Milton Levine

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Milton Martin Levine (November 3, 1913 – January 16, 2011) was an American entrepreneur who was the co-founder of Uncle Milton Toys.


He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 3, 1913, to Harry and Mary Levine. As a young boy, Levine collected ants in a jar at his uncle's farm in Pennsylvania.

During World War II, he served in the European Theatre where his engineer unit built bridges in France and Germany.[1] While in France, he met his future wife Mauricette Schneider, a citizen of the country, and they married in 1945. With his wife, he fathered one son and two daughters, all of whom he eventually put through college with the proceeds from his business.[2][3]

After the war he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law E. Joseph Cossman and entered the then-new world of plastic and the toy industry that was predicted as a growth industry. The duo made arrangements with Nosco Plastics, a division of National Organ Supply, that also manufactured the plastic prizes in Cracker Jack to make flat toy soldiers for mail order that they advertised originally as "100 Toy Soldiers for $1" (later $1.25) that was advertised in nearly every American comic book of the time.[4]

Levine and Cossman also successfully mass marketed the potato gun,[5] toy shrunken heads[6] to hang from car rear view mirrors and balloon animals.[7]

In 1956 while at a Fourth of July picnic at his sister's pool, he spotted a mound of ants. This inspired him to found Uncle Milton's Toys, which is best known for its Uncle Milton's Ant Farm. After recalling his collection of ants as a kid, he said, "We should make an antarium." The original ant farms were sold for $1.29 and were contained in a six by nine-inch ant farm. Business boomed after advertisements on after school programs prompted thousands of shipments a week. Levine thought of the name of the company by saying "Someone said that if I've got all these ants, then I must be the uncle."

After the child bought the ant farm, they had to mail a request for a shipment of 25 ants, which arrived in a vial a few weeks later. The ants contained in the farm are the species Pogonomyrmex californicus, an ant native to the southwestern US. At the time of his death, over 20 million units were sold, with a growth rate of 30,000 a month. He once said about the success of his business in 1991: "Most novelties, if they last one season, it’s a lot. If they last two seasons, it’s a phenomenon. To last 35 years is unheard of."[2][3]

Levine died of natural causes on January 16, 2011, in Thousand Oaks, California, at the age of 97.[2]


  • Uncle Milton's Ant Facts and Fantasies (1970)
  • How I Made $1,000,000 in Mail Order-and You Can Too! (1993)


  1. ^ Milton Levine opened children's eyes to wonders of nature. (1913-11-03). Retrieved on 2011-02-02.
  2. ^ a b c Hevesi, Dennis (January 29, 2011). "Milton M. Levine, 97, Inventor of Ant Farm, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b Lukas, Paul (November 1, 2011). "King of the Hill How Milton Levine transcended toy fads with his Ant Farms". CNN. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  4. ^ Acree, Dan. (2010-07-19) 100 Toy Soldiers for $1.25 | Texoma Living! Monthly magazine. Retrieved on 2011-02-02.
  5. ^ E.J. Cossman, 84; Ant Farm, Spud Gun Made Him Fortune – Los Angeles Times. (2002-12-19). Retrieved on 2011-02-02.
  6. ^ Gunther, Max Instant Millionaires: The Secrets of Overnight Success Harriman House Limited, p.172
  7. ^ Walsh, Tim Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them Andrews McMeel Publishing, pp.124–127

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