Design Evolution: Mr. Peanut
 

Design Evolution: Mr. Peanut

 
Heather Taylor

Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe has always been one dapper peanut-about-town. That's the full name for Mr. Peanut, by the way, and while most fans of the Planters icon may be unfamiliar with his formal name, his unforgettable fashion sense is what sets him apart from all the other nuts in the crowd.

In a nutshell, his wardrobe staples include a top hat, cane, monocle, gloves, and spats, all of which have been present in his character advertising since the early 1900s. Over the decades, seemingly the biggest alterations have been made to his shell with only minor tune-ups necessary for his accompanying accessories. In honor of National Peanut Month, let’s take a stroll down memory lane with this charming gent and reminisce over his greatest style hits.

In 1916, Planters held a contest seeking original designs for their first brand icon. Antonio Gentile, a 14-year-old schoolboy in Suffolk, VA, was named the winner with his rough sketch of a peanut. A commercial artist at ad agency J. Walter Thompson helped polish up the image by adding in a top hat, signature monocle, and a cane. Two years later, Mr. Peanut would make a sterling debut in the Saturday Evening Post as the first roasted nut ever advertised.

An immediate fan favorite, Mr. Peanut made the leap to appearing on all Planters packaging including containers and product displays. Over the course of the next 30 years, Mr. Peanut would be featured on billboards (1937), TV commercials (beginning in 1950), and become a star attraction at the New York World’s Fair (1961-1965) on behalf of Planters.

Throughout the nearly 50 years that passed during this time, Mr. Peanut’s shell would be designed to become much fuller. He traded in black and white sketches for color ones in the 1930s and got his name etched proudly on his top hat.

The 1970s through 1990s saw the debut of a jaunty Mr. Peanut, one who tipped his hat and tap-danced his way through commercial spots into the hearts of Planters fans everywhere. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 1991 appearing in a new ad campaign as a fully three-dimensional animated figure. And forty years later in 1998, Mr. Peanut would be back on the billboard — this time in Times Square with a flashy board that blinked neon lights and included a three-dimensional can of Planters nuts that tipped up and down.

Over the course of the last two decades, Mr. Peanut has been keeping busy as a nut mogul. He joined our very own Madison Avenue Walk of Fame in 2004, prepped supper with a slew of famous mascots for MasterCard in 2005, and celebrated 100 years of Fresh Taste in 2006. And his shell continues to brighten up too, with Mr. Peanut growing much more goldenrod in shade since 2004.

Perhaps the biggest milestone of all was in 2010: when Mr. Peanut spoke his first words! Robert Downey Jr. provided Mr. Peanut’s first vocal chops until 2013 when Bill Hader became his new voice. And just last year, Mr. Peanut celebrated his 100th birthday on Good Morning America in Times Square. Cheers to your upcoming 101st birthday, Mr. Peanut! We hope it’s all that it’s cracked up to be.

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