150 years and 5 generations of family soapmaking

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!


Soapmaking begins in Heilbronner home—Jewish quarter, Laupheim, Germany.   history-1858


Heilbronners invent first liquid castile soap—supply washrooms across Germany—sell bar soaps under “Madaform” brand. history-1880s


Emanuel Heilbronner (Dr. Bronner) enters the world! heilbronners


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


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


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


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. history-1940s


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. history-1945


Founding of Dr. Bronner’s! Production of liquid Peppermint soap and health food seasonings begins. history-1948


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.  


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. cef-n-bronners-soap-1976-sm


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  


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  


Passing of Dr. Bronner. 100


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. history-1998  


Michael Bronner joins company—begins exportation of Dr. Bronner’s soaps around the world. history-2000


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! hia-129  


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. usda-closeup


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  


Comprehensive project to source all major raw materials from certified Fair Trade sources. SME (288)


Dr. Bronner’s certified as Fair Trade company. Release of independent film, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox.


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. 60th-anniversary-bottle-logo


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. c6eeafe812272a34

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. history-2012-13  


After growing 1,100% over 15 years, Dr. Bronner’s moves into larger factory. Commits to becoming a zero waste operation.  img_0531


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! history-2015  


In July of 2015 Dr. Bronner’s became a Benefit Corporation with the State of California. A Benefit Corporation is a for-profit corporation that has positive impact on society and the environment according to legally defined goals. Read more here.


Dr. Bronner’s  partnered with Sea Shepherd to launch Sea Shepherd Germany’s first vessel, the MV Emanuel Bronner in 2017. We donated the ship to support the organization’s efforts to defend wildlife in the Baltic Sea.


Dr. Bronner’s celebrates its 70th anniversary since it was re-established in the United States.


Opening of an own Dr. Bronner’s stores in Berlin/Germany. First as a “pop-up store” together with the project “people” of the Berlin-based association Karuna e.V., which is particularly committed to street children in the German capital. Later in the year, moving to its own flagship store in Berlin Mitte.



The current Dr. Bronner’s Europe Team

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