Abstract

This essay examines the introduction of the Borden Company's brand mascot “Elsie the Borden Cow” at the 1939 World's Fair. Through an extensive visual analysis of Borden's fair time publicity stills and advertisements, it argues that the creatively conceived “spokes-cow” functioned as a much needed public relations ambassador for an industry in turmoil and as a highly gendered symbol of agrarian nostalgia at a time when new technologies upended traditional methods of dairy farming and revolutionized the consumer marketplace. Most celebrated among these technologies was the Rotolactor, a mechanical milking system that was the Borden Pavilion's centerpiece at the fair. Elsie's considerable popularity demonstrates that Borden's success also depended on the cultivation of nostalgic, pastoral visions of American farming as the nation stood at the threshold of a new era in industrialized agriculture.

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NOTES

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