Borden was named after Gail Borden, Jr (1801–1874), philanthropist, businessman, and inventor, who was the first to develop a commercial method of condensing milk, and the dairy company founded by him (renamed Borden, Inc. in 1968) expanded and diversified to become a sizable corporation operating in many areas of business.
Elsie was created in the 1930s to symbolize the 'Perfect Dairy Product' and made an appearance at the New York World's Fair in 1939. She also starred in a movie, RKO's Little Men, in 1940. For a time in the mid-1940s when she was voiced by Hope Emerson, she was better known than some human celebrities, and Elsie remains among the most recognizable product logos in the United States and Canada. Elsie and her calves were featured at Elsie's Boudoir in beds at Freedomland U.S.A. from 1960-1963. Freedomland was in The Bronx, and was a true theme park depicting America's history and was shaped in the map of the United States. A live cow representing Elsie appeared on stage at the Borden's exhibit in the Better Living Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, in a musical revue with a score by the Broadway composer Kay Swift.
Elsie was a real cow owned by family farmers in Connecticut. The Borden family approached the farmers, purchased Elsie, and commenced promoting her as their mascot.
Her husband is Elmer the Bull, later lent to Borden's chemical division as the mascot for Elmer's Glue. Their offspring included Beulah, Beauregard (born 1948), and twins Larabee and Lobelia (born 1957). The first Elsie, "You'll do Lobelia," was a registered Jersey from Elm Hill Farm in Brookfield, Massachusetts. She is buried at Walker-Gordon Farm (now a housing development) in Plainsboro Township, New Jersey.