Gary Dahl (entrepreneur)

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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
Net worth$2 million
Spouse(s)Marguerite Dahl

Gary Ross Dahl (December 18, 1936 – March 23, 2015) was an American copywriter, creative director, advertising agency owner, entrepreneur and the creator of the Pet Rock.

Early life[edit]

Dahl was born 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.[1]


Pet Rock[edit]

While living in Los Gatos, California, he was sitting in a bar listening to friends complain about their pets. He joked that he had the perfect pet: a rock.[1][2]

This led to the idea of selling rocks to people as pets, complete with instructions. The instruction book was the real product, which was full of gags and puns. The 1975 fad only lasted about half a year,[3] but that was enough to make Dahl a millionaire.

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.[4]

Advertising and writing[edit]

Dahl's agency, Gary Dahl Creative Services, in Campbell, California, specialized in electronic advertising. He had written 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.

In 2000, Dahl won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, 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.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Dahl lived in the hills above Los Gatos and owned another house in Milpitas, California.[1]

He died on March 23, 2015, in Jacksonville, Oregon, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.[1]


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


  1. ^ a b c d 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. ...
  2. ^ "The Latest Thing". Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader. Portable Press. p. 373. ISBN 1-879682-74-5. One night in 1975, an out-of-work advertising executive named Gary Dahl was hanging out in a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets, which gave him an idea for the perfect "pet": a rock.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Obituary Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed March 31, 2015.
  5. ^ Bulwer-Lytton Awards website Archived 2006-11-10 at the Wayback Machine; accessed March 31, 2015.