sign in big letters meets your eye: "No Smoking. Spitting on Floor Is Prohibited. Read the Other Side." When you turn
it over the other side says exactly the same thing. lt requires nearly five pounds of milk in the natural state to make one pound of the condensed product.
The condensery has its own set of milk farmers, who deliver the year round. They must obey strictly certain rules laid down by the firm. One of these is that no ensilage shall be used. They say they cannot use ensilage milk for making the condensed product. They declare further that feeding cows on ensilage through the season is much the same as feeding people on sauerkraut all the year. The superintendent of the factory said he had put his hand into some of what was called prime ensilage. He found it hot and fermenting. If his statement will add any new fury to the ensilage war 1 shall be glad. I have no cows and no opinion, and am not in the fight.
The farmers furnish their own cans. The exquisite cleanliness that pervades the factory must extend also to the farms that supply milk to it. The farmers are expected to keep the outside of the cans clean, but the inside is cleansed at the factory itself. That is a task the condensers require to be performed under their own eyes. The milk is strained a second time after it comes to the factory, and is likewise passed through an aerating machine.
Every can of milk that comes in is inspected separately. The inspector from the condensery visits constantly the cow stables on the farms to see that they are kept free from filth and odors. The farmers average about twenty-five cows apiece. No stagnant water, no dead animals must be allowed on the place. The barnyards must be kept clean.
Written by Eliza Archard Conner, June 10, 1893
From the Queanbeyan Observer (New South Wales, Australia) December 1, 1896.
Not less than 100,000 gallons of milk daily are consumed in New York city, Brooklyn and the smaller cities that all together come under the head of what we call greater New York. From Newburg, sixty miles up the Hudson, a milk boat carries 10,000 gallons daily to the city. Much of New York's milk supply comes from Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess counties.
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