You may not have heard of Edmund McIlhenny, but I bet you have heard of the product he created. He was a successful banker in Louisiana before the Civil War, but like so many others, his work and lifestyle came to a roaring halt once the South was defeated after the war.
Jobless and hopeless, he was forced to move in with his in-laws on their southern sugar plantation in what is now known as Avery Island and turned to what he was passionate about the most: food and gardening. Soon he began making his special batch of tobasco pepper sauce and sending it to friends. The gift was met with much enthusiasm and encouragement to share his talent with others and eventually Edmund turned his talent into a business.
He sent 658 bottles to various grocers in New Orleans, with each bottle selling for $1. This was pretty major, (remember, he didn’t have any of the marketing tools or distribution avenues we have today!) so to send out that much product in hopes that it would sell might have scared most people, but Edmund knew he had a good product and he bet that belief on others.
Sales increased over the next 10 or so years, and by the time he died in 1890, his famous McIlhenny Tobasco Sauce was distributed throughout the Northeast and beyond. It is interesting to note that despite the success that his company had prior to his death, he didn’t recognize his accomplishment as being anything extraordinary, and failed to mention it in the autobiographical sketch that he himself composed, nor was it mentioned in his obituary. His sons knew differently, and when they took over the family business after his death, they employed business skills they may have inherited from their father, helping to make the McIlhenny Tabasco Pepper Sauce the most recognizable hot sauce ever!