Palmieri + Palmer = Pizzelle

Carmen Palmieri, arrivato negli Usa dall'Abruzzo nel 1929 all'età di 15 anni, è il fondatore di C. Palmer Manufacturing Company di West Newton, PA. Grazie al suo lavoro innovativo, oggi possiamo fare le "pizzelle" con piastre elettriche moderne. Sebbene altre aziende abbiano creato prodotti simili, la sua resta l'unica impresa a conduzione familiare.

Do you remember your mother or grandmother mixing the sweet pizzelle dough, rolling it into balls the size of a quarter and placing them in a hot-hinged iron on the gas stove in the kitchen, which was filled with the smell of anise and sugar? You say a Hail Mary on one side then turn the iron over and say another. Removing the iron from the burner, you tap out the perfect pizzelle cooked to a light golden color and in a few moments it is ready to dip into a steaming hot cup of coffee.

There are not many of those old cast aluminum irons left in use today, but we can thank the heavens for Carmen Palmieri and his hard work and innovation for producing the modern style electric pizzelle iron which we use today. There have been others who have made the electric irons -- the Beraduccis of McKeesport and the Vitantonios of Cleveland -- but the C. Palmer Manufacturing Company of West Newton, PA is the only family-owned manufacturer of these irons remaining.

Carmen Palmieri came to the United States from the Abruzzo region in 1929 at the age of fifteen. After a short stay in New York, he joined his father in Dubois, PA, where he found work (by lying about his age) in the coalmines. He had little formal education -- only as far as third grade in Italy and no schooling in the United States. When he was 18, his father was killed in a mining accident and Carmen was on his own.

Carmen moved to West Newton where he worked for the US Radiator Company. At the same time, he started a small shop in the basement of his house making Italian cookie cutters and small implements that he sold from door to door. In those days, selling door-to-door you often go invited into the house, at least for coffee and maybe even dinner.

In 1946, Carmen founded his current business while still operating in the basement of his home. He made sand cast aluminum molds and the stove type pizzelle irons, which he started to sell under his name. However, in those days there was some discrimination against Italian owned businesses, so he changed the name of his company to C. Palmer Manufacturing Co.

In the late 1950's, his son John came home from the Navy with a background in electronics and together the two of them opened a true production plant making aluminum molds of all types and also produced their first electric pizzelle irons, as well as the Palmer Campfire Sandwich Toaster. Sales expanded, and in 1964 it was necessary to build an even larger facility, which included John's automated production techniques. In 1970 the company bought their first aluminum die casting machine and in the late 1970's they added a tool and die department, which improved the quality of their products and reduced the cost of manufacturing to both them and their customers. John's son, Philip, joined the company and added computerization to the mix.

Today the company is separated into two divisions. The castings and the industrial line are housed in Maryland and the "Gourmet" division is still located in West Newton. Carmen's granddaughter, Darci, manages this operation, which produces approximately 3,000 pizzelle irons, 8,000-9,000 sandwich toasters and a large quantity of Belgian waffle makers per year.

Carmen Palmieri retired from the business in 1979. However, he "forgets" to stay at home and comes in every day from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That is every day and he is just 95 years young. Darci has the joy of seeing and working with her grandfather every day, something almost unheard of in business today. Carmen has certainly made his mark in America for the last 80 years and is to be commended for his work ethic, vision, desire to succeed and his commitment to his heritage. His company is C. Palmer Manufacturing, however he never changed his name. He is Carmen Palmieri!

C. Palmer products can be purchased in Pittsburgh's Strip District. They are also available in Italian Markets throughout Pennsylvania and the Eastern United States. You may contact them at 724-872-8200 or visit them on the Web at www.cpalmermfg.com.