Edmund McIlhenny

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Edmund McIlhenny
Edmund McIlhenny.gif
Born 1815
Hagerstown, Maryland, United States
Died (1890-11-25)November 25, 1890
Avery Island, Louisiana, United States
Nationality American
Years active 1868–1890
Spouse(s) Mary Eliza Avery

Edmund McIlhenny (/ˈmækəlhɛni/; 1815 – 25 November 1890) was an American businessman and manufacturer who invented Tabasco brand pepper sauce.


Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1815, Edmund McIlhenny moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, around 1840, finding work in the Louisiana banking industry. He was of Irish and Scottish descent, his great grandparents immigrated to America from County Donegal [citation needed]. By the eve of the American Civil War, he had acquired a small fortune and became an independent bank owner.[1]

On June 30, 1859, he married Mary Eliza Avery. They had eight children.

During the Civil War, McIlhenny fled with his in-laws, the Avery family, to Texas, where he served as a civilian employee of the Confederate army, first as a clerk in a commissary office, then as a financial agent for the paymaster.

The South's economic collapse after its defeat ruined McIlhenny, who now lived with his in-laws in their plantation house on Avery Island, Louisiana. It was there that McIlhenny tended the family garden, where, according to tradition, he grew a variety of fruits and vegetables, including tabasco peppers.

Tabasco sauce[edit]

Between 1866 and 1868, McIlhenny, probably inspired by an earlier sauce introduced by New Orleans-area entrepreneur Maunsel White, experimented with making a sauce from the peppers in the Avery family garden. In 1868 he grew his first commercial pepper crop, and the next year sold the first bottles of his new product, which he called Tabasco brand pepper sauce.

In 1870 McIlhenny obtained letters patent for his invention, which he packaged in cork-top two-ounce bottles with diamond logo labels very similar in appearance to those in present-day use.[citation needed]

At first McIlhenny sold the product mainly along the Gulf Coast in places including New Orleans, New Iberia, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas. By the early 1870s, however, he had broken into larger markets, such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston, helped by major nineteenth century food manufacturer and distributor E. C. Hazard and Company.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

McIlhenny died in 1890, and apparently did not consider his creation of Tabasco sauce to have been a particularly notable accomplishment. Indeed, he made no mention of Tabasco sauce in an autobiographical sketch composed toward the end of his life, nor was it mentioned in his obituaries.[3]

Regardless, his successors, sons John Avery McIlhenny and Edward Avery McIlhenny, realized that their father had created a foundation on which they could build a larger family business, and they shortly expanded and modernized the manufacturing process. Today each carton of Tabasco sauce bears a facsimile of McIlhenny's signature.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (Lafayette, La.: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana/Louisiana Historical Association, 1998), s.v., McIlhenny, Edmund.
  2. ^ Shane K. Bernard, "Tabasco: Edmund McIlhenny and the Birth of a Louisiana Pepper Sauce," Louisiana Cultural Vistas (Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities publication), Fall 2005.
  3. ^ "TABASCO's Hot History," Morning Edition, National Public Radio (NPR), 29 November 2002.

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