Elsie the Cow

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Elsie the Cow
Elsie the cow.jpg
Elsie in a 1948 ad
First appearance1936; 86 years ago (1936)
Created byBorden, Inc.
Based onCow
In-universe information

Elsie the Cow is a cartoon cow developed as a mascot for the Borden Dairy Company in 1936 to symbolize the "perfect dairy product".[1] Since the demise of Borden in the mid-1990s, the character has continued to be used in the same capacity for the company's partial successors, Eagle Family Foods (owned by J.M. Smucker) and Borden Dairy.

Named one of the Top 10 Advertising Icons of the [20th] Century by Ad Age in 2000,[2] Elsie the Cow has been among the most recognizable product logos in the United States and Canada.[3][4]


The cartoon Elsie was created in 1936[5] by a team headed by advertising creative director David William Reid.[6] Elsie first appeared as one of four cartoon cows (with Mrs. Blossom, Bessie, and Clara) in a 1936 magazine advertisement series featured in medical journals.[7] By 1939, she was featured in her own advertisement campaign that was voted "best of the year" by the Jury of the 1939 Annual Advertising Awards.[8]

Elsie the Cow in a Borden advertisement, 1940

The first living Elsie was a registered Jersey heifer selected while participating in Borden's 1939 New York World's Fair "Rotolactor" exhibit (demonstrating the company's invention, the rotary milking parlor). The most alert cow at the demonstration, she was born at Elm Hill Farm in Brookfield, Massachusetts and named "You'll Do, Lobelia".[9] After being purchased from her owners, family farmers from Connecticut, she spent the rest of the season on display twice each day dressed in an embroidered green blanket,[10] and after the exhibit, she traveled around the country making public appearances.[11] You'll Do, Lobelia is buried at her home in the Walker-Gordon Farm in Plainsboro, New Jersey. Her tomb stone is marked with the fitting title of "one of the great Elsies of our time.''[12]

Elsie had a fictional, cartoon mate, Elmer the Bull, who was created in 1940 and lent to Borden's then chemical-division as the mascot for Elmer's Products.[7] The pair was given offspring Beulah and Beauregard in 1948, and twins Larabee and Lobelia in 1957.[5]

In 1940, the actual cow Elsie appeared in the film, Little Men,[13][11] as "Buttercup". For a time in the mid-1940s, the cartoon Elsie was voiced by Hope Emerson.[14] Elsie and her cartoon calves were featured in Elsie's Boudoir at Freedomland U.S.A., a theme park depicting America's history located in The Bronx, from 1960 to 1963. A live cow representing Elsie appeared on stage at the Borden's exhibit in the Better Living Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair, in a musical revue with a score by the Broadway composer Kay Swift.[15]

Elsie has been bestowed such tongue-in-cheek honorary university degrees as Doctor of Bovinity,[6] Doctor of Human Kindness, and Doctor of Ecownomics.[citation needed] In Wisconsin, home of the Dairy Princess, Elsie was named Queen of Dairyland.[citation needed] The Seneca people named her an honorary chief,[citation needed] and the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut presented her with their P. T. Barnum Award of Showmanship.[citation needed]

Living version[edit]

The success of the character encouraged Borden to promote a real life version of Elsie, with the name "You'll Do Lobelia", being her appearance in 1939. This version of Elsie became a celebrity, being more known than Mickey Mouse,[16] being noted as "the most famous icon in the U.S.", ranking above The Campbell Soup Kids, the Marlboro Man, and The Jolly Green Giant.[17]

Lobelia died in 1941 after a traffic accident, just two years after her rise to fame.[18] Her tombstone is at Plainsboro, NJ.[13] Since then, other "Elsies" took her place as Borden's spokescow.[19]


  1. ^ Schlueter, Roger (October 12, 2017). "Here's what happened to the Borden Co. and its cow". Belleville News-Democrat. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Top 10 Advertising Icons Of The Century". Ad Age. March 29, 1999. Archived from the original on November 15, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  3. ^ Cross, Mary (2002). A Century of American Icons: 100 Products and Slogans from the 20th-Century Consumer Culture. Greenwood Press. pp. 82–84. ISBN 978-0313314810. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  4. ^ "History [of Borden company, including Elsie]". Borden. Archived from the original on April 30, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Elsie's Corner: History". Borden. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Nolte, Carl (December 19, 2003). "David Reid -- creator of Elsie the Cow". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Dotz, Warren; Morton, Jim (1996). What a Character! 20th Century American Advertising Icons. Chronicle Books. pp. 43–44. ISBN 0-8118-0936-6.
  8. ^ "Elsie". Ad Age. March 29, 1999. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  9. ^ Hart, William; Hart, Bill (2003). Plainsboro. Arcadia Publishing. p. 117. ISBN 9780738511689.
  10. ^ "History". Walker Gordon Farm. Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Hickman, Matt (April 6, 2015). "7 cows that history won't soon forget". MNN. Mother Nature Network. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  12. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (1999-08-15). "JERSEY; Elsie Didn't Start Out a Jersey Cow, but . . ". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  13. ^ a b Tombstone of Elsie the Cow at Roadside America.com
  14. ^ A Face in the Crowd: Hope Emerson by Chuck Stephens in the May–June 2015 Issue on Filmcomment.com
  15. ^ The Crowds Found Her Udderly Fascinating from an article by Diana and John Spencer (archived, 2 Jul 2004)
  16. ^ Who Was Elsie, besides the World’s Most Famous Cow? by Livia Gershon, December 13, 2019
  17. ^ Iconic advertising symbol Elsie the Cow lived and died in Plainsboro by William Hart on Community News, May 1, 2021
  18. ^ Elsie, Publicity Man's Dream Cow, Dies After Career at World Fair and Hollywood on the New York Times, 22 Apr 1941
  19. ^ Elsie the Cow – The Massachusetts Starlet Who Brought a Cartoon to Life on the New England Historic Society

External links[edit]