Amedeo Obici arrived in the United States from Italy in the late 19th century when he was 11 years old. After several years working as a bellhop and fruit vendor in Scranton, Pa., he moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and began operating a horse-drawn fruit cart. Obici invested in a peanut roaster which he would eventually use to develop a method of blanching and roasting peanuts, while also removing the shells. His business prospered and Obici soon began calling himself the “Peanut Specialist”. In 1906 he partnered with his friend, Mario Peruzzi, and Planters Peanut Co. was born. The partners chose the name “Planters” because they believed the moniker sounded dignified. Two years later, the company expanded and was officially incorporated as Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. In 1913, Planters opened its first mass-production plant in Suffolk, Va.
This week’s Pennsylvania Treasure, selected by CAP Curator Katelyn Adam, is a Planters Peanut canister capable of holding 10 pounds of peanuts. This container, featured in Pennsylvania Icons, offers two clues as to its age, likely 1915. First, the well-known Mr. Peanut logo remains noticeably absent from the canister. In addition, the container includes the phrase, “guaranteed absolutely pure by The Planters of Wilkes-Barre, PA”. Later canisters make reference to the plant in Suffolk, Va.
Planters introduced Mr. Peanut, its familiar and beloved mascot, in 1916, after a 14-year-old boy submitted a drawing of a peanut with human characteristics to a design-a-logo contest. A commercial artist later added the hallmark top hat and monocle to help the anthropomorphic Mr. Peanut appear more elegant. Mr. Peanut soon became synonymous with Planters and one of the most widely recognized characters in American advertising. The State Museum of Pennsylvania acquired three pieces of Mr. Peanut memorabilia, including this canister, and all are currently on exhibit in Pennsylvania Icons. These artifacts include a metal ash tray and a set of plastic salt and pepper shakers made in the 1950s to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Planters.
About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.