Did you know that Dr. Bronner escaped from a mental institution?
This is an excerpt from my Substack, which is called Crazy/Old. I started it because I wanted a different site (sorry Medium) to explore topics of mental health and the history of care. You can read way more on the site and also you can subscribe to see all of the content for a meager amount of money that will help me keep doing this kind of odd stuff.
The mysterious all-purpose soap with the lengthy label has been a staple in crunchy households for ages. Where I grew up, in Eugene, Oregon, it’s common for people to bathe their babies with it, only to turn around and wash dishes with it. Dr. Bronner’s All-One Castile Soap — which is made to be heavily diluted, making it both eco-and wallet-friendly — can be used on your face or the floor, your linens or your labradoodle. Seriously, if you’re unfamiliar, it’s time to get right with whichever savior you belong to and ask “how did you not put this into my path yet?”
Also, if you’re unfamiliar, you may never have pondered over the absolutely bonkers label that wraps around this big cylindrical bottle.
I could not, having grown up seeing these bottles at the local natural food store (shout out to Sundance), have been less shocked that the titular Dr. Bronner was not only institutionalized, but escaped.
The wild story of “Dr.” Bronner
According to the company website, the Heilbronners have been making soap for close to 200 years. But it was Emanuel Bronner “a third- generation master soapmaker from a German-Jewish soapmaking family,” who created the company we know today. Born in 1908, he seems to have a been a deeply religious and ideologically-driven individual almost from the jump. He emigrated to the United States when, led by his “powerful personality, Zionist ideals and ideas for modern soapmaking” created tension with his father and uncles. Once in the U.S., he adopted the title of “Doctor” and no one questioned that. He was not, in fact, a doctor. He dropped the “Heil” from his name for, uh, obvious reasons.