For 163 years, more or less, Borden Dairy has supplied America with milk products. They supplied condensed milk to the Union forces during the Civil War. One of the first logos I can remember as a youngster was the face of Elsie the Borden Cow on a can of condensed milk. Recently, Borden has declared it will begin proceedings for bankruptcy due to failing profits. It is hoped she can pull out of the slump.
In the past, Borden has made products from milk and by-products for all kinds of uses.
They have made several kinds of glues, with the face of Elmer the bull decorating each container. Milk products were adorned with Elsie the Cow’s face. Several magazines through the years have featured cartoons of the Elmer and Elsie family keeping up with their growing family. In 1948 they had two children, Beulah and Beauregard. In 1957, Larabee and Lobelia came along. Famous Illustrator, Keith Ward, played a major role in the history of Elmer and Elsie. The following encounter with Keith Ward will tell the story:
My first personal contact with Keith Ward was when on a certain day I was at Bingham’s Gallery in San Jose, Ca. chatting with Paul Bingham about different artists we had come in contact with. At this time, Paul had exclusive Northern California rights to distribute Keith Ward’s works of art. The talk turned to Keith Ward and Elsie the Borden Cow. I asked Paul, “How did Keith come about painting Elsie?”
“I don’t know the answer to that, Paul replied, but I have Keith’s number here, why don’t you just call him.”
I dialed the number and when Keith answered I told him who I was and that I was a friend of Paul Bingham and asked him the question that was burning in our minds.
“During the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, I was asked by the Borden Company to do a full sized cartoon-like, stand-up painting of a cow to travel around the country to advertise their Borden products. I did the drawing and they called her “Elsie” and this is how the whole Elsie family began.” The faces of Elmer and Elsie have changed over the years to keep up with the times but the beginnings were with Keith Ward and a full-size stand-up caricature of Elsie that traveled all over the country advertising the Borden Company’s products at fairs and anywhere milk exhibits were needed.
Keith Ward died in the year 2000 in a care home in Plymouth, Ca. but left a legacy of many firsts in advertising. These included Elsie the Borden cow family, the Texaco Dalmatian puppies with their fire helmets, and also included some of the first stories in the Dick and Jane reading series first featured in the Elson Readers and later in the Scott-Foresman readers in which so many of us older citizens of the USA learned to read.
It is too bad that so-called progress is removing so many familiar logos of our country. Sears and Roebucks, Montgomery Wards, Kresge’s, and maybe Borden’s is soon to follow. This is almost a phasing out of all that we older citizens of the USA have enjoyed through the years. Are they trying to phase us out also?