Gary Dahl (businessman)

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Gary Dahl
Gary Ross Dahl

(1936-12-18)December 18, 1936
DiedMarch 23, 2015(2015-03-23) (aged 78)
Alma materWashington State University
Known forPet Rock
Spouse(s)Marguerite Dahl

Gary Ross Dahl (born December 18, 1936 – March 23, 2015) was an American businessman and advertising director. He founded and created the collectible toy Pet Rock; smooth stones from the city of Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico. in the mid '70s which was successful enough to make him a millionaire.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Dahl was born on December 18, 1936,[3] in Bottineau, North Dakota, and raised in Spokane, Washington. His mother was a waitress and his father was a lumber-mill worker. He studied at Washington State University. He worked as a freelance copy editor.[4]


Pet Rock[edit]

By 1975, Dahl was living in Los Gatos, California, and still worked in copy editing. He reportedly came up with the concept of a pet rock while at a bar with friends in April. After they discussed the effort involved in taking care of pets, Dahl, joking, told them that his pet rock required little to no care. Dahl soon decided that he could turn the idea into a profitable novelty; in the weeks that followed he wrote a 36 page instruction book, got two people to invest in the product, and purchased "Mexican beach stones".[3][4]

Dahl began selling the rocks in August, and two months later was reportedly selling 10,000 a day,[3] in the lead-up to the holiday season. He sold an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 million rocks.[4] The craze made Dahl a minor celebrity; it was widely covered in the media, he was on The Tonight Show twice, and received so many calls he later said he “taught my P.R. guy to impersonate me so he could also answer my calls.”[3][4] The fad only lasted about half a year,[5] and by February 1976 the rocks were not selling well, but that was enough to make Dahl a millionaire.[3][4]

Later career[edit]

From the proceeds of his "pets," Dahl opened a bar in Los Gatos, California, named Carrie Nation's (named after the famous bar smasher). He later attempted to follow up this success selling "Sand Breeding Kits" and "Red China Dirt," ostensibly a plan to smuggle mainland China into the US, one cubic centimeter at a time. These novelties failed to attract as much interest as the Pet Rock.[6]

Dahl's agency, Gary Dahl Creative Services, in Campbell, California, specialized in electronic advertising. He wrote and produced hundreds of television commercials and thousands of radio commercials for a wide variety of businesses, including financial, automotive, wireless, education, retail, high-tech and dot-coms.[citation needed]

In 2000, Dahl won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest,[3] the San José State University–sponsored competition that awards authors for crafting particularly bad "purple prose." He defeated over 4,000 entries from all over the world. Dahl's winning entry:

The heather-encrusted Headlands, veiled in fog as thick as smoke in a crowded pub, hunched precariously over the moors, their rocky elbows slipping off land's end, their bulbous, craggy noses thrust into the thick foam of the North Sea like bearded old men falling asleep in their pints.[7]

In 2001 he published Advertising For Dummies.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Dahl lived in the hills above Los Gatos and owned another house in Milpitas, California.[4]

He died on March 23, 2015, in Jacksonville, Oregon, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.[4]


  • Dahl, Gary (2007). Advertising For Dummies. For Dummies. ISBN 978-0470045831.


  1. ^ Fox, Margalit (2015-03-31). "Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock, Dies at 78". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  2. ^ education, Elaine Woo Elaine Woo is a Los Angeles native who has written for her hometown paper since 1983 She covered public; Local, Filled a Variety of Editing Assignments Before Joining “the Dead Beat”-News Obituaries – Where She Has Produced Artful Pieces on Celebrated; national; Figures, International; Mailer, including Norman; Child, Julia; in 2015, Rosa Parks She left The Times (2015-04-02). "Gary Dahl dies at 78; creator of Pet Rock, 1970s pop culture icon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Gary Dahl: Californian entrepreneur whose 'Pet Rocks' became the craze du jour in 1975, making him a millionaire". The Daily Telegraph. April 4, 2015. Retrieved 2022-02-06.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Fox, Margalit (31 March 2015). "Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock, Dies at 78". The New York Times. p. B10. Gary Ross Dahl was born on Dec. 18, 1936, in Bottineau, N.D., and reared in Spokane, Wash. His mother was a waitress, his father a lumber-mill worker. After studying at what is now Washington State University, the young Mr. Dahl made his way into advertising. ...
  5. ^ Piven, Joshua (2003). As Luck Would Have It: Incredible Stories, from Lottery Wins to Lightning Strikes. Random House. ISBN 9781588363145. Retrieved December 13, 2017 – via Google Books. Whatever the reason, when Gary tries to remarket the concept for Valentine's Day 1976, the Pet Rock fails miserably. The fad had run its course, and after a whirlwind six months, Gary's amazing luck has finally run out.
  6. ^ Obituary Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed March 31, 2015.
  7. ^ Bulwer-Lytton Awards website Archived 2006-11-10 at the Wayback Machine; accessed March 31, 2015.