1 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Edmund McIlhenny successfully growing the first commercial crop of peppers, which would become the basis of the legendary McIlhenny Co. Tabasco Pepper Sauce.
150 Firey Years
2 A colorful paper advertisement for McIlhenny’s Tabasco Pepper Sauce, touted as ‘the sauce that slings,’ from June 1960 is on offer (as of press time) for $7.95. The seller, Retro Reveries, on Etsy, pitches the potential of using this vintage advertisement as wall art in a kitchen.
3 The first year (1869) McIlhenny sold his pepper sauce wholesale he sent 658 bottles to grocers at a price of $1 each. A year later, McIlhenny obtained a patent, and by the end of 1870 McIlhenny’s Tabasco Pepper Sauce was available in the U.S. and Europe. In the 21st century, McIlhenny’s pepper sauce is sold in 195 countries and provinces around the globe.
Popular Pepper Sauce Brand
4 The Tabasco brand and its legendary peppers are popular elements of accessories including ties, t-shirts, and scarves. A search for these items on Etsy, Ruby Lane and eBay revealed more than 3,000 listings.
5 The McIlhenny tradition of Tabasco production is unique. The business operates in the same place Mr. McIlhenny started it in 1868, on Avery Island, in south central Louisiana. Not only is the business located on the salt island, but more than 200 employees and their families, along with retired employees and their families live there as well. The Island is also home to a 170-acre near-tropical garden and wildlife sanctuary, a restaurant and a museum, among other elements.
Salt of the Earth Beginnings
6 What do casinos and Tabasco Pepper Sauce have in common? Who knows for sure, but at one
point people tried their luck on Tabasco-branded slot machines. One such device sold for $875 during an auction presented by Midwest Auctions.
7 Before Edmund McIlhenny developed his award-winning sauce, he was best known during the Civil War for harvesting salt, which is plentiful on Avery Island. Salt was in short supply during this period in history and McIlhenny sold it to Confederate forces.
8 Today there are eight varieties of McIlhenny’s Tabasco Pepper Sauce. While the product line has grown during the company’s 150 years of existence, the basic recipe remains the same. An advertising illustration, created in the 1970s-80s, demonstrates this ‘fiery’ fact. The image features the top of a lighter with a flame atop a bottle of Tabasco. This example of advertising art sold for $567 during an auction through Heritage Auctions.
Aging to Appreciation
9 Part of the production of Tabasco involves an aging process in white oak barrels that takes up to three years.
10 As you’d expect with a 150-year-old company, there are some myths associated with this legendary sauce. The most common tale is that early on McIlhenny’s sauce was distributed in cologne bottles. Semantics appear to be at play here. As later reports clarified, when McIlhenny originally chose bottles for his sauce he ordered thousands of new bottles from a New Orleans glass company, in the style Mr. McIlhenny referred to as a ‘cologne bottle.’
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