Historic Planters Peanuts

     ...and Mr. Peanut at 134 S. Main Street


Planters Peanuts was founded in 1906 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  In 1916 the company held a contest to create a company logo.  A 14 year old boy, named
Antonio Gentile, won the contest, and $5 for his drawing of a peanut man with a cane.  A Planter's artist later added spats, a top hat, and a monocle to the drawing.  Would you believe Mr. Peanut has a name?  Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.  By the mid 1930s he had become so familiar that he symbolized the entire peanut industry.  He is now one of the best-known icons in advertising history.

Planters Peanuts opened a shop in Memphis at 134 S. Main, next to the Strand Theatre.  For years it roasted its own peanuts daily in an antique roaster which was in the shape fo a giant Mr. Peanut.  Sadly this section of Main Street, and the Strand Theatre have been demolished, but Mr. Peanut and the antique roaster continue their business at "The Peanut Shoppe", 24 S. Main Street, next to the Wm Len Hotel (Marriott Residence Inn). 


"You could always smell the aroma of roasting nuts when you got near Planter's Peanuts.  As you approached the store window you heard a "tap, tap, tap".  It was a small mechanical version of Mr. Peanut, whose cane tapped on a 50 cent coin glued to the front window.  The real Mr. Peanut was on the street nearby passing out samples to anyone who held out their hand"
.  - 
Gene Gill, 1951

"Yes, I remember this guy (I guess it was a guy) out on the sidewalk by the Loew's State Theater.  The aroma in that area was wonderful.  Once I bought a half-pound of cashews at that store and ate them all during the movie.  I felt pretty sick afterwards but really enjoyed them while I was eating them".   - Bob Mann, 1945



The Peanut Shoppe is now at 24 S. Main with the original Peanut roaster in the shop ...






Today ...

Can you smell them?

Tap!  Tap!..


Some vintage photos above show the original Planters Peanuts next to  the Strand Theatre.  By the mid 60's the Strand  had begun showing "Porn", and the building was demolished in 1975.   Planters moved to 24 S. Main and became The Peanut Shoppe, and it's still  in business.



Antonio Gentile? 

He went on to become an eagle scout and graduate in 1920 as Valedictorian of his high school class,  He then went to medical school for specialized obstetrical surgical study.  After graduation he became one of the youngest surgeons admitted as a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons.  In 1938 he married but sadly passed away a year later from a heart attack, while on duty at the hospital.   His original Mr. Peanut drawings are now in the Smithsonian Museum Collection.  Below are photos of the original drawings.


Antonio Gentile's original Mr. Peanut designs

Original and Final

Vintage ad






Planter's Peanuts on Summer Avenue ...

"Recently, a long time friend, Dave French and I have been reminiscing about favorite places from our youth.  The Peanut Shoppe on Summer Avenue came to mind.  Built in 1959, it was located next to the 1st McDonald’s built in Memphis".  

"On Saturday's, we would all pile up into the family’s blue & white, Chevy station wagon and drive to the Peanut Shoppe.  Back then there were no seat belts, so we would sit in the back, with the back window up, and wave to cars behind us.  As we pulled up to the shop, you could smell peanuts roasting and were greeted by “Mr. Peanut” himself, a tall peanut shaped figure in a top hat, monocle and cane".   - Maureen Thoni White and Dave French, 1969

Note:   This shop is still located at 4305 Summer Av.  It opened in 1959 as a Planters Peanut Shop.  In 1961 Planters decided to get out of retail and most of these shops started going by the name of "Peanut Shoppe".  This building is still basically intact, inside and out, but the giant neon sign with Mr. Peanut is gone. 


Peanut Shoppe

Original Sign

Mr. Peanut

Mr. Peanut



  Peanuts and McDonald's

"We used to love to walk to the Peanut Shoppe on Summer Avenue on Saturdays. There was always a man dressed up as Mr. Planter Peanut, and he would give out samples.  We would pay a nickle for a ride on the mechanical horse. The first McDonald's in Memphis was just right next door. The building is still there, and you can see the "arches" that made the front of the glass building, that is now a used car place.  If you took your report card to the McDonald's with straight A's, you would get a free burger"!

- Deena Spuryer





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