Elsie the Cow is one of the country’s longest-lasting product mascots, having been created in 1936 by the Borden Dairy Company and continuing through to today.
She’s been in print ads since the 1930s, and on television commercials from the 1950s through the 1970s:
That’s not to say the character was simply a hawker of dairy merchandise. Elsie’s popularity skyrocketed through the 1940s and 1950s, making the character instantly recognizable to most Americans.
Like most characters, she had some trouble along with the fame.
The son of one of the character designers explains how she was secretly re-imagined by a legendary artist at Borden’s request. They decided against using the new concepts in favor of ones which were beloved throughout much of the United States.
Borden’s ads through the 1940s and 1950s would often feature small stories about Elsie’s interaction with her family, while promoting one dairy product or another. Her husband was often grumpy and irritable, and sometimes even threatening.
The family is an indication of just how marketable the character was. Borden decided that she needed a family, and she got one: Elmer the Bull, her husband; Beulah, their daughter; and Beauregard, their son. The interactions of the four even moved from advertisements to a comic book series as a publisher tried to cash in on their popularity.
Beauregard is still used on occasional products; he’s the face of the new Kid Builder high-protein, high-calcium milk announced on Tuesday. Beulah never had the chance to be the spokescow for any national products, having been in her mother’s shadow. Her husband also never appeared on any dairy products.
His lack of a dairy presence may be explained in the simplest of fashions. He’d been created not to push food products, but a creation from the fledgling chemical department of Borden… Elmer’s Glue.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite dairy product?