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Amedeo Obici

Amedeo Obici

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Amedeo Obici was an Italian-American businessman who founded the Planters Peanut Company
Planters
Planters is an American snack food company, a division of Kraft Foods, best known for its processed nuts and for the Mr. Peanut icon that symbolizes them. Mr. Peanut was created by grade schooler Antonio Gentile for a 1916 contest to design the company's brand icon...

.

Childhood, emigrating to the United States


Amedeo Obici was born in Oderzo
Oderzo
Oderzo is a town and comune in the province of Treviso, Veneto, northern Italy.It lies in the heart of the Venetian plain, about 66 km to the northeast of Venice...

, Veneto
Veneto
Veneto is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Its population is about 5 million, ranking 5th in Italy.Veneto had been for more than a millennium an independent state, the Republic of Venice, until it was eventually annexed by Italy in 1866 after brief Austrian and French rule...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to Pietro Ludovico Obici and Luigia Carolina Sartori. His father died when Amedeo was seven years old, leaving behind his widow, young Amedeo, another son, Frank and two daughters.

In 1889, his mother's brother, Vittorio Sartori, invited him to come to the United States. The uncle, his wife and two children had earlier emigrated and lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Scranton is a city in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, United States. It is the county seat of Lackawanna County and the largest principal city in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area. Scranton had a population of 76,089 in 2010, according to the U.S...

.

Amedeo was unable to speak English. When he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 from Le Havre
Le Havre
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. Le Havre is the most populous commune in the Haute-Normandie region, although the total...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in March 1889, his destination was written on a label tied through a buttonhole on his coat. Upon arrival in Brooklyn, New York, he rode a train to Scranton. En route to Scranton, he was misdirected, and got off in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. The people in the train station took him to the fruit store owned by Enrico Musante and Enrico's daughter, Louise (whom he would later marry in 1916), as they too were Italian and could translate and assist.

While the Musantes worked to contact Amedeo's uncle, Vittorio Sartori, in Scranton, Amedeo stayed with the Musantes in Wilkes-Barre. Amedeo then went to stay with his Uncle in Scranton, but later returned to Wilkes-Barre, where he attended classes in the evening to learn English, and worked in the Musante fruit store.

Roasted peanuts as a snack food


When Amedeo returned to Wilkes-Barre, he worked at the Musante's fruit store, where they had a peanut roaster and a fan that blew the fragrance of the roasting peanuts out to the street to lure customers to buy fruit and peanuts. The time Amedeo spent with the Musantes inspired him to get his own peanut cart. Because roaster ovens were expensive, Amadeo made a rudimentary roaster from parts obtained at a local scrap yard.

To promote his peanut sales, Amedeo devised a promotion. He put one letter of his last name in each bag of peanuts, O, B, I, or C. He inserted only one letter "O" for every fifty bags, and the customers who got the bags with the letter "O" won a gold watch. The watch was an Ingersoll gold-colored watch, which he purchased for a dollar.

Amedeo saved his money, and in 1895, brought the rest of his family from Italy to the United States. With the remaining savings, he also was able to open his own fruit stand and peanut roaster.

Joining forces with Mario Peruzzi


Obici operated an eating-establishment which served oyster stew and roasted peanuts in a building in downtown Wilkes-Barre. There, in 1897, he teamed up with Mario Peruzzi, another Italian-American immigrant who was working for a wholesale grocer. Some time after Peruzzi's first wife died in 1910 (leaving two children), he married Obici's sister, "Lizzie".

Planters Peanuts


Obici and Peruzzi founded Planters Peanut Company
Planters
Planters is an American snack food company, a division of Kraft Foods, best known for its processed nuts and for the Mr. Peanut icon that symbolizes them. Mr. Peanut was created by grade schooler Antonio Gentile for a 1916 contest to design the company's brand icon...

 (unincorporated) in 1906 and incorporated it as Planters Nut and Chocolate Company in 1908. Planters owned four factories by 1930. Obici invented a new method of skinning and blanch
Blanch
Blanch or blanching may refer to:*Blanch , a temporary whitening of the skin due to transient ischemia*Blanching , cooking briefly in boiling water*Blanching , a method used to whiten metal...

ing peanuts so the roasted goobers came out clean.

In 1913, they built a new processing plant in the heart of peanut farming territory in Suffolk, Virginia
Suffolk, Virginia
Suffolk is the largest city by area in Virginia, United States, and is located in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 84,585. Its median household income was $57,546.-History:...

. Part of Obici's genius was in marketing and finding new products to add to Planter's stock.

Bay Point Farm, Obici Hospital


In 1924, Amedeo and Louise Obici moved to Virginia from Scranton and purchased the 253 acre (1 kmĀ²) Bay Point Farm located in the co on a bluff overlooking the Nansemond River
Nansemond River
The Nansemond River is a tributary of the James River in the U.S. state of Virginia. The Nansemond River Bridge crosses the river near its mouth. Both it and the former State Route 125 bridge, demolished in 2008, were once toll bridges. The river begins at the outlet of Lake Meade north of...

.

Louise and Amedeo Obici were unable to have children of their own, but they were active in holding frequent events for children of the community at their Bay Point Farm, and Louise's niece, also Louise Musante, lived with the Obicis from 1927 to 1930. Dairy farming was an avocation
Avocation
An avocation is an activity that one engages in as a hobby outside one's main occupation. There are many examples of people whose professions were the ways that they made their livings, but for whom their activities outside of their workplaces were their true passions in life...

 for Amedeo. He had a prized herd of Guernsey
Guernsey
Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.The Bailiwick, as a governing entity, embraces not only all 10 parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Herm, Jethou, Burhou, and Lihou and their islet...

 cows, and distributed Bay Point Dairy Farm milk in Suffolk.

Louise Obici died in 1938. Amedeo wanted to create a lasting memorial for her and by 1941 had settled on a hospital. In 1942, he formed a corporation, which was funded by a large endowment presented after his death. Amedeo continued to live at Bay Point Farm until he died in 1947, aged 69.

Although area has been reduced through sale, Bay Point Farm still includes the Obici's home overlooking the Nansemond River
Nansemond River
The Nansemond River is a tributary of the James River in the U.S. state of Virginia. The Nansemond River Bridge crosses the river near its mouth. Both it and the former State Route 125 bridge, demolished in 2008, were once toll bridges. The river begins at the outlet of Lake Meade north of...

 and some of the outbuildings, and currently belongs to the City of Suffolk. Bay Point Farm is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register
Virginia Landmarks Register
The Virginia Landmarks Register is a list of historic properties in the state of Virginia. The state's official list of important historic sites, it was created in 1966. The Register serves the same purpose as the National Register of Historic Places...

 and on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

.

Legacy


The generosity of Louise and Amedeo Obici to their adopted community and his workers left an indelible imprint in Suffolk and the surrounding community.

Among Amedeo Obici's legacy in the Suffolk and surrounding community was the original Louise Obici Memorial Hospital on U.S. Route 460. The hospital was established by his brother-in-law Mario Peruzzi after Obici's death, using the funds Obici had left him for that purpose. The community landmark, dedicated to Amedeo's wife Louise, opened in 1951. Through his estate, Obici also planned and paid for another hospital in his original hometown of Oderzo
Oderzo
Oderzo is a town and comune in the province of Treviso, Veneto, northern Italy.It lies in the heart of the Venetian plain, about 66 km to the northeast of Venice...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

.

In 2006, a newer facility replaced the 1951-era Louise Obici Memorial Hospital at a larger site on State Route 10. Obici Hospital is now affiliated with Sentara Healthcare which operates many health care facilities in southeastern Virginia.

Although Planters and the peanut industry are not the major defining activity of Suffolk as they once were, the Mr. Peanut
Mr. Peanut
Mr. Peanut is the advertising logo and mascot of Planters, an American snack-food company and division of Kraft Foods. He consists of a drawing of an anthropomorphic peanut in its shell dressed in the formal clothing of an old-fashioned gentleman: a top hat, monocle, white gloves, spats, and a...

 character has become quite famous. A statue of Mr. Peanut is prominently displayed in downtown Suffolk. Another was a gift to Suffolk's sister city, Oderzo, Italy.

The company, now known as Planters, is owned by Kraft Foods
Kraft Foods
Kraft Foods Inc. is an American confectionery, food and beverage conglomerate. It markets many brands in more than 170 countries. 12 of its brands annually earn more than $1 billion worldwide: Cadbury, Jacobs, Kraft, LU, Maxwell House, Milka, Nabisco, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Trident, Tang...

. It is the Suffolk area's 11th largest employer.