Suffolk, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Planters Nut and Chocolate Company, based in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, established a peanut processing factory in Suffolk in 1913. Amedeo Obici, the company’s co-founder, moved to Suffolk and in 1916 sponsored a contest to develop a mascot for Planters. Antonio Gentile, an Italian-American schoolboy who lived with his family in this Hall Place neighborhood, submitted the winning drawing, a peanut with arms, legs, and a cane labeled “Mr. P. Nut Planter.” The character, refined by a commercial artist, began appearing in advertisements by 1917. Mr. Peanut is among the most widely recognized advertising icons in the United States.
Erected 2016 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number K-269.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1916.
Location. 36° 43.568′ N, 76° 35.022′ W. Marker is in Suffolk, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Hall AvenueTouch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Suffolk VA 23434, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. President's Days Plaque (approx. 0.2 miles away); Old City Hall Bell (approx. 0.2 miles away); Obici-Oderzo Fountain Marker (approx. 0.2 miles away); Booker T. Washington High School (approx. ¼ mile away); Safe Haven (approx. half a mile away); Oak Lawn Cemetery (approx. half a mile away); World War II Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away); Korea and Vietnam Wars Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Suffolk.
Regarding Mr. Peanut. The Hall Place neighborhood is adjacent to the Planters factory and its facilities. A statue of Mr. Peanut is a short distance away from this marker, across the railroad tracks, in downtown Suffolk (see photo No. 4).
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .
1. Mr. Peanut Goes to the Smithsonian. Article in The History Blog. Excerpt:
This inspired the young Amedeo to get a fruit(Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia.)
2. Planters Company History in Suffolk Virginia. 2006 article by Sam Savage originally published in The Virginia-Pilot., Excerpt:
 was a heady time in the peanut boomtown. Peanuts were the dominant cash crop. They were grown, harvested, sorted, stripped of their shells and skin, salted, vacuum-packed, covered in chocolate and pressed into oil and peanut butter. The city was loaded with peanut operations — farmers, pickers, shellers and processors. A Suffolk radio station, on the air until the mid-1990s, had the call(Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia.)
3. Mr. Peanut and Antonio Gentile. 2014 article by Kathleen Franz in the magazine Smithsonian. Excerpt:
In 1916, Planters Nut and Chocolate Company ran a contest for a trademark. Antonio Gentile, a resident of Suffolk, Virginia, the peanut-growing capital of the state, began sketching possible entries for the contest. He drew a friendly, humanized peanut tumbling, serving nuts, and walking with a dignified cane.(Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia.)
4. Planters brings Mr. Peanut back to life in Super Bowl commercial. The Planters Company killed off its mascot in a Super Bowl commercial in 2020 and brought him back a few weeks later. This article is by Drew Weisholtz in NBC’s Today’s website. You can watch the 30 second commercial here, and there is a link to an article about his death, which includes that commercial. Excerpt:
In the Super Bowl commercial, [Wesley] Snipes is speaking at the character’s funeral, which is attended by several commercial icons, including Mr. Clean and the Kool-Aid Man, who sheds a tear(Submitted on June 6, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.)
1. A Bit of This Historical Marker’s History
On November 9, 2016, when the “Mr. Peanut” marker was submitted to this database, the year 2008 imprinted below its inscription, was recorded as the erection date. Subsequent additional research, however, revealed that that date is historically incorrect. “Mr. Peanut” was actually erected in 2016, probably near the end of September.
The eight-year discrepancy is seemingly due to the fact that a similar commemorative marker was produced in 2008. That marker, “Mr. Peanut-World Icon,” according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR), was approved but never erected because its sponsorship fell through. Nevertheless, there exists, as of December 15, 2016, two images of a Mr. Peanut icon marker in media circulation.
Both images are linked to 2008 as a DHR year of approval. Their inscriptions, however, contain variances. See the photo No. 8 of “Mr. Peanut-World
Most people, especially the ones who may visit the erected “Mr. Peanut” marker, will not necessarily know about this part of its history. But for those viewers who happen upon this database, an extra nibble to the “Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History” is here for them.
— Submitted December 16, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia.
2. Regarding some factual inaccuracies in the marker's text
Unfortunately, this historical marker is wrought with some factual inaccuracies that were never properly vetted by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Chief amongst these is the fact that at no time was a contest ever held by Amedeo Obici nor by Planters Nut and Chocolate Company in order to develop a mascot for the company, as Mr. Obici had already seen an anthropomorphic peanut as far back as 1902, in both Good Housekeeping and The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and he knew exactly what he wanted for his company. He just needed to own it as his own and not be sued for purloining someone else’s work.
To that end, he asked the young boy whom had known well, as he had weekly Sunday dinners at the Gentile home for many months before he married in 1916, to make some drawings of an anthropomorphic peanut
Initially, Krize turned to local artist Elmer Cecil Stoner, whose sole effort debuted in The Day, New London, Connecticut's daily on July 24, 1917. That single ad was met with Obici's resounding disapproval. Krize took over and another ad was printed on October 16, 1917, more to Obici’s liking and more familiar to the Mr. Peanut who would come later.
It is telling that, despite Gentile's contributions—however they might have been perceived by anyone—neither he nor his family thought much of the drawings, if anything at all. In 1939, when the young doctor died of a heart attack at the age of 36, in Newport News, the obituary penned by his family mentioned nothing about his role in the creation of one of the most iconic brand images in the world. In the Suffolk News-Herald, owned by Obici himself, the front page news story about Gentile's death, waxes eloquently about his high school honors and leadership, but not a word about Mr. Peanut.
A few years later, on October 27, 1942, in a special “200th Anniversary of Suffolk” edition of that same paper still owned by Obici, in a stand alone section devoted to Planters stated clearly “an employee created
The Gentile creation myth only arose well after both Gentile and Obici were long gone, and was itself the mythology of Theodore J. Locasio who was known for adlibbing things along the way.
— Submitted June 5, 2021, by Patrick Pierce of Suffolk, Virginia.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 9, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,098 times since then and 113 times this year. Last updated on December 16, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia. It was the Marker of the Week June 13, 2021. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on November 9, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia. 8. submitted on December 16, 2016, by Cynthia L. Clark of Suffolk, Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.