Wednesday, March 4, 2015



You will probably recognize this little yellow doll as Mr. Peanut, the mascot of Planters, which is now a part of Kraft Foods.  Planters was founded by an Italian immigrant named Amedeo Obici, in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  Mr. Obici started out by selling fruit and roasted peanuts on the street.  Then he joined up with Mario Peruzzi, who had come up with a way to blanch whole roasted peanuts, which got rid of the hulls and skins.

The two men started their business in 1906 with six employees, two large roasters, and some other crude equipment.  In 1916, they held a contest to create a company logo.  A 14-year-old school boy named Antonio Gentile won the contest with his drawing of a peanut man with a cane.  Later, an artist named Frank P. Krize, Sr., added spats, a top hat, and a monocle.  He also gave a name to the character, which was Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.  But usually he is just called Mr. Peanut.


During the Victorian era, people started making stuffed animal toys for children.  They may have made some monkey toys, but probably not from socks, and definitely not with the red lips that classic sock monkeys have.

Then in 1868, John Nelson, who was a Swedish immigrant to the U.S., patented the sock-knitting machine.  His sock manufacturing business was in Rockford, IL.  On September 15, 1880, the Nelson Knitting Company was formed.  It produced "Celebrated Rockford Seamless Hosiery" and sold them under the name "Nelson Socks."  In 1932, the Nelson Company added the trademarked red heel to their seamless work socks, which were known as "Rockfords."

During the Great Depression, American crafters began making sock monkeys out of worn-out Rockford Red Heel Socks.  The toys became very popular, and in 1955, Nelson Knitting was awarded the patent for the sock monkey doll.


In 1938, an architect named Alfred Mosher Butts made a game called "Criss-Crosswords."  It had a 15x15 square board that you could spell out words on, using letter tiles.  Mr. Butts made a few sets of the game and tried to sell it to some manufacturers, but none of them was interested in it.

Then a man named James Brunot bought the rights to the game.  He changed a few things, such as where the "premium" squares were located on the board.  Also he made the rules simpler, and he called the game Scrabble.  Mr. Brunot and his family made about 2,400 sets of the game, but they lost money on it.

Then in 1952, Jack Straus, the president of Macy's, played the game while he was on vacation, and he thought it was lots of fun.  He was surprised to learn that Macy's did not sell Scrabble, so he placed a large order for it.  Over the years, ownership of the game has passed from company to company, but the game has remained very popular.  It was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.

Nowadays, people use the tiles from Scrabble game sets to make all kinds of things such as signs and jewelry.  So when you are in an antique shop, you might see a bin that has lots of letter tiles in it, but there is no board to play the game on.  It's up to you to figure out what to do with the tiles.


Here's a sign for liniment.  It was a tall, skinny sign, so it didn't all fit in one picture.  This is a good sign because it has bright colors that catch your eye.  Also, the lettering and artwork are well done, especially the picture of the horse.

And finally, here's some folk art from Mexico.  The cats were made in Oaxaca, which is a state in the south, where the whole country curves to the east.  The Oaxacan artists make all kinds of animals out of wood and then paint them in really fun colors.

This bus has little people inside it, plus all kinds of animals and other cargo on top.  It turns out that Huatulco, which is the name on the front of the bus, is a city in Oaxaca, right on the coast.  There is a population of 50,000 there, and they are trying to develop their tourist trade.  Mom says it would be nice and warm in Oaxaca this time of year, so I am all in favor of packing up and heading down there!

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