A Brief History of Hot Sauce

Hot sauces sell like hot cakes and that's actually nothing new. They've been around since the first humans started chomping on red-hot chile peppers and popular ever since someone figured out how good they taste. Thumb through an old issue of a domestic newspaper from the early 1800s and don't be surprised if you come across an advertisement for cayenne sauce. The British Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce hit our shores in 1849.

In terms of our own native sauces, one of the first to be manufactured here was Tabasco® Brand Pepper Sauce, which Edmund McIlhenny began selling in 1868 and is still available today. Most sauces originated down south where Cajun cooking and other fiery ethnic foods fueled the drive to make hot sauces. For example, Tabasco® hails from Louisiana. In fact, the initial success of Tabasco yielded a raft of imitators including Trappey's, made by B. F. Trappey, an ex-McIlhenny employee, as well as Crystal, and Frank's Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

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Milestones in Hot Sauce History

1807 The first bottled cayenne sauces appear in Massachusetts.

1860 J. McCollick & Company of New York City produces Bird Pepper Sauce in a large cathedral bottles.

1849 The first recorded crop of tabasco chiles is grown by a prominent Louisiana banker and legislator, Colonel Maunsell White

1859 Colonel White manufactures the first hot sauce from the "Tobasco" chiles and advertises bottles of it for sale. Edmund McIlhenny plants some of Colonel White's seeds on his plantation on Avery Island.

1863 McIlhenny and his family abandon Avery Island to take refuge in San Antonio, Texas during the Civil War.

1868 McIlhenny packages his aged sauce in 350 used cologne bottles and sends them as samples to likely wholesalers. The sauce is so popular that orders pour in for thousands of bottles.

1870 McIlhenny obtains a patent on his Tabasco® Brand hot pepper sauce.

1898 another Louisiana entrepreneur (and former McIlhenny employee) founds B.F. Trappey and Sons and begins producing his own sauce, which is also called "Tabasco."

1906 The McIlhenny family trademarks the Tabasco brand

1916 Charles E. Erath of New Orleans begins manufacturing Extract of Louisiana Pepper, Red Hot Creole Peppersauce.

1918 La Victoria Foods begins manufacturing Salsa Brava in Los Angeles, California.

1923 Baumer Foods of Louisiana introduces Crystal Hot Sauce.

1928 Bruce Foods starts making Original Louisiana Hot Sauce.

1941 Henry Tanklage forms La Victoria Sales Company and introduces red taco sauce, green taco sauce, and enchilada sauce -- the first of their kind in the United States.

1947 David Pace begins to sell picante sauce in Texas. "In '47, my sauce bottles exploded all over the grocery shelves because I couldn't get the darned formula right," the founder of Pace Picante Sauce remembers.

1955 La Preferida begins manufacting a line of salsas.

1975 Patti Swidler of Tucson, Arizona launches Desert Rose Salsa, a line designed to be sold in gourmet shops.

1979 Dan Jardine begins production of Jardine's commercial salsa, launching Austin's reputation (disputed by San Antonio) as the hot sauce capital of America.

1990 Austin beats San Antonio in the first Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest. Several contest winners go on to bottle their winning sauces, setting off an explosion in Austin.

1992 Salsa replaces ketchup as America's number one condiment in dollar sales.

1994 With over 350 sauces entered, The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest claims the title of the largest hot sauce contest in the world.