Soap making was largely a household chore until the 19th century. Here's a brief history on the development of soap.
1811 Michel Eugene Chevreul, a French chemist discovered the chemical nature and relationship of fats, glycerine and fatty acids. His studies produced the basic studies for fat and soap chemistry.
1850's A Belgian chemist, Ernest Solvay, advanced the technology with an ammonia process, which used common table salt, or sodium chloride to make soda ash. Solvay's process reduced the cost of alkali and improved the quality of the soda ash.
By 1850 the soap making industry was on of the fastest growing in America. This changed the item from a luxury to an everyday necessity. Which led to the development of milder soaps for bathing.
1857 Cotton seed oil is now being used to produce soap, in Southern areas.
During the Civil War soap became scarce. Southern women became creative and discovered a salt substitute (which was used to harden the soap) prickly pear.
In Field & Fireside dated March 8, 1862 a receipt for soap was listed.
"Take one gallon of strong lye, add a half pound of shucks, cut up fine. Let the shucks boil in the lye until they are reduced to shreds. Then fish the shreds out, and put half a pound of crackling grease in, or six ounces of lard, and boil until it is sufficiently thick to make a good soap.
By 1869 Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, "Formerly, in New England, soap and candles were made in each separate family; now, comparatively few take this toil upon themselves. We buy soap of the soap-boiler, and candles of the candle-factor."