COMIC LEGEND: A thirteen year old designed Mr. Peanut.
One of THE most iconic advertising mascots is Planters Peanuts' Mr. Peanut...
Planters was founded in Pennsylvania in 1906 by an Italian immigrant named Amedeo Obici. In 1913, the company opened their first mass production center in Suffolk, Virginia. There weren't exactly a ton of Italian-Americans in that area of Virginia at the time, so they all tended to stick together, even if they were coming from vastly different stations in life. That was the case with Obici and the Gentile family, who had moved to the area a few years earlier from Philadelphia for the father to pursue a career in tailoring. Obici and his wife would often host the Gentile family on their farm and he had a strong relationship with Antonio Gentile, one of the boys in the family.
In 1916, at the age of 13, Gentile gave a series of drawings to Obici for which Obici paid him $5. It is possible that these were Gentile's entry in some sort of contest (the official history of Planters says that it was for a contest) but I don't know for sure that there ever WAS a contest, all I know is that Gentile drew an anthropomorphic peanut and Obici gave him $5 for it.
Staff artist Frank P. Krize added the top hat and the monocle and thus, Mr. Peanut was born!
The character made its commercial debut in the April 20, 1918 issue of the Saturday Evening Post and was an instant success...
Obici paid Gentile's way through medical school, and Gentile became a surgeon. Tragically, Gentile died when he was just 36 years old.
Well, besides the tragic early death for Gentile, that's a very nice story, don't you think?
Okay, that's it for this week!
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