Harold von Braunhut
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. His grandfather, Tobias Cohn, had the patent for the pail and shovel and 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" - 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.
- 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. 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.
- Crazy Crabs - which were simply hermit crabs
- 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. Braunhut also set up a wildlife conservation area 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. 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.
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. 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."
- Evan Hughes (June 28, 2011). "The Shocking True Tale Of The Mad Genius Who Invented Sea-Monkeys". The Awl.
- Bob Moser (Spring 2004). "Hitler and the Sea-Monkeys". Southern Poverty Law Center.
- "Harold von Braunhut". The Daily Telegraph. December 24, 2003.
- Harold N. Braunhut, Method and Materials Used for Hatching Brine Shrimp. U.S. Patent 3,673,986. 1972.
- Zeises, Lara. "Monkey Business To their adoring legions of fans, Sea-Monkeys are the ultimate in Kitsch. But their Maryland inventor says they're really a starter kit for environmentale awarness (sic).". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- Douglas Martin (December 21, 2003). "Harold von Braunhut, Seller Of Sea Monkeys, Dies at 77". The New York Times.
- Brott, Tamar (October 1, 2000). "The Sea Monkeys and the White Supremacist". Los Angeles Times.