Harold von Braunhut
Harold von Braunhut
Harold Nathan Braunhut
March 31, 1926
|Died||November 28, 2003 (aged 77)|
Indian Head, Maryland, U.S.
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, 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 report in The Washington Post, 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 and so he could distance himself from his Jewish family.
Braunhut used comic book advertisements to sell an assortment of products, many of which were misleadingly advertised. He held 195 patents for various products, many of which have become cultural icons, including:
- 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. 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.
- 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 sold with a handbook, fish food and a glass bowl, 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, and the mentalist The great Dunninger. Braunhut also set up a wildlife conservation area in Maryland.
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. “Hendrik von Braun" operated an organization calling itself the "National Anti-Zionist Institute" from the same Bryans Road, Maryland address that von Braunhut used to sell Sea Monkey merchandise. 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."
Von Braunhut first married Charlotte Braunhut. His second marriage was to actress Yolanda Signorelli, who took an active role in marketing Sea-Monkeys. They 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.
- ^ a b c d Evan Hughes (June 28, 2011). "The Shocking True Tale Of The Mad Genius Who Invented Sea-Monkeys". The Awl. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- ^ a b Douglas Martin (December 21, 2003). "Harold von Braunhut, Seller Of Sea Monkeys, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 10, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- ^ "The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune". The New York Times Magazine. April 15, 2016. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
- ^ a b Eugene L. Meyer (April 25, 1988). "Contrasts of a Private Persona". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 13, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
- ^ a b "Harold von Braunhut". The Daily Telegraph. December 24, 2003. Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
- ^ Harold N. Braunhut, Method and Materials Used for Hatching Brine Shrimp. U.S. Patent 3,673,986. 1972.
- ^ Brott, Tamar (October 1, 2000). "The Sea Monkeys and the White Supremacist". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
- ^ 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. Archived from the original on June 3, 2020. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- ^ a b Brott, Tamar (October 1, 2000). "The Sea Monkeys and the White Supremacist". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 19, 2022. Retrieved July 7, 2018.