Harold von Braunhut

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Harold Nathan Braunhut (March 31, 1926 – November 28, 2003), also known as Harold von Braunhut, was an American mail-order marketer and inventor, most famous as the creator and seller of both the Amazing Sea-Monkeys and the X-Ray Specs.[1] His grandfather, Tobias Cohn was head of the T.Cohn Toy Company until the early 1940s.

Braunhut was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 31, 1926. He grew up in New York City and resided there until the 1980s, when he moved to Maryland. According to a Washington Post report, he was raised "as Harold Nathan Braunhut, a Jew"[2] - notable in light of his later association with white supremacist groups. He added "von" to his name some time in the 1950s for a more Germanic sound.[3]

Braunhut used comic book advertisements to sell an assortment of quirky products. He held 195 patents[1] for various products, many of which have become cultural icons, including:[3]

  • X-Ray Specs - whose advertisements claim that the wearer can see through clothing and flesh. The product has appealed to generations of curious adolescent boys.
  • Amazing Sea-Monkeys - which were tiny brine shrimp that came to life when water was added.[4] Sales took an upswing when comic book illustrator Joe Orlando drew comic book ads showing the humanized Sea-Monkeys enjoying life in their underwater fantasy world. Billions of the tiny creatures have been sold over the years and have generated fan websites, a television series, and a video game. Astronaut John Glenn took 400 million "Amazing Sea-Monkeys" into space with him in 1998.[1]
  • Amazing Hair-Raising Monsters - a card with a printed monster that would grow "hair" (mineral crystals, actually) when water was added
  • Invisible Goldfish - non-existent fish that were guaranteed to remain permanently invisible

Braunhut also raced motorcycles under the name "The Green Hornet", and managed a showman whose act consisted of diving 40 feet (12 m) into a children's wading pool filled with only 1 foot (0.30 m) of water.[1] Braunhut also set up a wildlife conservation area[5] in Maryland.

His first marriage was to Charlotte Braunhut. His second marriage was to actress Yolanda Signorelli, who took an active role in marketing Sea-Monkeys. He had a son, Jonathan, and a daughter, Jeanette LaMothe.

Harold von Braunhut died on November 28, 2003 at his home in Indian Head, Maryland, following an accidental fall.[6] Braunhut's work was featured on the April 22, 2007 "Not My Job" segment of the NPR radio quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me.[7]

Racial views[edit]

The Washington Post stated in a report that, despite his Jewish ethnicity, he had a close association with white supremacist groups, buying firearms for a Ku Klux Klan faction and regularly attending the Aryan Nations annual conference.[2] In a 1988 interview with the Seattle Times, he referred to the "inscrutable, slanty Korean eyes" of Korean shop owners and was quoted as saying, "You know what side I'm on. I don't make any bones about it."[8]

Adapted from the article Harold von Braunhut from Wikinfo, December 22, 2003, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.