I just dropped a Dr. Bronner’s reference in the comments section of another weblog in response to a truly incomprehensible commenter. (If you’ve never stood in the shower and read the label on a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, then you’ve missed one of the truly strange morning experiences.)
Just out of curiosity, I googled the Good Doctor, and found the Straight Dope’s explication of the label. Or, at least, as close an anyone could come…
But the biography of the Good Dr. Bronner was what blew me away-
Bronner has had an eventful life. The son of a Jewish German soap maker, he emigrated to the U.S. and pleaded with his father to do the same when the Nazis came to power. The old man refused. One day Bronner got a postcard with the words, “You were right. –Your loving father.” He never heard from his parents again.
Initially settling in the midwest, Bronner married the illegitimate daughter of a nun, who eventually became suicidal and died in a mental hospital. (He says she was tortured by the hospital guards.) He also began devising his plan for world peace. Fittingly, he took to the soapbox to promote it. One of his listeners, Fred Walcher, was so inspired that in 1945 he had himself crucified in Chicago in order to publicize the plan. (He survived.)
Later Bronner was arrested while trying to promote his plan at the University of Chicago and was committed to a mental hospital. He escaped three times, finally fleeing to California in 1947. He’s been there cranking out soap and soap labels ever since.
Despite his eccentricities, Dr. Bronner has built his soap company into a prosperous concern, mostly by sheer force of personality. In the early days he would set up a table at health food conventions. If a dealer strayed within ten feet, Bronner would pounce and not let go until he’d gotten an order.
But things didn’t really take off until he was discovered by the counterculture during the 60s. With the aid of his sons Jim and Ralph, who handle production and sales, he currently sells some 400,000 gallons of liquid soap and 600,000 pounds of bar soap a year. He says he’s now worth $6 million–not bad, he notes drily, for somebody who’s supposedly nuts.
Um… As South Knox Bubba would say…