R.I.P. Inventor Gary Dahl

Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock, Dies at 78

It was a craze to rival the Hula-Hoop, and even less explicable. For a mere three dollars and 95 cents, a consumer could buy … a rock — a plain, ordinary, egg-shaped rock of the kind one could dig up in almost any backyard.

The wonder of it was, for a few frenzied months in 1975, more than a million consumers did, becoming the proud if slightly abashed owners of Pet Rocks, the fad that Newsweek later called “one of the most ridiculously successful marketing schemes ever.”

Gary Dahl, the man behind that scheme — described variously as a marketing genius and a genial mountebank — died on March 23 at 78. A down-at-the-heels advertising copywriter when he hit on the idea, he originally meant it as a joke. But the concept of a “pet” that required no actual work and no real commitment resonated perfectly with the self-indulgent ’70s, and before long a cultural phenomenon was born.

It was as unbelievable now as it was back then when it happened.

Rest in peace.



Filed under R.I.P.

2 responses to “R.I.P. Inventor Gary Dahl

  1. Ric Day

    Around the same time the Pet Rock became a weird craze, a guy I knew in Hong Kong purchased 2 acres of unusable land from a Chinese farmer up near the China border, had some fancy deeds of sale printed, and started selling the land for US$100 for a square inch (the company was called the Hong Kong Square Inch Land Company). Got himself some free publicity in the US and Europe. Sold all the land. Retired with more than $9 million in the bank.

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