Sea Monkeys

Anyone in the vicinity of a comic book as a kid, was aware of those lovable Sea Monkeys. One look at the ads suggested evidence of evolved creatures, almost human, who lounged around their aquatic surroundings without a care. And if these depictions compelled you to adopt a family of your own, then you were also going to learn a little about marketing.

Sea Monkeys were the brainchild of a scientist named Harold von Braunhut. In 1957, he learned that the eggs of a certain type of brine shrimp could survive indefinitely without water. This made them easy to ship in the mail. Having watched the success of the ant farm a year earlier, he thought he might be able to sell these eggs under the name “instant life.” That moniker didn’t have enough zing though. Taking notice of the animals long tail, he eventually arrived at the name “Sea Monkeys,” which sounded like a lot more fun.

Enter Joe Orlando, an up-and-coming comic book artist, who was hired to create illustrations for a series of Sea Monkey comic book ads. His drawings envisioned a happy, nuclear family of Sea Monkeys, lounging in their undersea kingdom and looking as if they couldn’t wait to meet you. These drawings would help to sell literally millions of the aquatic critters.

Kids across America sent in their allowance, then paced for weeks by their mailbox. When the glorious day finally arrived, they would learn that it would be another 24 hours before meeting their sea friends. Okay, a minor setback but nothing insurmountable. Soon the would be marveling at, maybe even conversing with, their benevolent underwater pals. This was going to be great!

And, for some kids it was, as long as you weren’t expecting a life form that even remotely resembled those cheery faces in the comic book ad. No, Sea Monkeys were more like an underwater insect, with a see-through body and visible exoskeleton, rows of spidery legs, two freaky bug eyes, and a long tail. They didn’t smile, they didn’t lounge around, they just swam and mated.

More than a few kids learned a valuable lesson from Sea Monkeys. Things aren’t always as they appear, and advertisements aren’t always honest. But that’s not to say that Sea Monkeys weren’t fun. Once you got over the initial disappointment, it turned out to be pretty entertaining to watch them do their underwater thing, at least for a little while.

If you were ever the proud owner of Sea Monkeys, or just desperately wanted them, I hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories with all of us in the comments section below.

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8 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    Joe Orlando’s cartoon rendering of the sea monkey family freaked me out when I was a kid! The family looked absolutely hideous, even evil….. their weird “trident” heads made them look even worse.

    Now I can laugh about Joe Orland’s artwork, especially the way Mr. Sea Monkey’s tail covers his “private area”!! Do Brine shrimp have private areas to hide? I don’t think so! Definitely false advertisting.

  2. Caroline says:

    Ok, you have me addicted to your site… LOL Hmmmm… wondering if you have info about the “swimming” scuba divers where a pellet would be put in their back to swim to the surface of one’s pool. 🙂 And yes, I had sea monkeys and loved them. 🙂

    • 70sKid says:

      I loved those scuba divers! If I recall correctly, the pellets were made of baking powder. Thanks for suggesting them for the site; I might just have to look into those. 🙂 Thanks for the comments and glad we could get you “addicted.” 🙂

      • Caroline says:

        LOL and absolutely! Now off to look for 2XL (which I still have), Merlin, Microvision and Electronic Battleship 🙂

  3. Candee Sturniolo says:

    I had sea monkeys as a kid & on into my 30’s. I am no 59 yrs old & have a pink sea monkey bobblehead which I keep in my purse with my camera. Anytime I go anyplace new, I take a picture of her & then post it to FaceBook. My 20-yr old son hates it & continues to say horrible things like, “Mom, grow up!” But I love having my sea monkey bobblehead as a kind of travelogue. People (my age) comment on her picture. Friends even want their pictures taken with her. (Her name is Bitsy the Sea Monkey Bobblehead). Sea monkeys have meant fun for me since I was about 9 yrs old!

  4. Wayne B says:

    Does anyone remember ”Mexican Jumping beans”? They were always at the front counter of stores,displayed on a card and packaged in little clear pill-type boxes. I was always fascinated by them as a kid,never found out what made them jump. Maybe a little worm inside??

  5. Anonymous says:


  6. Alice says:

    Yes I bought sea monkeys from my grammer school fundraising sale. Even sent away for the little fish tank with the bubbled magnifying glass on it so you could see them. What a gimmick! That and pet rocks. Yup, us 70s kids were pretty gullible and advertisers could get away with anything. Should have saved the fish tank, could probably recoup my lost allowance on ebay 20 times over today.

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