Congratulations, Mr. Peanut

Published 10:43 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

Some politicians would sell their grandmothers for the kind of name and face recognition this particular Suffolk gentleman has. He’s handsome, debonair and charming. Even at 90 years old, he still gets around as well as he did at 30, and he looks just as good as ever.

It’s Mr. Peanut, and his historical value to the city of Suffolk has finally been acknowledged. Last month, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources approved a new historical marker for the Hall Place neighborhood, where the monocled maven of Planters Nuts was born in 1918.

The sign acknowledges the work of 12-year-old Antonio Gentile, who lived in the neighborhood with his family and responded to a contest sponsored by Planters’ owner, Amedeo Obici, by drawing a peanut with arms and legs and giving his character the immortal —though somewhat obvious — name, “Mr. Peanut.”

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A graphic artist later added the trademark top hat, monocle, cane and spats, and the dapper goober known all over the world was launched into a wildly successful advertising career. Considering just how out-of-date his duds are in 2008, Mr. Peanut’s continued popularity as an advertising icon is a testament both to the universal appeal of the original idea and to the smart use of the character over the years by the Planters brand.

The city of Suffolk is justifiably proud to call Mr. Peanut a native. Honoring his creator is an effort that is long overdue.