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McIlhenny's Gold: How a Louisiana Family Built the Tabasco Empire Paperback – Bargain Price, April 21, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060721855
  • ASIN: B003JTHVO2
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,429,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This portrait of the eccentric family that brought the world Tabasco sauce isn't exactly hot, but it's certainly flavorful. Rothfeder digs deep into one of the most profitable and oldest family businesses in U.S. history—McIlhenny Co., founded in 1869 on a salt-mine island off Louisiana—and has fun sorting family legend from fact. The early years—including setting up a plantation with workers' housing that remained in operation until only a few years ago—were the company's most eventful. After winning a dubious legal battle to trademark Tabasco, McIlhenny Co. settled in as a sluggish one-product manufacturer relying on word of mouth. So it's a good thing for readers that the McIlhennys have left such colorful and controversial legacies as collectors, conservationists, citizens and especially CEOs. Granted, with its unique circumstances and relatively simple, one-dimensional Tabasco business model, McIlhenny Co. is of little use as a corporate case study, except perhaps as an example of how family ownership can destabilize even a sure thing. Despite the company's ebbing sales and profits even in the midst of a hot-sauce craze, Rothfeder's tale is balanced and always entertaining, and may please at least some of those who shake a few drops of Tabasco on whatever they're eating. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Few other food products are so immediately recognizable as that ubiquitous bottle of Tabasco sauce gracing so many American tables. Attempting to uncover the authentic story of Tabasco, business-historian Rothfeder has his work cut out, thanks to endless confabulation generated over decades by the McIlhenny family. Founder Edward McIlhenny, a Baltimore banker, moved to 1830s New Orleans and ended up with a parcel of swamp whose only use seemed to be to grow pepper plants. Dogged and determined to preserve their trademark, the McIlhenny family drove competition to the ground. After the manner of northern industrialists, the McIlhennys pioneered development of the company town, imposing a controlling, paternalistic, blatantly racist culture. Having made a fortune from Tabasco, they multiplied it with income from salt and oil deposits beneath the pepper plants' roots. Reading this piquant history means you can never again reach for that little bottle without recalling the amazing history fraught within. Knoblauch, Mark --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Avery Island and the famous Tabasco sauce.
J*Crochet
This story is not just a story of a product but the story of a family, a dream and an amazing transformation of a company from the per-Civil War era to Modern Times.
Jennifer A. Riley
The book is fairly written, yet with colorful enough characters and details, at times, to feel like you're reading a southern novel.
J in New York

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Hauptman on February 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the book and felt like I got a comprehensive history of the McIlhenny family and how they kept the company going. At some points the book was a bit slow but overall I enjoyed it and glad I read it. As a lover of tabasco sauce, it is a must read although I am not very impressed with the Mcilhenny family based on the facts noted in the book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer A. Riley on March 7, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was a remarkable revelation into the world of Tabasco and its origins. Who knew that someone could win a lawsuit of the name of a "species" of a pepper from Mexico? I can say that all hot sauce people and historians would love this book.

I've made my Mecca to the "shrine" of Tabasco at Avery Island, LA where it first was farmed. It was worth my 3 hour drive from my hotel at Ft. Polk, LA during my business travel. I can say - that this book tells far more than even the employees employed there know about the island. If you go there, look for the 3-legged alligator on the preservation. This story is not just a story of a product but the story of a family, a dream and an amazing transformation of a company from the per-Civil War era to Modern Times. Avery Island is full of history, salt, culture and now endangered animal species that all have benefited from the McIlhenny family.

This is definitely worth the read. And I swear, you will find out so many interesting facts -- you won't be able to NOT "show off" your knowledge at parties or even around strangers at the bar drinking a Bloody Mary with Tabasco!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jon A. Whaley on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book and how it gave us the inside story on a real American success story.

I do not personally like the sauce the company makes but I am fascinated with its history.

The author pulls no punches and seems to have enjoyed access to many former employees and historical documents. I trust Business Week (where Rothfelder works) and this book doesn't disappoint.

I especially liked the chapters dealing with "current" company exploits and how they are reacting. And not reacting!

Good, fast read. You won't want to put it down.

McIlhenny's Gold: How a Louisiana Family Built the Tabasco Empire
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J*Crochet on July 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Growing up 2 miles from Avery Island I never knew how famous the area was. Once I grew older and learned the importance of the area, I became very appreciative of the land, and what is produced at the island. I thought this book was very interesting. I know a lot of things about the island but not the old history of the island, and that's what I found to be so interesting. To learn how Edmund invented the sauce, and learning about the different chairman's of the company. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Avery Island and the famous Tabasco sauce.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By stevek on October 31, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A colorful story involving Civil War history, commerce, botany, cuisine,
economics, and some really interesting people.
The book's viewpoint is balanced, giving credit where due, but not afraid
to criticize bad judgement.
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By J in New York on December 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jeff Rothfeder's McIlhenney's Gold portrays the great American success story, yet with a lot of twists and turns only doing business off a small Louisiana island could produce. He begins at the beginning, with the McIlhenney's first bottle of sauce shortly after the Civil War, and brings the reader up to the present day when, it seems, the family, through its own paranoia and suspicion of outsiders, struggles to keep up with demand while fighting off stiff competition. The book is fairly written, yet with colorful enough characters and details, at times, to feel like you're reading a southern novel. I highly recommend the book, whether or not you drip Tabasco on your scrambled eggs.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm a big fan of Tabasco sauce so this was an obvious choice to buy, especially when I found it in the deal store recently, here at Amazon.

Some interesting parts of this book, particularly for me (being a cookbook author!) about how Tabasco sauce is actually made.

Most of the book is about the McIhenny family and that got a bit boring as the book progressed. The all too often case of a family cutting corners on the truth, in showing integrity etc...when the almighty dollar is at stake. I gave up before I finished. OK but nothing special.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Barbara And Byron Skinner on December 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a classic business book, at 223 papes of text and it can be easly read on a coast to coast flight. The format is typical from founder to floundering decendents, in the case of Tobasco sauce the time span is a remarkable 140 years. This is obviously the history of a single product company whos trade marked name has come to define the industry.

There are some tid bits of history here for example the founding of the company. As the official story goes that a Condfederate soldier named Friend Gleason befriended the Avery family with a handful of "Tobasco" seeds that where scattered into the garden before the Union army took over Avery Island during the Civil War and the pepper plants were the only thing that survived the "Yankee" looting and the sauce was developed by brother in law Edmund McLlhenny and a former slave who were considered to lame by the Avery's to do any thing but tend the plantations garden. Or was the concept "stolen" by the Averys and McIlhenny from a pre war sauce made by Maunsel White. The author seems to favor the story that it was Maunsels Whites product that became Tobasco sauce.

The myth vs. truth goes on through the narrative and the author interweaves the business story. Some "facts" Tobasco is very profitable to the family (20-25% net margin, current sales $250 million), The produst heasn't substantially changes until the 1970's when off shore growning and production of the product started taking place. Since then couples with a declining talents of the family Tobasco seems to be at a crossroads.

The options appear clear: 1. Sell the Tobasco trademark to a mega food company for big bucks, 2. Hire outside managers to revive the product or three keep plodding along as them have been for 140 years.
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More About the Author

Jeffrey Rothfeder is a veteran business journalist, formerly Editor-in-Chief at International Business Times, National News Editor at Bloomberg News, Executive Editor at Time Inc., Dept. Editor at Business Week, Editor at PC Magazine, Senior Editor at Strategy+Business Magazine and Special Correspondent at the Washington Post. His expertise covers a wide range of topics including corporate leadership and management, corporate culture, globalization, privacy, technology security, manufacturing and business and economic models.

Rothfeder has won numerous journalism awards including Excellence in Technology Writing, the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award and the American Society of Business Publications Editors award for feature writing. He has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award and was part of the team at Popular Science that won a National Magazine Award in 2004. His articles have appeared in CondeNast Portfolio Magazine, The New York Times, PC World, Chief Executive, St. Petersburg Times, Science, This Old House, Popular Science, CIO Insight, Consumer Reports and Forbes, among many other publications.

Among his books, "Make or Break" was a Wall Street Journal bestseller; "McIlhenny's Gold" was a Library Journal Best Business Book, 2007 and Top 10 Nonfiction Book: JP Morgan's Prestigious 2008 Summer Reading List; "Every Drop For Sale" was Nominated for National Outdoor Book Award: "Nature and Environment Book of the Year"; and "Privacy For Sale" was named National Computer Book of the Year.

In his spare time, Rothfeder sees himself as a jazz and pop composer; the truth about that, like many things, is in the eye of the beholder.

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