Our Heritage

An open tin of green Bag Balm and a person's hand reaching into the container
A green cow icon

SINCE 1899

Bag Balm Works Wonders

Created on a dairy farm during a cold Vermont winter, Bag Balm has been soothing dry and distressed skin from head to toe since 1899. From our time-tested original balm to our moisturizing soap and lotion, Bag Balm products are formulated using proven, simple ingredients. When nothing else works, Bag Balm works wonders.

Vintage Bag Balm packaging


Our Origin

In the fall of 1889, the Lyster brothers of Lyndonville, Vermont formed the Dairy Association Co., to sell Kow Kure – a “tonic and conditioner” for dairy cows. They hired Lyndonville local John Norris to run the company and promote their cow tonic to local farmers.

In 1899, a Wells River, Vermont pharmacist created a balm to soothe cracked, dry cow udders. Word spread quickly about this wonder-working “Bag Balm,” and John Norris traveled to Wells River and bought the rights to market and sell the skin-saving salve. To bring Bag Balm to market, Norris commissioned a green tin decorated with cows and red clovers – Vermont's state flower.


The Farmer's Friend

Bag Balm was quickly known as a must-have on local dairy farms. To expand his line of farm-friendly products, John Norris launched Horse Tonic, Tack Master and other cattle cure-alls.

In these early years, Bag Balm was manufactured in a small 2x3 foot vat, heated by a lamp under the vat. Each tin was then filled by hand – a “slow and tedious process,” according to John Norris Jr. Each batch made about 60 dozen tins of Bag Balm. A labor of love!


Change is Good

Admiral Richard Byrd brought Bag Balm on his expedition to the North Pole, to help treat frostbite and chapping on his herd of cows. In a letter written July 3, 1936, the expedition's herdsman noted: ''Bag Balm was used on the Guernsey cows I had charge of for Admiral Byrd on his last expedition to the Antarctic. When one of our cows did receive a severe frostbite I healed it up entirely with Bag Balm.''

Meanwhile in Vermont, John Norris’s son, John Norris Jr., graduated high school and started working at Bag Balm in 1934, taking over daily operations from his dad.

Until the early 1930s, Bag Balm tins were packed into in wooden crates, which were heavy and expensive to ship. One morning a salesman visited the Bag Balm factory and showed the Norris family a new innovation: cardboard shipping boxes. According to John Norris Jr., “These cartons were much lighter than wood and just as efficient.”

Vintage Bag Balm packaging


World War II

Due to the second world war, there was a national tin shortage and the Dairy Association was not able to get enough tins for their production needs. After testing glass jars and finding them impractically heavy, John Norris Jr. decided to pack Bag Balm in waxed paper containers instead, until the war ended and tin could be procured.

Of this time in company history, John Norris Jr. writes that “During the war a lot of soldiers and sailors wrote in requesting Bag Balm, which we sent to them free of charge.” Legend has it that it was used to prevent rust and corrosion on rifles during combat.


From Farm to Family

For years, Bag Balm was the best-kept secret of farmers and homesteaders. In the 1960s, people caught on that this skin-saving salve wasn't just for animals – and Bag Balm tins started showing up on bathroom shelves and bedside tables nationwide.


Bag Balm in the News

In the 1980s, Bag Balm’s success story was profiled in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal – catching the eye of “On the Road” TV host Charles Kuralt. After 3 days of filming at the Lyndonville factory, the segment aired on national television, bringing this little Vermont company nation-wide attention!

In 1988, the last change was made to the Bag Balm formula. Since then, we've been making our Original Skin Moisturizer using the exact same blend of time-tested ingredients like petrolatum, lanolin and paraffin wax.


Star Power

The little green tin made national news, when Grammy winner Shania Twain revealed Bag Balm was her beauty secret for soft skin and hair.

Cartoon source: Stanstead Journal, December 8 1999


A Hero's Treatment

After 9/11, rescue dogs' paws were treated with Bag Balm to soothe burns, cracking and abrasions. We could not be more honored!

Hand in Bag Balm tin


A New Focus

With so many people using Bag Balm, the company decided to discontinue its remaining livestock-specific products (such as Kow Kare), to focus on creating moisturizing skincare products such as soap, lotion and more.

We've come a long way from the farm, but we'll never forget our roots!


125 Years!

In 2024, we celebrated 125 years of Bag Balm. After all this time, we're still made in Lyndonville, Vermont using simple, time-tested ingredients. Thanks for your support, and here's to the next 125!


Skincare That Works Wonders • Made in Vermont Since 1899