150 years and 5 generations of family soapmaking

Dr Bronners story

 

Dr. Bronner’s was founded in 1948 by Emanuel Bronner, a third- generation master soapmaker from a German-Jewish soapmaking family. He used the labels on his superb ecological soaps to spread his message that we must realize our unity across religious & ethnic divides or perish: “We are All-One or None!” Still family-owned and run, Dr. Bronner’s honors its founder’s vision by continuing to make socially & environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and by dedicating our profits to help make a better world. All-One!

 

1858

Soapmaking begins in Heilbronner home—Jewish quarter, Laupheim, Germany.

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1880s/90s

Heilbronners invent first liquid castile soap—supply washrooms across Germany—sell bar soaps under “Madaform” brand.

history-1880s

1908

Emanuel Heilbronner (Dr. Bronner) enters the world!

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1920s

Emanuel (Emil) apprentices with Jewish soapmaking family—receives Soapmaking Master certificate from guild system trade school and university degree in chemistry.

 

1929

Emil’s powerful personality, Zionist ideals and ideas for modern soapmaking lead to clashes with father and uncles—emigrates to U.S.

 

1930s

Emil advises U.S. soap and chemical specialty manufacturers. With rise of Hitler, drops “Heil” from last name.

 

1940s

Nazis nationalize family soap factory—Emil’s parents deported and killed in Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt.

Emil adopts honorific “Dr.”—with his intensity, scientific knowledge and thick German accent, no one argues.

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1945

Escapes Elgin State Insane Asylum after being institutionalized for vehemently espousing his views—later blames shock treatments for declining eyesight and blindness in the ‘60s.

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1948

Founding of Dr. Bronner’s! Production of liquid Peppermint soap and health food seasonings begins.

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1950

All-One! Dr. Bronner lectures in Pershing Square, exhorting all to unite as one—sells Peppermint soap on the side—realizes many are taking soap and leaving so prints lecture on labels. Sons Jim and Ralph help with business.

 

1960s/70s

Dr. Bronner’s soap becomes iconic soap of the era. Young people groove on label’s call for peace. Plant moves to Escondido, California. Jim becomes VP of R&D and Production.

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1980s

Dr. Bronner’s soaps spread to mainstream. Ralph works with Dr. Bronner to refine message on bottles. Jim launches Bronner Chemical and Technical Consulting—invents foam concentrate still used in fighting forest and structure fires.

history-1980s

 

1990s

Dr. Bronner’s health failing from Parkinson’s, sons Ralph and Jim and Jim’s wife Trudy assume control of company—Jim serves as President, Ralph as VP and company spokesperson, Trudy as Treasurer/CFO.

history-1990s

 

1997

Passing of Dr. Bronner.

Dr. Bronner

 

1998

Jim Bronner, battling cancer, spends year training son David (24-year-old Harvard graduate, mental health counselor, hemp advocate) to run company. Donates 1,200-acre parcel of wilderness worth $1.4 million to San Diego County Boys & Girls Club.

On Jim’s passing, David, with mom Trudy and Uncle Ralph, begins running company.

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history-1998

 

2000

Michael Bronner joins company—begins exportation of Dr. Bronner’s soaps around the world. 

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2001-2004

Dr. Bronner’s funds and helps coordinate hemp industry’s battle to defeat DEA’s regulations—victory comes on February 6, 2004—Bob Marley’s birthday!

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2003

Dr. Bronner’s becomes largest personal care company certified under USDA’s National Organic Program. Pioneers 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Institutes progressive business practices: 5-to-1 compensation cap between top salaried employee and lowest-wage warehouse position—100% health coverage—all profits not needed for business dedicated to progressive causes and charities.

Uncle Ralph performs off-off-Broadway one-man show about his life, father, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.

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2005

Sue Kastensen (Sun Dog Hemp Body Care) joins Dr. Bronner’s—helps reformulate her famous lip balms, body balms and lotions to USDA National Organic Program standards.

history-2005

 

2006

Comprehensive project to source all major raw materials from certified Fair Trade sources.

SME (288)

 2007

Dr. Bronner’s certified as Fair Trade company.

Release of independent film, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox

 

2008

Dr. Bronner’s celebrates 150 years of soapmaking and 60 years of certified organic products. Expands distribution into Israel, fulfilling Emanuel Bronner’s lifelong dream.

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2011

Sister company, Dr. Bronner’s Germany (DBG), opens in Dusseldorf, distributes throughout Europe.

Dr. Bronner’s co-brands with its Fair Trade coconut supplier from Sri Lanka (Serendipol) to launch White Kernel and Whole Kernel Fair Trade Coconut Oils.

SME (256)

 

2010 to 2013

David Bronner arrested outside DEA headquarters for planting hemp seeds, and again for harvesting hemp plants in a cage in front of the White House.

September 2013, Dr. Bronner’s staff celebrates with farmer Ryan Loflin as he harvests first American commercial hemp crop in over sixty years.

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2012 to 2013

GMO labeling throwdown! Dr. Bronner’s partners with coalition of parent, consumer, health and environmental groups to demand labeling of genetically engineered foods.

 

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2014

After growing 1,100% over 15 years, Dr. Bronner’s moves into larger factory. Commits to becoming a zero waste operation. 

Dr Bronners factory 2014

 

2015

Passing of Ralph Bronner, heart and soul of Dr. Bronner’s—inspired us all to hold true to the mission of spreading love first, making profits second. Thank you, Uncle Ralph!

Ralph Dr Bronners history-2015

 

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