Harold von Braunhut

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Harold von Braunhut
Harold Nathan Braunhut

(1926-03-31)March 31, 1926
DiedNovember 28, 2003(2003-11-28) (aged 77)
OccupationMarketer, inventor
Known forSea-Monkeys

Harold Nathan Braunhut (March 31, 1926 – November 28, 2003), also known as Harold von Braunhut, was an American mail-order marketer, white supremacist, 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.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Braunhut was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 31, 1926.[2] He grew up in New York City and resided there until the 1980s, when he moved to Maryland.[3] According to a report in The Washington Post, he was raised "as Harold Nathan Braunhut, a Jew"[4] — 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 and so he could distance himself from his Jewish family.[5]

His first married 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.[citation needed]

Harold von Braunhut died on November 28, 2003, at his home in Indian Head, Maryland, following an accidental fall.[2]

Business activities[edit]

Braunhut used comic book advertisements to sell an assortment of fraudulent products. He held 195 patents[1] for various products, many of which have become cultural icons, including:[5]

  • X-Ray Specs, which advertisements claimed enabled the wearer to see through clothing and flesh. The product has appealed to generations of curious pre-adolescents.
  • Amazing Sea-Monkeys, which were tiny brine shrimp eggs that "came to life" when water was added.[6] Sales took an upswing when comic book illustrator Joe Orlando drew comic book advertisements 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]
  • Crazy Crabs, which were simply hermit crabs.
  • Amazing Hair-Raising Monsters, a card with a printed monster that would grow "hair" (actually mineral crystals) when water was added.
  • Invisible Goldfish, imaginary fish that were guaranteed to remain permanently invisible.

Braunhut also raced motorcycles under the name "The Green Hornet", and managed a showman (Henry Lamore or Henri LaMothe) 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] and the mentalist The great Dunninger.[7] Braunhut also set up a wildlife conservation area[8] 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.[4] 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."[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Evan Hughes (June 28, 2011). "The Shocking True Tale Of The Mad Genius Who Invented Sea-Monkeys". The Awl.
  2. ^ a b Douglas Martin (December 21, 2003). "Harold von Braunhut, Seller Of Sea Monkeys, Dies at 77". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune". The New York Times Magazine. April 15, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Eugene L. Meyer (April 25, 1988). "Contrasts of a Private Persona". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b "Harold von Braunhut". The Daily Telegraph. December 24, 2003.
  6. ^ Harold N. Braunhut, Method and Materials Used for Hatching Brine Shrimp. U.S. Patent 3,673,986. 1972.
  7. ^ Brott, Tamar (October 1, 2000). "The Sea Monkeys and the White Supremacist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  8. ^ Zeises, Lara (July 21, 1997). "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 environmental awareness. [sic]". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  9. ^ Brott, Tamar (October 1, 2000). "The Sea Monkeys and the White Supremacist". Los Angeles Times.