Harold Nathan Braunhut aka Harold Von Braunhut (31 March 1926 - 28 November 2003) was an United States|American mail-order marketing|marketer and inventor, most famous as the creator and seller of both the Sea-Monkey|Amazing Sea-Monkeys and the X-Ray Specs (novelty)|X-Ray Specs. He is also known for holding extreme right-wing politics|right-wing beliefs.
Harold Von Braunhut was born in Memphis, Tennessee on 31 March 1926. Braunhut grew up in New York City and resided there until the 1980s, when he moved to Maryland.
Braunhut used comic book advertisements to sell an assortment of quirky products. Braunhut held 195 patents for various products, many of which became cultural icons. Some of his products included:
- X-Ray Specs (novelty)|X-Ray Specs - whose advertisements claim that the wearer can see through clothing and flesh. The product has appealed to generations of curious adolescent boys.
- Sea-Monkey|Amazing Sea-Monkeys - which were tiny brine shrimp that came to life when water was added. 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.
- Crazy Crabs - which were simply hermit crabs
- 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 raced motorcycles under the name "The Green Hornet", and managed a showman whose act consisted of diving 40 feet into a children's wading pool filled with only a foot of water. Von Braunhut also set up a in-situ conservation|wildlife conservation area in Maryland.
Braunhut subscribed to extreme right-wing beliefs. According to a report published by the Anti-Defamation League in 1996, he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. In 1998,Washington Post printed a story on Braunhut's political beliefs, documenting his support of Richard Girnt Butler|Richard Butler. It is interesting to note that Braunhut's relatives claimed he was Jewish. After the article's publication, Braunhut repeatedly declined to answer questions about his racial beliefs or his religious background.
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 28 November 2003 at his home in Indian Head, Maryland following an accidental fall. Braunhut's work was featured on the 22 April 2007 Not My Job segment of the NPR radio quiz show, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me.