Monday, October 12, 2009

Information Is Spread a Little Thin!

It’s always just not sat right with me.
What on EARTH (or on the Neverland [or even on the NeverWorld]) does Peter Pan have to do with peanut butter? I mean besides the alliteration.

Sunshine assures me that no matter what it’s a good thing that such a “kid” treat is paired with Pan. In this way, it makes kids who don’t already know about him curious. Perhaps it’s led some youngsters to seek him out. Okay, I’ll agree. But It still doesn’t explain the wherefore.

“Peter Pan Peanut Butter” did not start out with that moniker. It came out originally under the name "E. K. Pond," produced by Swift & Company. The name change came in 1920.

Okay… here’s what really baffles me! Sir James Matthew Barrie left the shores of Earth in 1937. Therefore, he probably knew about it. Did he approve of it? I have not been able to gather any information regarding this query. Even Andrew Birkin, the Barrie guru, doesn’t seem to touch on this subject. (If the information is out or Birkin did explain it, I’ve been unable to retrieve the knowledge from anywhere I’ve looked.)

And it also “bothers” me that throughout the history of the packaging, they gravitate toward the Disney manifestation. And in the earlier days, it has been a grown woman dressed [allegedly] as Peter Pan. Okay, sure, there's the "tradition" of women playing the role. But all of their women are quite obviously supposed to be women. How about no? Although, Jeremy Sumpter as Pan did appear on the jars for a time when the movie hit the theaters.

If anyone can clear this up… please do!


Moira Lewelyn said...

I think the advert is the worst part of it...
It's like Peter Pan crossed with Pee-wee. And that's not good

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Not only was Barrie still alive then, he still owned the Peter Pan copyright!

What I want to know is, at what point did Peter Pan become a young-LOOKING (as opposed to an actual child) or androgynous version of Robin Hood?

I wish I had some information, but sadly I don't. I don't see what Peter Pan has to do with peanut butter either, but maybe we should count our blessings--he could have been on a cereal box! "Peter Pan Puffs," anyone? :P

Jon Krampner said...

I'm working on a book about the history of peanut butter, and have exchanged e-mails with the Peter Pan director (that's a real title) at the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity in London.

Although the name capitalized on Peter Pan’s fame, it isn’t clear if Swift reimbursed Barrie for its use -- probably not. “Peter Pan peanut butter was launched in 1928, a year before James Barrie gifted his Peter Pan copyright to Great Ormond Street Hospital," she says. "We have never received any payment or royalties for the use of the character and I have not been able to ascertain whether permission was granted by James Barrie himself at the time, whether he ever received any payment for such use, or even if he knew about it.”

If you'd like to provide me with your e-mail address (and/or the e-mail address of the Peter Pan Guild), I can put you on the notification list for when the book finally comes out. My e-mail address is

Peter said...

Mr. Krampner -
Thank you for the extra information. Sadly, though, we still don't have an answer to the two primary questions. The great mystery remains: Did Barrie know? And what (other than character recognition and alliteration) does Peter Pan have to do with peanut spread? I figure, of course, that it's merely "capitalizing" as you said. But that doesn't justify it in the least. (Not that it's ever stopped any company before or since.) Again, thanks for responding with the added info...
and best of luck on your book!

Anonymous said...

I doubt very much Barrie knew about it. Peanut butter was hardly known (if at all) in England at the time and the brand itself wasn't widespread in the US so it is quite probable no-one had heard about it in Britain. I also doubt that anyone asked for Barrie's permission - branding and trademarking only became prevalent after WW2, particularly from the 60s and there are many examples of names being exploited unscrupulously in the early 20th C. There is no rhyme or reason for using the name for a brand of peanut butter - it is sheer capitalisation and exploitation of a popular name, without any attempt to find a link. As it was with many other brand names of the time, such as the ones you mention elsewhere - PP Bus Lines and lingerie (this last one gets my vote for the most bizarre!). Here in England we have Peter Pan and Wendy knitting wools: I can just about understand Wendy Wools but Peter Pan? Just the idea of Peter sitting there in Neverland, knitting away, in between fighting Hook, is mind boggling... It is sad, and stupid, but there isn't much one can do about it now (although fortunately, no-one has attempted to resurrect the lingerie brand...)