A nutty exhibit

Published 11:04 pm Friday, September 13, 2013

Old candy bars and nuts still in their packaging are among the many items featured in the exhibit.

Old candy bars and nuts still in their packaging are among the many items featured in the exhibit.

Hundreds of Mr. Peanut images have invaded the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts’ galleries from today through Nov. 2.

In homage to the 100th anniversary of Planters Peanuts’ presence in Suffolk, the center is hosting a double-gallery exhibit filled with all things Planters, including Mr. Peanuts ranging from half an inch to 10 feet tall.

One gallery features flat art, including photos of company founder Amedeo Obici, who moved the processing operations of his young company here from Pennsylvania in 1913.

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The other gallery contains all manner of Planters marketing tools, company miscellany, product containers through the years and more.

A Mr. Peanut “roaster rider” made of papier-mâché is among the features at an exhibit running this fall at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts celebrating the 100th anniversary of Planters in Suffolk.

A Mr. Peanut “roaster rider” made of papier-mâché is among the features at an exhibit running this fall at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts celebrating the 100th anniversary of Planters in Suffolk.

The exhibit was assembled from the private collections of five Planters memorabilia hobbyists from up and down the East Coast, curator Nancy Kinzinger said.

“For these people, it’s a passion,” she said. “The collectors are very knowledgeable about this.”

The wide variety of items includes shirts, company currency that was used at the plant store here in Suffolk, advertising signs, marketing gimmicks, branded dishes used at the Planters Club and company functions, old products still in their packaging, children’s toys, baby rattles, cookie cutters, clocks, spoons, pencil boxes, toothbrushes and more — with nearly every item bearing the dapper image of Mr. Peanut.

“He was an advertising genius,” Kinzinger said of Obici. “When you look at the history of advertising, you can really see it in an exhibit like this. You can see the kinds of things people responded to.”

The fun-loving personality of Obici can be seen in items such as the “roaster rider” — a papier-mâché Mr. Peanut who holds on to the top of a peanut roaster.

Some of the rarest items go back nearly 100 years, including paper cones in which peanuts were sold and paper measuring cups used to dole them out to customers.

On Oct. 19, the peanut madness in the center gets even nuttier, as the Peanut Pals collectors’ group holds its swap meet at the center. The event is open to the public.

Center Executive Director Jackie Cherry said she believes the original drawing done by Suffolk boy Antonio Gentile, who won a contest to design the advertising icon for Planters by drawing Mr. Peanut, will be on display at the swap meet.

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Call 923-0003 for more information.