Being Bronner

How the Label Was Born

The label came first.

I imagine how it goes with other companies: A new company is launching its first product. A group of marketing minds brainstorm what the label should look like. What would attract customers? What words, what colors would be the most enticing and connote the right subliminal meaning?

That’s not our story. The label was written first, before there was a product on which to put it. There was nothing subliminal about it.

If you’re not familiar with what I mean by “the label,” let me catch you up: The label on Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap is coated so completely with 5.5 pt. text that it almost fades into texture. It’s not a gimmick. It’s not a style. It was a deeply personal message, a life’s mission from my grandfather, Dr. E.H. Bronner who sought to unite all people in peace, love, and personal well-being. It’s what started the whole company now known as Dr. Bronner’s.

Here’s an excerpt from his autobiography, featured on liquid soap bottles since 1960:

In ’47, after father-mother-wife murdered, ourself tortured-blinded, we wrote this poem: “To keep my health! To do my work! To love, to live! To see to it I gain & grow & give & give! Never to look behind me for an hour! Never to wait in weakness nor to brag in power! Always working, searching for more truth, more light! Always writing, teaching what I found good & right! Robbed-starved-beaten-blinded, wide astray! Back with the full-truth I’ve gained, back to the way: Smile, help teach the whole Human race, the Moral ABC of All-One-God-Faith, Lightning-like strong & we’re All-One! All-One!”

I can’t tell you the story of the label without telling you my grandfather’s personal history. They are inextricably intertwined.

My grandfather was a third-generation Master soapmaker, trained under the German Craftsman system, which involved years as an apprentice, then journeyman, and finally examination and qualification as a Master. Although his family owned the successful Madaform soap company in southern Germany, he did not intend to converge his soapmaking with his philosophy so completely.

He was born in 1908 in Heilbronn, Germany, the only son and oldest of four children (one died infancy). Although his family was Jewish, his primary reason for emigrating to the U.S. was not the rise of Nazism, not yet much threat, but rather a break with his father. At 21, Emil, as was his given name at birth, was already starting to think outside the Orthodox Jewish views of his family. His dad did not approve and eventually issued the ultimatum to his son: either nix the philosophizing or leave. My grandfather chose the latter. Based on my knowledge of him later in his life, his choice is not surprising.

He departed Hamburg on December 12, 1929, aboard the SS Deutschland, an ocean liner nicknamed “The Cocktail Shaker” for its incessant vibrations. His third-class ticket indicates he did not have surplus funds, which likely means his father did not financially support his son’s trip, though he would have been able to with the family’s financial security at the time. The Deutschland arrived in New York ten days later, on December 22.

Manifest of the SS Deutschland, arriving in New York December 22, 1929. Emil Heilbronner, listed second, is recorded as a 21 year old single German male who can read and write, speak German, is trained as a factory lab worker, from Heilbronn. He received his visa in Stuttgart on August 20, 1929.

He spent his first decade in America poor but progressing. The 1930 census found him at the YMCA in Milwaukee, but documents in the coming years indicate he worked as a soapmaking consultant, married a fellow German immigrant Paula Wohlfart (whose story as the illegitimate daughter of a nun and a priest is for another time), and had three children: Ellen, Ralph, and James (my dad). He became naturalized in 1936, two days prior to the birth of Ralph, at which point Emil Heilbronner became Emanuel Theodore Bronner. We don’t know with certainty why he chose the first two names, though Emanuel was the name of his grandfather and Theodore means “gift of God.” We do know he dropped the Heil because of its association with “Heil Hitler.” Later, he adopted the honorific “Dr.” perhaps because he considered it the equivalent of “Master,” a rank in Germany which did not exist in the States. Later, he wrote his name as Dr. E.H. Bronner. The origin of the “H” or what it stood for is hazy, though it might be a nod back to the original “Heilbronner.”

Happy times in 1941, Ralph(5), Ellen (6), Emanuel Bronner, little Jimmy (3).

Then came a period of tremendous tragedy. The family back in Germany only partially heeded his urgings to leave. His sister, Luise headed to America in 1936 where she became one of the earliest female professors of German Language and Literature at the University of Massachusetts – Boston and an accomplished poet. His other sister, Lotte went to Palestine in 1938 to join the Zionist movement, living on the Ein Gev kibbutz. This was a family of trailblazers. His father, my great-grandfather Berthold, however, did not listen to his son’s warnings, insisting that his homeland would never betray him and that Hitler was a passing phase. The siblings attempted several times to get their parents out of Germany, such as in 1938 the sisters met their parents in Switzerland for a supposed family vacation with the intention of escorting them on to America. When their father learned of their plan, he refused to go.

The “Decree on the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life” (Verordnung zur Ausschaltung der Juden aus dem deutschen Wirtschaftsleben) in 1939 eventually led to the forced Aryanization of Jewish-owned businesses including the Heilbronners’ Madaform soap factory. The letter from the new owner, Dr. H Bauder, cheerfully announced that the famous Madaform soap company had “passed into Aryan hands.” It was also illegal by this point for Jews leaving Germany to carry any capital with them, a discouragement for Jews of means such as Berthold Heilbronner.

How the family survived for the next two years I cannot imagine, but in 1941, Berthold agreed to allow his daughter Luise to pay for and arrange emigration. Approval came through for their visas on December 5, 1941, two days before Pearl Harbor and 6 days prior to Germany’s December 11 declaration of war on the U.S., which was quickly reciprocated. At this point, emigration was impossible.

Three months later on March 31, 1942, Berthold Heilbronner, his wife Franziska, and sister-in-law Friederike were arrested and deported to concentration camps. All three were first sent to Theresienstadt in then Czechoslovakia where Berthold and his sister-in-law Friederike died shortly after arriving of illnesses brought on by the wretched conditions. After two years there, Franziska was sent to Auschwitz where she was executed in 1944. Emanuel received a postcard from his father with all but one line censored out: “You were right. Your loving father.”

News of his parents’ demise, in addition to the trauma of watching his adopted homeland war against his native homeland, weighed heavily on Emanuel and Paula. Emanuel says Paula was never strong, and news of her in-laws’ deaths proved unbearable for her. Experiencing a breakdown, of which we have few details, she entered the Manteno State Hospital, an asylum, in which she wasted away, dying in 1944. Emanuel said she weighed 65 pounds at her death.

These personal tragedies compounded with world developments impressed upon my grandfather the conviction that the world truly was on the brink of destruction. Additionally, with the rise of the nuclear age, Emanuel felt, like many, that the world could annihilate itself with the push of a button. He thought this was a power that humanity was not prepared to control.

He also saw the world heading in the wrong direction environmentally with the advent of “better living through chemistry,” a tagline inspired by Dupont Chemical, beginning in 1935 effectively persuading the public that nature is unpredictable and untrustworthy. Business and chemical development is much more reliable and can synthesize what mankind needs, largely from petrochemicals. With great perception, Dr. Bronner foresaw the shortsightedness of that thinking, the pollution and habitat destruction it would ultimately create.

My grandfather felt all of this keenly. While many in the same circumstances would be driven to bitterness, despair, anger, or at the least resignation, he launched in the opposite direction. He saw the need more than ever to unify the world, to call out humanity’s commonalities, to highlight the way in which people are similar in their aims and ethics, to call each individual to action wherever they find themselves. He emphasized we are all fellow travelers on God’s Spaceship Earth, where “there is neither East nor West, nor border, breed nor birth.” This is the essence of what he came to call his Moral ABC. It’s the basics. The tenets which all people groups have in common, starting out with the individuals:

“1st: I am not for me, who am I? Nobody!”

“2nd: Yet, if I am only for me, what am I? Nothing!”

And then proceeding through the principles that lay out each person’s responsibilities and role in the world. He cites many examples of how these principles appear in people groups, cultures, and religions around the world and across time – even within the natural world.  He cites nature – arctic owls-penguin-pilot-cat-swallow-beaver-bee – philosophy (Thomas Paine), science (Albert Einstein, Cousteau), education (Marva Collins), linguistics (Zamenhof). He includes quotations from many sources, “slightly assisted” as he would say, with his own phrases for emphasis.

His unique style of expression was part prose, part poetry with no superfluous words. It is direct and strident, with copious repetitions of the phrase which summarizes his whole message: “All-One!”

Also iconic are the long, hyphenated strings reminiscent of German compound words, which stack ideas together to come up with new cohesive concepts, such as his description of a swallow as the “perfect pilot-provider-builder-trainer-teacher-lover-mate.” The very structure of his language communicates the intensity and urgency of his message: that love and unity need to be realized and need to be realized now.

He was untiring in his efforts to get this word out. He was passionate. His words were about peace and active care for ourselves, each other, and the world around us. However, with his heavy German accent, rigid posture, and emphatically clipped way of speaking – he spoke exactly as he wrote – he could sound unnerving to someone who did not take the time to listen to his words. Furthermore, his topics did not resonate with the 1940s audience: returning to nature and peace across cultural, religious, and ethnic divides.

Unfortunately, this manifested during a speech he was giving at the University of Chicago in 1946. Arrested on the charge of speaking without a permit, he was soon after committed to the Elgin State Asylum. His sister Luise who was summoned from Boston, was pressured to sign the committing papers, which cited mental instability. In Elgin, he underwent electroshock therapy, to which he attributed his eventual blindness. Though he tried unsuccessfully to escape twice, he found some purpose in the forced manual labor – bricklaying – later saying this gave him a connection with the common man, and he later encouraged all of his grandchildren to spend some time in life, by choice, working with our hands.

On his third escape attempt, he succeeded. The story passed down through the family is that Luise had come to visit and had taken him out to lunch. While she was in the restroom, he stole $5 out of her purse and hitchhiked toward California. In Las Vegas, he made the mistake of mentioning to his ride that he had recently escaped from a mental asylum. He was promptly dropped, near penniless, in Vegas. With one lucky spin of the roulette wheel, he found enough funds to make it the rest of the way to Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, he found a more receptive audience. Pershing Square, still to this day a hotbed for speakers with cutting-edge ideas, became his platform. He was grateful to have an outlet for his ideas, and began giving away to listeners small bottles of his family’s unique liquid Castile soap, scented with skin-tingling peppermint essential oil, which he brewed up in his tenement apartment. Eventually, though, he noticed that people would come for the soap and not stay to engage with the ideas. Unthwarted, Emanuel came up with a plan to print his ideas on the label of the soap, so that when people took the soap and inevitably were closeted in the bathroom with nothing to read, would turn to the words on label.

Thus the label was born.

A shipment going out from Dr. Bronner’s L.A. apartment. From left to right: My dad Jim Bronner, a woman I don’t know, my Aunt Gisela (Ralph’s wife), and Dr. Bronner himself.

Eventually more people wanted the soap than he could reach during his talks, so he started selling it, mostly via small mom-and-pop (as they all were at the time) health stores. He saw stores as further distribution points for his philosophy, with proceeds going to further outreach of his ideas. The demand became greater than he could produce out of his apartment, so on Saturdays he rented the use of a reactor at a nearby chemical manufacturer.

As the ‘60s arrived, the audience he had always hoped for discovered him. Hippies, free thinkers, attenders of Woodstock embraced his message and his authenticity. He had been talking love, unity, and a return to nature long before anyone was ready to hear it. Both the soap and the label took off.

Dr. Bronner opened his home to eager listeners, hosting regular evening chats. He moved down to Escondido, CA – in the outskirts of San Diego – where land was cheaper and more abundant. Plus, there were countless acres of avocados, which he deemed nature’s perfect food – they’re mentioned on the label, too – when combined with his Balanced Mineral Seasoning, a special blend he developed which provided optimal nutrition. People followed him.

His sales grew to where the factory in Los Angeles, which now employed my dad Jim, freshly out of the Navy, was commissioned to make his formulation during regular operating hours. Only two people knew the secret formula: Dr. Bronner and Jim Bronner.

Growing sales meant his ideas were getting into more and more homes. He operated under the conviction that this was a not-for-profit organization purposed to spread these ideas with the name, “All-One-God-Faith.”

He was busy. He was constantly revising the label, which as his vision declined, was firmly ensconced in his head – every word, every exclamation point. Up to the end of his eyesight, he edited and rewrote using a red crayon, which was the last implement he could see well. Then he dictated his revisions. If he didn’t have anyone at hand, he would call up his son Ralph in Milwaukee or one of his grandkids and have them take notes. My cousin Eric knew if the phone rang at 6:00 am (which was 4:00 am California time – I’m glad he didn’t call us!), he would answer, “All-One!” because who else would it be? (My grandfather liked to start and end every conversation with a hearty “All-One!” If we didn’t do it with enough zest, we’d have to try again.) On these calls, he might ask for some research – Eric’s family kept the Encyclopedia next to the phone for just this purpose – or he might need to hear a part of the label in someone else’s voice and give some edits or he might need someone to capture a new phrase.

Dr. Bronner always felt he was near completion, and occasionally would announce triumphantly that the label was finished. Until the next idea came along. Eventually he’d run out of room on the label, even with impossibly tight text running every which way. Then he’d come up with a new scent with a new label to fill. Even to this day, the different scents in the quart size have different portions of his writings on the labels.

He also communicated ceaselessly with anyone who wanted to talk about the label. Sometimes for hours. His home number was easy to find – at times it was even on the label – so anyone could call.  

All this time, there was no paid marketing behind the soap. It spread by word of mouth, thanks to incredibly loyal customers, who resonated with the soap or the label, or both, many of whom are still with us today. They were excited to tell their friends about the tingly soap with the crazy label. Even today, I regularly get emails from new customers that start with, “I was at my friend’s house and found this whacky bottle in his bathroom covered with writing. I’ve never used anything else since.” It’s still our best recommendation.

Word also spread via my uncle Ralph’s “soap trips.” On his breaks from teaching middle school English in inner city Milwaukee, Ralph would load up his van with soap, pick a city, and visit every health store, giving away soap, telling the unusual story behind it and its label, and playing folk music. You could always find Uncle Ralph, which everyone called him, by following the children who flocked to him. He was like the Pied Piper of soap.

Ralph Bronner, around 2002, still making soap trips and playing guitar.

But it all came back to the label. Dr. Bronner received many solicitations from people who wanted to private label the inimitable soap. Some felt the label was just a little too out there, a little too boundary pushing. Wouldn’t the soap sell more if it had a simpler label that left off the unexpected references to Aknathan-Bahá’u’lláh-Buddha-Confucius-Moses-Hillel-Jesus-Mohammed? Absolutely not. There was no soap without the label. The label was not there to sell the soap. The soap was there to distribute the label. If someone did not want the label, then they could not sell the soap.

Even when the soap sold well, Dr. Bronner did not live lavishly on his profits. He championed a concept called Constructive Capitalism, which did not originate with him, but he put it into practice. The idea, in his words, is to “share the profits with the workers and the earth from which you made it!” And so he paid workers generously and gave away much of the profits. You would never know from the modest, unairconditioned, dimly lit one-story ranch house in which he lived and worked that he was at the helm of a successful company.

The IRS eventually, through court action in 1973, required Dr. Bronner to regard the company as a business and not a not-for-profit organization, and to pay taxes as a business. He still continued to give much of his proceeds away to benefit causes in which he believed.

All of this is manifest in the current generation – my brothers, husband, and mom – who run Dr. Bronner’s today. The label is preserved. Any changes are made with the utmost care, keeping true to the spirit and intent of Dr. Bronner’s work. The company today supports myriad causes, most of which have nothing to do with soap, for example in 2019 5.6% of the annual proceeds ($7.4M) went to charitable causes. Beyond financial contributions, Dr. Bronner’s has been on the forefront of activism in pushing for strong organic, fair trade, and now regenerative organic standards, as well as fighting for social causes such as drug policy reform, fair pay, and racial justice among others. There are also caps on executive salaries at 5x that of the lowest vested full-time employee. Employees receive the profits through generous salaries, 100% healthcare coverage, childcare assistance, bonuses, profit sharing, and tenure awards. It is still a privately owned company, organized as a Benefit Corporation, because no public shareholders would approve of the profligate giving away of so much money.

Even to this day, the label is at the core of Dr. Bronner’s, the company, directing every decision in business, relationships, and charity. It is articulated in six Cosmic Principles, drawn from Dr. Bronner’s own writings:

  1. Work Hard! Grow!
  2. Do right by customers
  3. Treat employees like family
  4. Be fair to suppliers
  5. Treat the earth like home
  6. Fund & Fight for what’s right.

Not everyone who is interested in the soap will agree with the label, but it starts conversations. That was my grandfather’s key. He did not mind if people disagreed with him, so long as they were willing to engage. What frustrated him the most were people who did not want to engage at all.

His entire message is summed up in one overarching statement at the core of the company today:

In all we do, let us be fair, generous, and loving to Spaceship Earth and all its inhabitants. For we’re All-One or None! All-One!

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Lily says:

I have been a daily user of ‘Dr B soap’, as it is called in my family for many decades. Since mid 1970 at least. Easy to find in the California communities I grew up in and still live in. All my kids, and now grandkids buy and use Dr B as well. Very happy our local health food store sells it in bulk, although Dr B’s amazing label is rubbing off a bit now. I travel the world with a small bottle in my toiletries bag even! What a wonderful story you wrote here, thank you, and thank your family for carrying your Zayde’s legacy.

Steve Crider says:

I have loved and enjoyed your products since I discovered them during college, in the 1970’s. Your soaps are in my shower/bath til this very day! All One! Steve C.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, Steve! It’s always a pleasure to hear from our long-time customers!

Spati says:

“Dr. Bronner always felt he was near completion, and occasionally would announce triumphantly that the label was finished. Until the next idea came along. “

This resonated so much with me as I feel as though I’m consistently coming up with new things, thinking I’m finished only to realize the previous idea sparks another. People always find me weird for finding new ways to express or be, and I’ve never read something that I so closely felt was familiar. The authenticity of the brand label was so beautifully constructed with a rich history and although “Some felt the label was just a little too out there, a little too boundary pushing. “ to me it is inspiring. It’s so easy to think that sticking to one idea of inspiration is the key, but our minds are multi dimensional, and Dr.Bronners is the purest of examples of this. The purity of consistency and creating from love really made my heart so happy and I thank you continually for being such an amazing brand! The soap has been so amazing to my skin!! Continue please, and I thank you with love!

-Spati (@_Spatiiology on Twitter)

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Spati- It’s wonderful to hear that my grandfather’s words resonate with and inspire you!

Kathleen says:

The label was what first attracted me to the product! I was a young mother looking for earth friendly products. I was blown away by what I read as I had always felt the All-One or None would be what would happen to humankind if we didn’t take care of each other, regardless of our differences. And the Earth was our home that we had a responsibility to look after for all of her inhabitants, great and small. Knowing a company exists, with this profound and simple philosophy, that continues to grow and share, is a true devotional to its founder.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks, Kathleen. It’s great to hear that my grandfather’s words resonate with you!

Brittney Schering says:

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this history! Such an invigorating, inspirational read and quite a hearty reminder, too! My hope is for more curious minds to find themselves lingering in washrooms as they consume more magic from the pull of the label. It’s such a fantastic read!

damai says:

dear Lisa
i’m a Muslim WOC, a newbie costumer of Dr. Bronner’s. Some of my passions are supporting environmental friendly biz, and good intra & interfaith relations. This year, i came accross your products. I have tried peppermint toothpaste, unscented soap bar & magic balm to heal, and felt really satisfied. The text, messages on the labels captivated me right away, they’re voicing high spirit of humanity. They moved me to learn more about the backstory and contribution of your amazing grandfather and family’s sociopreneurship. Thanks so much for sharing this magnificent story. We are All-One!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Damai- Welcome to the Dr. Bronner’s family! It’s great to hear my grandfather’s words resonate with you!

Yochanan says:

I’m very grateful for the knowledge printed on this product. It’s a philosophy for all which is so profound. His story of his life’s experiences mirror so many people suffering, discovering, creating. What a magnificent life. Thank you for continuing the legacy. I’m sure he is pleased. All One

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you for the kind words, Yochanan. I’m glad the messages on the label have touched you.

Bill says:

I’ve used Dr Bronners soap since the 1970’s…. it’s a beautiful marvelous story of true humanness. Thanks for keeping true to your grandfathers vision!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Bill- It’s always a pleasure to hear from our long-time customers. I’m glad you connected with my grandfather’s story.

Gene Ulmer says:

I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s castile soap since the early ’70’s and now I use the bar soap in the shower for shampoo and body. Thank you for this back story of your grandfather and his label.

Tom says:

Wow, what an exquisite, affirming way to start my Sunday! Thank you for this beautifully crafted memorial tribute to your grandfather and his mission. Dr. Bronner’s products always had a place in the various places I lived back in the 60’s and 70’s…the label appealed because of its old-timey look, but I must admit I never “read the small print” much.

Much more recently, as I closely followed our state’s (Oregon) ballot Measure 109 campaign in the 2020 election, and saw how Dr. Bronner’s financial and strategic support made such a huge difference in its success, I once again became a customer….this time for life!

And now….at age 69, I read the labels….and I can appreciate the timeless, positive messages that have been abiding there all along…just waiting for me to catch up!

Cheers to all!

Lisa Bronner says:

Welcome back, Tom! It’s great to hear the “small print” resonates with you.

Linda says:

I was a Bronner customer for 40 years until I saw you donating to the Marxist BLM movement. They are no better than the Nazis that exterminated your family. Until you stop donating to this group, I will shop elsewhere. All Lives Matter.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Linda – Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Matters of social justice are never simple. There is never a dispute that all lives matter, and in pursuit of that very point, there are at every moment past and present specific groups of people who are denied access to the reality that their lives are of equal worth to others. Who these groups are shifts as the world shifts and as prejudices shift. With these shifts, we shift our focus and efforts to bolster whichever people group is in need, as there were people who rose to support the Jewish people in their time of need.

It is jarring to hear a comparison between this social movement, even with divergent views on its merits and methods, and the Nazi’s targeted and systematic extermination of 11 million people. Let’s not speak lightly of genocide. The phrase Black Lives Matter does not necessarily specify a particular organization, as it also is a general statement. For details on which specific organizations Dr. Bronner’s pledged financial support to and why, please take the time to read our several blog posts on the topic:
“All-One!” Means Black Lives Matter
Donations for Racial Justice – This one specifies the organizations.
Dr. Bronner’s Pledges $1 Million Over Ten Years to the Movement for Black Lives

Mary says:

Thank you for sharing the history of the label and the valiant spirit that created it. I had a father with the same attitude and thus i resonated with the words on the label immediately and felt the boundless energy that originated its intent.
Much Blessings for keeping the original spirit and intent!

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you! Every family has a story to tell!

Scott says:

Having been raised by a family that has used this lovely product since I learned to read (60s hippies parents), I’m profoundly moved by the elucidation of the legacy story you’ve written here. There are so many important messages to be found in the words your company sends out into the universe via the label and, while my wife has always been curious about the “hemp soap” for years, this was a great way to share some of the reasons why it’s my only daily soap, and I’ll never use anything else. It’s also really good soap!

Thank you for taking the time to write this! We are, have been and will be the only inhabitants on this spaceship and I love that your family is continuing that message

Irina says:

The postcard from his father made me cry. I’m so glad he overcame all that was thrown at him. It is inspiring. Thank you for enlightening.

Lisa Bronner says:

Me too, Irina. Thanks for reading!

Marianne Vigeland says:

Thanks and ever thanks, Lisa. tikkun olam. Every blessing

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, Marianne. To you as well.

Kitty says:

Wow, such a compelling story. Makes me proud to be a customer. Keep up the good work!

Stephen says:

I love the soap!
Castille is probably the only thing that still makes me smell like a hippy! 🤣

Autcha says:

Lots of interesting history and excited story specially to know of his mentalness and his escape and it make me smile about his luck in vegas to keep him travel. thing happend for the reason.

We dont have much of dr bronner product in thailand. Wish we could have more so I can enjoy the good quality product 🙂

Vanessa says:

Wow!! I came across Dr Bronner’s at a Woodford Folk Festival (Qld, Australia) a few years ago. I loved the quality and simplicity and it’s all my family use now. I love it even more after reading your family story! I’d love a job within your company!! 💗

Valerie says:

I had the great privilege of meeting Dr Bronner as he was taking the sulphur pool at Warner Hot Springs CA spring 1981.
His Castile soap is one of a handful of products I could not live without-I give it as a wedding gift & it soothes my husband up until moments before my husband died of cancer in February 2020
Dr Bronner his philosophy life & soap are world treasures!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Valerie – What lovely memories! My grandfather so enjoyed spending time in the Warner Hot Springs. I went there with him a time or two myself. Do you recall what the two of you spoke about? I am very sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. May peace and comfort be yours.

Bob says:

Bring back the Balanced Mineral Seasoning !!! Multi-excellent, especially on popcorn.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Bob – I can tell you’ve been with us a while! My grandfather’s food and nutrition products are much missed. Unfortunately in the hubbub of his passing and my dad a year later, the company went through some really rocky and uncertain times. We had to let the food line go. And so much of the information was stored in my grandpa’s head we were never able to recreate what he did. They sure were good, though.

Imelda says:

Beautifully said; beautifully written. I’m sad about the losses. Excited to read about the gains. I will continue to buy and buy and share!!! Thank you!

Tabatha says:

Hi Lisa,

There are no words to express my heartfelt gratitude for you sharing your family’s journey… an inspiration and a blessing; an exemplary example of living from the innate wisdom of the heart.

I recently was assisted by someone with a diverse background in the military, law enforcement, legal practice and served as a superior court justice in Illinois and presently runs his own ministry, who created my faith based organization, a 508 c 1 a… this is NOT a non-profit and it is not governed by any laws of government. He can assist you and your family in transferring your company’s status, so that you are completely FREE to operate outside of any government constraints.

If you would like to speak with him, I would be more than happy to share his contact information with you… please call me at 949-373-6426.



Zaran Dunloy says:

Very nice, glad you shared this history of your family, it is with a warm heart and tear ladden eyes that I think about your sharing, thank you!

Judith says:

Way back in the early ’80s, my brother would walk around saying “Dilute! Dilute! OK!” I’ve been using it continuously since that period. It’s fun to remember.

Lisa Bronner says:

Ha! I find myself saying it, too! I think there was even a song written with that line. I’ll have to look for it! There’s something catchy about it.

ARNIE says:

Lisa: I enjoyed the read! Been having Dr. Bronner’s since 1978! ALL LOVE! ARNIE

Lisa Bronner says:

Excellent! So glad you were on board back then!

Greg says:

What an amazing story. This is a beautifully written account of your grandfather’s life and mission. I’m very grateful that your family has continued the business, while holding so faithfully to the spirit of what he clearly felt his life was about: spreading love. All One!

Mark says:

Thank you for this.

I needed the uplift in this trying time.


Lisa Bronner says:

I’m so glad this helped. As my grandpa showed in his life, there’s always a way forward.

Cindy says:

This story made me smile. Thank you 😊! Will be getting some of that soap!

Dania says:

Lisa, What a life your grandfather lived! His story and your writing are so inspiring. Additionally, all that your family continues to do makes our community so much richer in our support for each other. Thank you for your lovely words. We are so proud of you and your family.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, Dania! I’m so glad this resonated with you.

Margaret Winters says:

Awesome. I first ran across the label and the soap as a teenager in the early 70s. Great to have the back story, and thank you for continuing to follow sound principles and make excellent soap.

Gregory says:

I’m so glad I tapped on the photo. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word. So very interesting to learn the story of your grandfather and the path to present day. And heartening to feel companionship of like minds on this seven thousand mile thick lump of mud and rock as we hurtle about the universe.
Lisa, thank you for writing this. A very pleasant and enlightening addition to my Saturday morning!

Lisa Bronner says:

I’m so glad! Thanks for reading!

Karla says:

WoW!!! I have been using your soap for decades and finally read the label, which is challenging with my old eyes😊 and I was blown away. All my same philosophies!
Your Grandfather was wayyyyyy before his time! I Am constantly called a tree hugging liberal hippie from Oregon. And I’m PROUD of that. We are ALL-ONE, honoring All that Is.
I loved reading your Grandfathers story, and plan to do more research.
I’ve had an affinity for Germany for over 40 yrs ( probably a past life) finally got to go again when my daughter studied in Heidelberg for her German Major at Oregon State University. And of course, my baby couldn’t go alone!
She met the Love Of her life there! Sarah, a beautiful young woman from
Maine living there with an abusive husband. They’ve been blissfully happy and still living there.So I’ve been three times,and can’t wait to go again after this long pandemic ! ( I even married a man whose family came from Stuttgart area, small world)
Sorry to blather on, just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing his story and further carrying on to more generations.I’m sure he’s soooooo Proud!!

I Am…. Karla Thaler

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Karla – I’m so glad our story connected with you! We are indeed all connected in one way or another.

Kristin says:

Thank you for writing such a wonderful story. I always wondered about how he got here. I remember him speaking about fluoride and how it hardened “ze teeth, ……and ze arteries .. and ze kidneys!” I also remember him saying that his larynx had been injected with something to make him garble and that’s why he appeared nonsensical and was put in the asylum. The stories of the people who were put away because they spoke their truth is a heinous one.
What a legacy you have!!
(I wish you still made the amazing corn chips, I can still taste them, there has been nothing like them since!)
thank you, Kristin St. Clair

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kristin – Yes! All that sounds exactly like him. I still remember his story of the “Town without a Toothache” – because of the flouride, they were all dead. Where did you hear him speak? And yep, we all miss the corn chips.

Marla says:

Dear Lisa, Many thanks for taking the time to regale us with the important story of your grandfather and of his wonderful legacy – your family and the family company. It seems it is the rare family company which remains so true to its founder’s ideals, as you are all endeavoring to do. Important stories like yours need to be revisited in every generation. And we are beyond due for your grandfather’s ideals to be embraced in this generation and in this world – justice, fairness, love for our fellow people, and impeccable stewardship of Spaceship Earth! Be well, and thank you again.

Angie says:

I loved the soap first, then fell in love with the message. I feel like I’m a part of something special when I use it. Thank you for sharing this story and for continuing the journey.

Paul says:

How can we stream the wonderful film DR. BRONNER’S MAGIC SOAPBOX?

Vera says:


Thank you for this rich history. My immigrant family has much in common with your grandfather and his father’s generations. Big fan of your products, introduced to me by my “hippie” friends 🙂 So enjoy your blogs and practical uses for the soap. Now the label will make more sense and make me smile and cry a bit.


Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Vera – I’m so glad it touched you!

Mel says:

Hi ,does this have anything to do with the bahai ? Just interest to know,I lomve the products!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mel – My grandfather was familiar with Bahai and mentions Baháʼu’lláh on the label. He was definitely in sync with the idea the unity and worth of all people.

Kelly says:

What a life. What a legacy. Imagine if we were all that passionate about love and peace. Thank you for sharing this eloquently written piece, Lisa.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kelly! Lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words!

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, All, for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Sergio De La O Jr. says:

This is an incredible story of your grandfather, your family, your Benefit Corporation, human endurance, ingenuity, malleability, faith, hope, and perseverance ! Truthfully I wanted to stop reading when I saw how “long” the writing was [monkey-mind], but I could NOT stop reading! It was all too interestingly captivating. It reminded me of how my grandmothers came across the borders (which I am very proud) to make a better life for their children (and eventually their grandchildren and great-great-children)! Namaste Lisa, Dr. Bronner, and The Dr. Bronner family and friends! 🙂

Lisa Bronner says:

Thank you, Sergio! I’m glad it kept you reading! I think it was my longest post to date!

Janis says:

Lisa, Thank you.

I’ve always been a fascinated fan of Dr. Bronners soaps since the 70’s (when I secretly aspired to be a Hippie!). I was too conservative to live that lifestyle, but loved the soap and the sentiment on the label. Oh my, does it EVER apply now!!!
I will think of his story all day today. As usual, you wrote it well and I hope many take the time to read it….and be touched.

Lisa Bronner says:

Ha! Thanks, Janis! I don’t think I could have ever qualified as a full-fledged hippie, either. Definitely a crunchy, though!

Jeanmarie says:

This was beautiful, thanks for taking the time to share your grandfather’s amazing life story.

Marilyn says:

Great and informative regarding your grandfather and the company’s history!

mary says:

WOW I’m speechless! What a fabulous story! Thanks so much for sharing!

Patti says:

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. I always wondered about it all.

Carolyn says:

Wow! What a uniquely American experience. Dr. Bronner obviously took the road “less traveled.” I am astounded to read the story of the origins of this soap that I have loved and used for years on my skin, my pets and my tomatoes! So glad that his legacy (and his amazing soap) lives on! I will never stop using it and will always think of Dr. Bronner when I do!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Carolyn- It’s great to hear this story resonated with you.

Cheryl says:

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I have always wondered about it. Love the label and love the product and have used it since the 70’s. My favorite is the hemp-almond scent


Lisa Bronner

Green means life. “Going Green” is living in such a way to promote vitality and vibrancy in every sphere of life. Grab an idea to make your days healthier, simpler, and more beautiful at their core.