@Book{ rothfeder2007,
	author = {Jeffrey Rothfeder},
	title = {McIlhenny's Gold: How a Louisiana Family Built the Tabasco Empire},
	address = {New York},
	publisher = {HarperCollins},
	year = 2007,

A journalistic account of the Tabasco company that offers a skeptical take on the standard story of its invention told by McIlhenny descendants. According to Rothfeder, the Avery Island family was “opposed to my writing this book” (10), forcing him to rely on family members living outside of Louisiana.

p. 4:

McIlhenny’s story is an engaging, uplifting narrative of a providential pepper plant that saved the fortune of a once wealthy but now humbled man and his family. The trouble is, large parts of it are false, nothing more than marketing fables Edmund McIlhenny fabricated to promote his new product as one that had risen up out of the depths of the Civil War.

Rothfeder argues that in the company’s early days, Avery Island was more or less a company town that sought to reprodduce “the economic advantages of plantation life—principally, a captive, inexpensive labor force beholden to landowners” (8). By living on the land itself and sharing it with their works, the McIlhennys “produced a self-sufficient community on the island composed of a small number of landowners—the McIlhenny family—and many dependent laborers; in short, a postbellum plantation. Like the pre-Civil War model, the workers were obligated to the McIlhennys for their jobs, their homes, their social lives, their environment, their safety and their spouses’ and children’s well-being” (9).

According to Rothfeder, the McIlhenny’s and Avery Family fled to Brenham, Texas, where Edmund McIlhenny’s brother Marshall lived, “only days before the Petit Anse offensive” by Union forces in May 1863. They were “accompanied by dozens of their slaves” (32). But “little is known about them during this period. Because the two families were together, there was no correspondence among them that could offer details of their day-to-day existence in Texas. And family members alive today are at a loss to recall stories passed down through the generations describing this unusual period when the Averys and McIlhennys were displaced” (32). More memorable, says Rothfeder, is what they found when they returned: “torched properties and farmland” (33).

Rothfeder discusses an 1867 Bureau of Mines report about the salt mine, and says that “two entrepreneurs, Charles Chouteau of St. Louis and a partner known only now as Mr. Price, immediately deized on this study to approach Judge Avery with an offer to cover the costs of sinking the mine and share a portion of the proceeds. Originally the pair proposed to pay Avery $2 per ton of salt sold, a pittance with salt priced at upwards of $80 a ton on the open market at the time” (67). Two years later, however, a tariff on salt imports was “lifted and prices plunged,” promting Price and Chouteau to ask for a renegotiation of the contract. Avery reacted by expelling them from the Island. McIlhenny, by contrast, welcomed a similar contract with the American Salt Company ten years later.