Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Emmanuel Bronner

Emmanuel H. Bronner (February 1, 1908 – March 7, 1997) was the eccentric maker of Dr. Bronner's castile soap, a concentrated liquid notable for the vast amount of lather produced from a few drops and the vast amount of tiny text on its packaging. Although his parents were killed in the Holocaust, Bronner believed in the goodness and unity of humanity.

He was born in Heilbronn, Germany, to the Heilbronner family of soap makers. He emigrated to the United States in 1929, dropping "Heil" from his name. As his father was Jewish, he pleaded with his parents to emigrate with him for fear of the then-ascendant Nazis, but they refused. His last contact with his parents was in the form of a postcard saying, "You were right. —Your loving father."

He started his business making products by hand in his home. The product labels are crowded with statements of Bronner's philosophy, which he called "All-One-God-Faith" and the "Moral ABC". Many of Bronner's references came from Jewish and Christian sources, such as the Shema and the Beatitudes; others from poets such as Rudyard Kipling. They became famous for their idiosyncratic style, including hyphens to join long strings of words and the liberal use of exclamation marks. In 1947, while promoting his "Moral ABC" at the University of Chicago, Bronner was arrested and committed to a mental hospital in Elgin, Illinois from which he escaped after shock treatments.

After moving his family several times, he settled in Escondido, California, where eventually his soap-making operation grew into a small factory. At his death in 1997, it produced over a million bottles of soap and other products a year, but was still not mechanized. The firm has been the subject of many published articles and has supported many charitable causes.

After Bronner's death, his family continued the business. They have said the labels he wrote will not change except when required by government regulations. As of 2009 the Bronner company still lists hemp oil in addition to jojoba oil in the ingredients.

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