Amedeo Obici: Italian of the Week

6574154_origOn July 15, 1877, Amedeo Obici was born in Oderzo, Veneto, Italy to Pietro and Luigia. His father died shortly thereafter, leaving behind his wife, two sons and two daughters. In 1888, Amedeo’s uncle invited him to live with his family in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Amedeo sailed from France to New York a year later. He was unable to speak any English, and his destination (Scranton) was scrawled on a piece of paper that was attached to his coat. When he arrived in Brooklyn he took a train towards his new home, but was misdirected and ended up in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Eventually he found his way to his uncle, but would later return to this temporary home to work and learn English.

When he was just 18, Amedeo had saved enough money to purchase a peanut roaster and to start his own fruit stand. He called himself “The Peanut Specialist.” His new method of blanching the peanuts – which removed the husk and skins – proved to be a hit with his customers. In 1906, he joined fellow Italian American Mario Peruzzi to start a new company: Planters Peanut Company. The company quickly grew. Eight years after starting, Amedeo built the first Planters manufacturing plant in Suffolk, Virgina, and he and his wife, Louise, relocated to the southern state. In 1916, Amedeo held a contest for students in Suffolk to create a new mascot for his peanut company. Italian American Antonio Gentile submitted a drawing of a peanut with arms, legs and a face doing various activities including singing, serving peanuts and riding a horse. His design won and Mr. Peanut was born.

950447462In 1924, Amedeo and Louise purchased and renovated Bay Point Farms Estate. The 1870s dwelling was rebuilt to mimic an Italian Renaissance style home that included a dairy farm, which became a hobby for the two. After his wife’s death in 1938, Amedeo formed a corporation and funded a large endowment for a hospital to be built in Suffolk in her memory. During this time, he continued to be an integral part in the Planters Company. His unique marketing plans and the addition of new products to the Planters product line continued to ensure his (and the company’s) success. He also continued to live on the dairy farm and raise his prized Guernsey cows until he passed away in 1947. Amedeo left a large trust that continues to fund various philanthropic efforts in Suffolk and Oderzo.

Sources: Planters: Official History; Obici Healthcare Foundation; Visit Suffolk: Hometown Legends; Suffolk News Herald

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