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.

Personal life[edit]

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]

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.[4] 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.[5]

Business activities[edit]

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 adolescents.
  • Amazing Sea-Monkeys - which were tiny brine shrimp that came to life when water was added.[6] 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[7] in Maryland.

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]

References[edit]

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