Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap , the Weirdest and Best Product in Your Local Health Food Store

Go to your favorite health food store, walk to the shampoo aisle, and you’ll probably find rows of quart-size plastic squirt-bottles of Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap, each bottle with its own distinctive wraparound label filled to capacity with biblical quotes and leftist/new age political rants worthy of a full-fledged street whacko. Over 3000 words are crammed onto each label, all accredited to the mysterious Emmanuel Bronner. Although he referred to himself alternately as “doctor” or “rabbi”, he was neither.

Typical crazed label messages include:

“Eternal Father, Eternal One! Exceptions eternally? Absolute none!”

“Replace half-true Socialist-fluoride poison amp; tax slavery with full-truth, work speech-press, amp; profitsharing Socialaction!”

But, don’t be put off by the rants and raves on the label. In my opinion, Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, in particular, is one of the most refreshing and soothing substances that you can apply to your body.

Those who are regular users of the fabulous soap and fans of the eccentric product label, here’s the answer to a nagging question:

Who’s Dr. Bronner?

According to the Dr. Bronner website, “Emmanuel Bronner was a third generation master soap maker from an orthodox Jewish family in Heilbron, Germany.” He came to the United States ten years before the Nazis “nationalized” his family’s soap factory in 1938. Although he pleaded with his father to bring the family to America, his father was a headstrong man. One day, Bronner received a letter from Germany, “You were right. — your loving father.”

When he came to the United States, Bronner moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he worked as a consultant for several large American soap companies. In the fifties, he was arrested and put in a mental institution after trying to promote his strange radical philosophy at the University of Chicago. Bronner escaped three times from the hospital and, according to his son Ralph, “fled as far away as possible, which was California.”

In the sixties and seventies, he began preparing and selling natural soaps made from family recipes, and found a receptive audience in the hippies and new-agers of the time. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps are available in peppermint, almond, eucalyptus, aloe vera, lavender, and tea tree.

Since Emmanuel Bronner’s death in 1997, his son Ralph and other family members have taken control of the soap company. It’s still a progressive workplace where every employee receives a yearly profit share bonus, and 26% of the profits go to charity. About three million bottles of soap are sold per year.

Although the company has had buy-out offers from Big Business, family members refuse to sell. They believe in Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps.

“The Magic Man”, Laurie Arendt, Greater Milwaukee Online, URL: (
“Soap Star Sparkles at Harlem School”, Laurel Walker, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, URL: (

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