At My French Neighbor, we sell the Soap of Marseille from Marius Fabre, because, for us, it’s the best one.
But what is the history of Soap of Marseille ?
Thanks to the abundant raw materials present, olive oil, soda and salt in Camargue, Provence became, from the Middle Ages onwards, the premier soap producing region.
Marseilles, a hub of commerce, became in the 17th century the major production site of soap in France, followed by Salon-de-Provence, and then Toulon.
In 1688, Louis XIV laid down, by means of an Edict of Colbert, the rules which institutionalized Marseilles soap : besides the heating in great cauldrons, it was compulsory to use as vegetable oils only pure olive oil, all animal fat was forbidden. Those who did not obey risked banishment from Provence! This Edict allowed Marseilles soap to win the fame which it was never to lose…For several centuries, this was a guarantee for customers.Thanks to industrial and colonial development in the second half of the 18th century, production doubled and the impact on sea trade linked the name of Marseilles permanently to what had been only a regional product.
The 19th century brought progress in hygiene, technology (steam, electricity, mechanization), chemistry, railways… In spite of these advances and the appearance of publicity in the early 20th century, international competition increased and the decline of the following decades loomed.
The Golden Age of Marseilles soap The 19th century was the golden age of the extra pure 72% oil Marseilles soap. Marseilles and Salon thrived thanks to soap-making and the production of oil, becoming the leading economic sector of the area.
The 1940s brought this boom to an end : the soap industry continued to decline in the Marseilles region. This decline had severalreasons, such as the appearance of syntheticdetergents and the spread of washing-machines, the development of supermarkets, the creation of new soap companies in other regions, the fall of the French Empire.The return to natural values and the environment in the 1970′s and 1980′s, heralded a renewal for Marseilles soap which will nevertheless never regain its previous importance. It is a fact that, of the 108 soap companies in Marseilles and the 14 in Salon, in 1924, only 3 have survived in Marseilles and 2 in Salon in 2000. Marseilles soap has now become a historic element of the region.