Mario Peruzzi, circa 1935
|Born||September 8, 1875|
|Died||December 10, 1955(aged 80)|
|Occupation||Businessman and manufacturer|
|Known for||Co-founder and president of the Planters Peanut Company|
Mario Peruzzi (September 8, 1875 – December 10, 1955) was an Italian-born American businessman and manufacturer. His business career at the beginning consisted of managing wholesale merchandise of various groceries and confectioneries. His key role in his working career was in marketing of products, so was associated with sales management all his life.
Peruzzi was on the board of directors of several companies in the role as an executive officer or president. He was key officer in several civil organizations that played a role in the economy and commerce in the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Peruzzi was the co-founder and president of the Planters Peanut Company that became popular nationwide through the logo and mascot of Mr. Peanut.
Peruzzi was born September 8, 1875, in Treviso, Italy. His parents were Angelo and Elvira (Morlachi) Peruzzi. His father was an Italian Baptist minister. He had three siblings, Eleanor, Arnold, and Irma. As a child Peruzzi attended public schools in Treviso and the Venice Industrial School. Peruzzi began his working career in a bookstore in Rome at the age of twelve. After several months in the book store, he got employment at a large department store in Rome and worked there for six years ultimately being promoted to assistant bookkeeper.
Mid-life and career
Peruzzi, at the age of nineteen in 1894, emigrated to the United States with his father. They first went to New York City and later settled in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where the younger Peruzzi got work as a janitor. After about four months at this job, he obtained work at a wholesale company that imported various groceries. In 1896 he left the import company and moved to Scranton and got employment as manager for the confectionery department at the C.P. Wentz Company. At this time he got acquainted with twenty-year-old Amedeo Obici, another Italian-American immigrant. Obici sold snacks and roasted peanuts.
In 1905 Obici devised better ways of selling of peanuts as a food for people. Prior to this it was considered basically animal feed or food for the very poor—hence the term "peanut gallery". Obici added the name "Planters" to his peanut company, to elevate the perceived quality of the product. It suggested an aristocratic status for peanuts as a desirable food. In 1906 Obici and Peruzzi founded with six employees the Planters Peanut Company in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The company started with a few crude roasters for blanched skinless peanuts that were operated by relatives. The firm incorporated in 1907 with Obici as president of the company and Peruzzi as the secretary-treasurer and sales manager.
They ran the business from 1908 at their headquarters on South Main Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The company started merchandising in 1910 their peanuts in semi-transparent bags to enhance freshness. It became successful and by 1911 entered then into the confectionery business as well. The firm then became Planters Nut and Chocolate Company. In 1913 a new plant was built in Suffolk, Virginia where peanuts were grown. Obici and his wife eventually moved there permanently in 1924. Peruzzi remained in Wilkes-Barre as the general manager and secretary-treasurer of the firm. In time he became vice-president of the firm and later its president. The firm took on the name Planters Peanuts, appropriating the idea from the Virginia peanut planters.
The Mr. Peanut mascot developed from a promotional contest launched by the firm in 1916 to come up with a trademark. A 14-year-old boy, Antonio Gentile, won the contest with his sketch of a peanut with a smiling visage. The grade-school student labeled his sketch, Mr. P. Nut Planter From Virginia. The sketch of smiling Mr. Peanut was an in-shell peanut that had arms and legs and carried a cane. This winning sketch was given to a commercial artist to improve. To make the figure look more aristocratic, he added a silk top hat, monocle, white gloves, and a pair of black and white shoes to the original boy's sketch. This new 1917 sketch was featured in advertising and packaging. The black and white sketch has since been developed into the yellow logo familiar across the United States today.
Mr. Peanut's Twitter account in January 2020 reported that he died at 104 when he was killed by crashing his NUTmobile. From then on there was no further usage of the Mr. Peanut character logo in advertising and other symbols were then used for the products the company sold. A historical marker plaque was erected in 2007 at the site where the company started with Peruzzi and Obici in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The Luzerne County Historical Society on South Franklin Street has developed at their museum a gallery of pictures labeled a "Wonderful Story of Planters Peanuts" that is on display to the public for a fee. The site of the world's first peanut museum that used Mr. Peanut as its basis is at Suffolk, Virginia.
Peruzzi was an executive of the Miners National Bank of Wilkes-Barre for twenty years prior to his resignation from the board in 1949. Peruzzi was also president of Planters Edible Oil Company and National Peanut Corporation during this time. He was also an officer of Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre for a few years. He was associated with the Wilkes-Barre-Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Italo-American Citizens club, the Wilkes-Barre Lodge Elks club, and various local Rotary clubs while living in the area.
Peruzzi married twice. His first wife was Mary McCarthy and they were married in 1897 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. They had two children: Mario and Rita. His first wife died in 1910. He married his second wife, Elizabeth Obici, in 1920 at Crystal Lake, Pennsylvania. She was the sister to his business partner. They lived at an opulent home in the community of Pine View Mountain Top, about eleven miles south of Wilkes-Barre. They often entertained with social parties and charity events at their spacious property. He and his wife often went traveling on long voyages. One was a two-month trip they took in 1949 from New York City to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal on the then commercial passenger ship USS President Monroe. Another was a six-month trip around the world they took in 1934.
Peruzzi became president of Planters Nut and Chocolate Company upon the death of Obici in 1947. At this time the company had 5,000 employees with factories in Suffolk, Virginia, San Francisco, California, and Toronto, Canada. It made 100,000,000 pounds of roasted peanuts annually with $60,000,000 in sales. The enterprise originally started with the two brothers-in-law selling roasted peanuts by the bag full from a pushcart on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre. One of their early advertising campaigns was selling the 5-cent lunch, as their bag of peanuts cost just five cents. The firm grew to over 8,000 employees by the 1950s. Peruzzi continued to be its president until his death on December 10, 1955.
- IRB 1948, p. 3726.
- "Mario Peruzzi rites Tuesday". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. December 12, 1955. p. 3 – via newspapers.com .
- "Elvira Peruzzi dies at age of 91". The Wilkes-Barre Record. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. July 30, 1942. p. 18 – via newspapers.com .
- "Mario Peruzzi, 80, Nut Co. Head, Dies". The Times-Tribune. Scranton, Pennsylvania. December 12, 1955. p. 1 – via newspapers.com .
- White 1967, p. 516.
- Vigo 1945, p. 281.
- Smith 2002, p. 50.
- "Co-Founder of Peanut Company Dead". Standard-Sentinel. Hazleton, Pennsylvania. December 12, 1955. p. 14 – via newspapers.com .
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- "Wilkes-Barre and Suffolk are Nation's Peanut Centers". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. October 18, 1940. p. 9 – via newspapers.com .
- "Remembering Mr. Peanut". Citizens' Voice. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. February 1, 2006. p. 29 – via newspapers.com .
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- "Planters past & present". Citizen's Voice. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. March 29, 2012. p. C9 – via newspapers.com .
- "Unusual Career Ends". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. May 22, 1947. p. 2 – via newspapers.com .
- "A Penna. Story". The Valley Times-Star. Newville, Pennsylvania. April 30, 1947. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com .
- Hines 2009, pp. 94–95.
- "Get to Know Planters through the years". Planters Peannuts. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
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- Bill O'Botle (September 21, 2007). "Planters plaque to be dedicated". The Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com .
- Kristen Gaydos (March 30, 2012). "An empire built on a nutty idea". The Times-Tribune. Scranton, Pennsylvania. p. C1 – via Newspapers.com .
- Kristen Gaydos (March 26, 2005). "Collectors may go nuts for Mr. Peanut memorabilia". The Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. p. 48 – via Newspapers.com .
- "Mario Peruzzi, Head of Planters, Dies". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. December 10, 1955. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com .
- "Mario Peruzzi, Sr., Dies at 80". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. December 11, 1955. p. 32 – via Newspapers.com .
- "Personals". Wilkes-Barre Record. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. October 16, 1937. p. 10 – via newspapers.com .
- "Peruzzis Entertain Rotarians and Wives". The Evening News. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. July 29, 1931. p. 18 – via newspapers.com .
- "Rotary Women are entertained at Garden Party". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. July 8, 1938. p. 19 – via newspapers.com .
- "Room for Crippled Children Objective of Benefit Party". The Wilkes-Barre Record. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. September 2, 1949. p. 11 – via newspapers.com .
- "Personals 4 Feb 1949". Wilkes-Barre Record. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. February 4, 1949. p. 10 – via newspapers.com .
- "Social and Personals 19 Dec 1934". The Evening News. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. December 19, 1934. p. 24 – via newspapers.com .
- "Peruzzi is named head of Planters". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. October 28, 1947. p. 3 – via newspapers.com .
- "Rags-to-Riches Saga ends for Peanut King". Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, Mississippi. May 23, 1947. p. 16 – via newspapers.com .
- "Obici built big Business; had 70 stores". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. May 22, 1947. p. 4 – via newspapers.com .
- "A Penna. Story". The Valley Times-Star. Newville, Pennsylvania. April 30, 1947. p. 3 – via newspapers.com .
- "Preserving our local history". Citizens' Voice. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. March 6, 2012. p. T14 – via newspapers.com .
- "Obici and his Mr. Peanut mascot". Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. May 22, 1947. p. 5 – via newspapers.com .
- Hines, Emilee (November 30, 2009). It Happened in Virginia... Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 978-1-4617-4743-7.
- IRB (1948). World Biography. 2. Research in Biography Inst. OCLC 821725957.
- Smith, Andrew F. (2002). Peanuts - The Illustrious History of the Goober Peanut. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252025532.
- White, J. T. (1967). Mario Peruzzi. National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. J. T. White. OCLC 6879488.
- Vigo (1945). Italian-American Who's who. 10. Canada: Vigo Press. OCLC 516314043.