Do you remember your first time? My first was notable on two levels: 1) the hellish, icy-hot burning in and around my nethers heralding the realization that I'd done it wrong, and 2) my complete bewilderment when I read the label:
First time I used Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. For those not in the know: dilute that shit before you lather and rinse.
- Emanuel Bronner was a third-generation Jewish master soapmaker from the small town of Heilbronn, Germany. (The Bronner family, known in Germany as the Heilbronners, commercialized liquid soap.) Alarmed by the rise of the Nazis, Emanuel immigrated to Milwaukee in 1929, at 21, to start consulting for American soap companies.
A self-styled philosopher, Emanuel responded to the Nazis by traveling around the U.S., lecturing about a plan he had been developing for achieving world peace—the Moral ABC, he called it. The basic idea was simple: If people would stop focusing on their religious and ethnic differences and find common ground, we would all be better off. We're all humans, and we all have to share this Spaceship Earth. It was a timely message, despite its wacko undertones, and he started drawing crowds.
Tragedy struck in the 1940s. First, Emanuel got word that his parents, who had stayed behind in Germany, were killed in Nazi death camps. Then, his wife, the mother of their two sons and one daughter, fell ill and died. As he always did, Emanuel responded by diving deeper into the Moral ABC—to the extent that he put his children in foster care so he could continue lecturing without the distractions of fatherhood.
That's the man behind the soap. And it gets better. Crazy-eyed visionary founder? Check. Company pulled out of dire straits upon return of the prodigal son? Yup. Strict adherence to organic lifestyle? Healthy disregard for the government? Fair trade? Conscientious employers? Litigious bulldogs. Potheads. Refugees. Odd couples. Business giants. Can't make this stuff up.