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Gail Borden
(9 Nov 1801 - 11 Jan 1874)

American manufacturer, inventor and food scientist who invented a commercial method of condensing milk to preserve it.

Preserved Meats - Military Uses

Articles from: Scientific American (1852 - 1869)

The Scientific American periodical was published in New York.


21 Feb 1852

Preserved Meats

At Portsmouth, Eng., a great deal of naval stores of preserved meats have been condemned. They were found to be totally unfit for use, putrified and abominable. Thousands of canisters had to be thrown into the sea. This was beautiful work for inspectors of meat in the British Navy. The British Admiralty would do well to purchase the patent of Mr. Gail Borden, for making meat biscuit. This would be a great blessing to the British navy. They never would be troubled with bad preserved meats. It seems that the meats spoken of were purchased abroad, and the British Naval Commissary has been cheated most shamefully. The British Government should remember that the meat biscuit took a Council Medal at the Great Exhibition, We hope that the British Admiralty will pay attention to this.

The contractor for the Admiralty was a Jew named Goldner, who had the contract for supplying the Admiralty for six years. There were 8,660 cannisters: they cost about a million of dollars. What wretched officers there must have been at Gosport. This Goldner, it seems, lives in Hanover. If Napoleon or Wellington had to do with such a fellow, they would soon make him face the triangles.

From: Scientific American, Vol. 7, No. 23, 180. (source)

20 Mar 1852

Preserved Meats and Meat Biscuit

Every commercial nation is deeply interested in the question of good preserved meats for long voyages and journeys. The old way of putting them up was by boiling the meat, placing it in tin cannisters, expelling all the air, and then hermetically sealing them. This would be a very good plan, if it was a sure and certain way of keeping meat fresh. But there are great objections to this method. One is, that the meat may not be well prepared before it is put in the cannister, consequently it will soon spoil; another is, the air may not be fully purged from the meat, and then it will also soon spoil; another is, a cannister may not be hermetically sealed, or if it is, a slight bruise, trom handling it, may cause it to leak, unseen, and in that case, also, the meat will soon spoil. But the greatest objection to this plan is the facility afforded for fraudulent dealing, by those who contract to supply naval stores. Every cannister cannot be examined, because it is sealed. The late stupendous frauds practised on the British naval commissariat, whereby a million dollars worth of garbage was sold as preserved meats, should direct attention to a better plan of preserving meats. so as to insure a perfect inspection of every cannister, thereby obviating the liability of defrauding the buyer. The process of preserving meats, patented by Mr. Gail Borden, Jr., formerly of Texas, but now of this city, named the “Meat Biscuit,” is destined, we believe, to be a great blessing to sailors, and all persons who undertake long voyages and journeys. The Governor of Bermuda, Hon. C. Elliot, has had some of this “Meat Biscuit” tried by Dr. Hall, Medical Superintendent of convicts in that Island, and it has been highly approved by him. Dr. Hall says “it has many advantages over preserved meats and soups; a whole cannister, either of meats or soups, requires to be used up at once after being, opened, in warm climates, or it soon putrifies; it is not so with the ‘Meat Biscuit.’” Dr. Hall has made many voyages to New South Wales from England, and no man in the world is a better judge than him; he also says “a cannister has been opened more than six months, and yet the article seems unaltered.” He says he is using the biscuit daily, in lieu of beef-tea, for several of the sick. We would respectfully call the attention of the British Government to this fact—this irreproachable, high, and disinterested testimony to the value of the “Meat Biscuit.” We do this at present, because this subject has been brought up in Parliament, recently, by one of the most astounding frauds, of garbage preserved meats, ever perpetrated on any government since the world began.

It is not very generally known that thousands of barrels of beef are packed every year, in the United States, by the Commissioners of the British Navy. They always require the best of meat; and who deserve it better, or require it more, than sailors’? The United States could supply any quantity of the “meat biscuit;“ it would be made of the best beef—none of the Goldner garbage—and every cannister can be inspected, so that no fraud could be perpetrated, and assuredly none would.

We would also call the attention of our own Naval Department to the “Meat Biscuit,” for its real worth is not generally appreciated at home or abroad. Every pound of it contains eight pounds of good concentrated beef—muscle-producing substance ; it makes excellent soup, and good fresh mince pies may be made with it every day. Dr. Lindley, F. R. S., Prof. of Botany in University College, London, in his lecture on the Alimentary Substances of the Great Exhibition, says of the “Meat Biscuit,” for which a Gold Council Medal was awarded, “it is light, portable, and very nutritious. A specimen, placed in the hands of Dr Lyon Playfair, was analyzed by him, and found to contain 32 per cent. of flesh-forming principle. I am justified in looking upon it as one of the most important substances which this Exhibition has brought to our knowledge.

We would state here, that it takes a few trials to make the meat biscuit suitable to our common tastes, but this is owing to notions as much as any thing else. Col. Sumner, U. S. Dragoons, has used it, and nothing else, for days, in Texas, and four ounces were sufficient for his daily sustenance, keeping him healthy and strong. We hail the “Meat Biscuit” of Mr. Borden as one of the most useful discoveries of the present day, and we are confident that the Naval Departments of our own country and Britain, would find it to be one of the greatest of blessings ever conferred upon sailors, if they would only use it. Give it a fair trial, gentlemen of the Ocean Wave and after the first voyage made with it, you will never be without it.

From: Scientific American, Vol. 7, No. 27, 213. (source)

26 Jun 1852

Preservation of Meats

In Houndsditch, London, there is a large establishment for making “preserved meats.” Meat and vegetables are put up in canisters, which keep for many years if the operation be performed in a proper manner. All the heating is done by steam, and by a very peculiar process. The canisters, filled with the meats to be preserved, are put into a brown-looking mixture, which looks like chocolate. No fire is visible, but the vessels containing this liquid are ramified with steam pipe. This liquid is the chloride of calcium; it will not boil under a temperature of 320º; there is a most important object in using it instead of water, which boils at 212º. A great heat is obtained without steam, and this is just what is wanted. The canisters containing the provision, before being placed in the bath of the chloride of calcium or lime, are closed permanently down, with the exception of a small hole in each, not much larger than the prick of a shoemaker’s awl in the cover. The cook stands watching, with a cold sponge and a soldering tool. Whenever he sees steam issuing in a small jet from the hole in any canister, he knows the enclosed air is driven out of the canister, and whenever he is satisfied the viands are perfectly done, he squeezes from the sponge a drop of water in the hole, the steam is at once condensed, and then he drops a plug of molten solder in the opening, and thus hermetically seals the canister. All the canisters are treated in this manner. Meat put up in this way has been known to keep good for years, but if, by any accident, the air gets inside, it putrifies in a short time. It is the air which causes decomposition in all animal substances: it is the grand agent of both life and death. One sign of putrifaction, in such canisters, is their bulging outwards; those which are fresh have a concave surface. This mode of preserving meat and vegetables is a very excellent one, indeed, if proper care be taken in the selection of good meat, and the careful expulsion and exclusion of air. One defect of the system is, every canister purchased by a stranger must be by faith, for there is no way of finding out what the quality of the viands is. In this respect it is inferior to the patent “Meat Biscuit” of Gail Borden, Jr.

From Scientific American, Vol. 7, No. 41, 325. (source)

27 Jan 1855

Meat Biscuit—Extract of Beef

In 1851, a prize medal was awarded our countryman, Gail Borden, Jr., of Texas, at the World’s Fair in London, for his patent meat biscuit, and it received the highest commendations by Lyon Playfair, the chemist who analyzed it. Yet although it was so prominently brought before the British government on that occasion, and its admirable qualities and adaptation for soldiers’ and seamen’s food pointed out, so far as we can learn no effort has been made by that government to introduce it into the army and navy. We know of no article of food that would prove so beneficial to the army in the Crimea. It is so compact and nutritious, that one ounce of it would suffice for a comfortable meal for a soldier. With a little water and a quart tin pan, a soldier could make an excellent mess of soup (the very thing he needs when exposed to the cold) over a fire made of a few chips, in ten minutes. We hope this will attract the attention of the Duke of Newcastle and the Emperor Nicholas also. Russia, we believe, would profit more by adopting the meat biscuit than England, inasmuch as beef is much cheaper in the former country, and it only requires to be condensed, as in the meat biscuit, to feed the Russian soldiers in the Crimea far better than those of the Allies:; it is stated in recent accounts that they are not so well fed, and this affords a key for their not fighting so well. Give them plenty of meat biscuit to make soup to eat with their coarse bread, and their courage and endurance will rise fifty per cent. Sagacious and experienced surgeons have long ago endeavored to procure a more extended application of the extracts of meat; and, as it relates to its use in armies, Parmentier says, “extract of meat would offer to the severely wounded soldier a means of invigoration which, with a little wine, would instantly restore his powers, exhausted by the great loss of blood, and enable him to be transported to the nearest field hospitial.” Dr. Proust says, “he cannot imagine a more fortunate application. What more invigorating remedy; what more powerfully acting panacea than a portion of the extract of meat dissolved in a glass of noble wine. Ought we to have nothing in our field hospitals for the unfortunate soldier, whose fate condemns him to suffer, for our benefit, the horrors of a long death struggle amidst snow and the mud of swamps.” It would seem to us as if these eminent army surgeons were reproaching, when they wrote, years ago, the conduct of the British government of the present day, for the very suffering their soldiers are now enduring, amid snows and swamps, for the want of such a useful article of diet as the meat biscuit, which is composed of the extract of meat.

From: Scientific American, Vol. 10, No. 20, 157. (source)

14 May 1864


On the 30th of July, 1850, Gail Borden, Jr., then residing in Galveston, Texas, now of Elizabethport, N. J., obtained a patent for concentrating animal food by which it was rendered far more portable, and could be kept sweet and fresh for a long period.

After securing patents for his improvement in foreign countries, Mr. Borden bought droves of cattle in Texas, and prepared large quantities of food by his process. But he neglected to have his new article tried and advertised so as to create a demand as rapidly as it was produced, and he consequently found a large supply on his hands for which there was no market. Though the numerous shipmasters and others who tried it recommended it in the highest terms, the enterprise of manufacturing it did not succeed. It led Mr. Borden, however, to the invention of his plan for condensing milk, out of which he is making money fast enough. We record this fact with great satisfaction, as Mr. Borden is the most loyal of men.

We have just received a pamphlet from Professor E. N. Horsford, late of Harvard University, in which Mr. Borden’s scheme of concentrating animal food is urged upon the Government as the proper plan for preparing fresh meat for our armies. Prof. Horsford discusses the subject with all the lights of statistical returns, and with those of the most profound physical, chemical, and microscopic science. He shows that an ox weighing 1,800 lbs. on the hoof yields only 112 lbs. of dry food, and that by the actual methods practiced in the army only 18 lbs. is utilized!

Prof. Horsford’s plan is to make the fresh meat for the armies into sausages. He would have a large establishment erected by the Government in Illinois, and have it furnished with all suitable vessels and conveniences for conducting the operations. He estimates that this plan would effect a saving in feeding our armies of more than $100,000,000 a-year, besides supplying the soldiers with more healthful and palatable food, and increasing very largely that all-important element, the mobility of the troops.

We have been frequently impressed during the progress of the war with the efficiency of the Commissary Department of the army. It has been uniformly praised in the reports of commanding generals, and we have never seen a word of complaint against it in the letters of newspaper correspondents, of subordinate officers, or of private soldiers. To the able and intelligent officers of this department we commend Prof. Horsford’s suggestions as worthy of the most careful consideration.

From: Scientific American, New Series Vol. 10, No. 20, 313. (source)

27 Nov 1869

Condensed Food

Experiments have recently been made with satisfactory results to test the practicability of supplying the North German army and navy with compressed or condensed food. The principal object was to ascertain the best means of furnishing the soldier in the field with a three days’ stock of provisions reduced to a minimum of weight and bulk. It has been found that a sort of meat-bread is admirably adapted for this purpose, as it may either be eaten dry in the form of cakes or can be converted with very little trouble into soup. Similar attempts have been made to compress hay and other provender for horses.

[We find the above item in a recent number of the Evening Post. The idea of using condensed food in the manner described was first patented in 1850, by Gail Borden, Jr., then a resident of Galveston, Texas, since better known in connexion with Borden’s Condensed Milk, an article of large consumption in this and other cities, Mr. Borden has devoted a great deal of attention to the preparation of condensed food, and may be regarded as the pioneer in that branch. His patent of 1850 consisted in the concentrated extract of alimentary animal substances, combined with the vegetable flour and meal, made into cakes and baked into bread, and was readily converted into a wholesome food.—EDs.]

From Scientific American, New Series, Vol. 21, No. 22, 346. (source)

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Gail Borden.
  • 9 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Borden's birth.
  • Awards were presented for Borden's “Meat Biscuit” at exhibitions both home and abroad. At the London Great Exhibition, first class medals recognized Borden's invention, in the company of other American winners such as McCormick's “Virginia Reaper,” and Goodyear's “India Rubber Fabrics.”
  • Borden's Meat Biscuit - his first invention - preserved meat extracts. It drew much praise in several articles in the Scientific American periodical.
  • Condensed Milk - Borden's invention drew competitors, as shown in this Manufacturer and Builder article (May 1878).
  • Borden's Condensed Milk - was his great invention that launched his very successful diary company supplying his Eagle brand milk to cities distant from farm supply. It was also the subject of several Scientific American articles.
  • Gail Borden and his Inventions - Links to articles on his inventions on this site.
  • Gail Borden - A biography published in 1866 from A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860.
  • Gail Borden's First Invention was patented under the title “Preparation of Portable Soup-Bread”, issued as U.S. Patent No. 7,066, on 5 Feb 1850.
  • Gail Borden's Condensed Milk Patent gives Borden's description of his method in U.S. Patent No. 15,553 issued 19 Aug 1856 - the first effective commercial process in the U.S. for condensing and preserving milk.
  • Gail Borden's Fruit Juice Concentrating Patent shows his continuing interest in preserving more types of food detailed in U.S. Patent 35,919, issued 22 July 1862, titled “Improvement in Concentrating and Preserving For Use Cider and Other Juices of Fruits.”
  • Gail Borden: Dairyman to a Nation, by Joe Bertram Frantz. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Gail Borden.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
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