Borden milk rests on a shelf in a cooler Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in Richmond Heights, Ohio. Borden Dairy Co. filed for bankruptcy…
Borden milk rests on a shelf in a cooler in Richmond Heights, Ohio, Jan. 6, 2020.

A pioneering U.S. company that began before the Civil War has filed for bankruptcy after 164 years in business.

Borden Dairy said Monday it is seeking Chapter 11 protection, saying it is deeply in debt and struggling to keep up its pension payments. It blames the drop of U.S. milk consumption and dairy farmers giving up the profession for deeply hurting its business.

Borden will keep operating, making milk and cheese, while it tries to restructure. However, its future is uncertain.

Borden began in 1856 when its founder, Gail Borden, became the first to successfully can condensed milk. U.S. Civil War soldiers carried cans of Borden Eagle Brand milk in their kits.

Borden's famed mascot Elsie the Cow — a smiling bovine wearing a necklace of daisies — is one of the world's most recognizable trademarks. Elsie's "husband" Elmer can still be seen on bottles of white glue.

Borden is the second major U.S. milk producer to file for bankruptcy since November when Dean Foods, the country's largest dairy, also sought protection from its creditors.