December 9, 2010
Gilbert Van Camp Sr.
(Photo by Steven Depolo)

(Photo by Steven Depolo)

Gilbert Van Camp Sr. (c. 1830 – ?) is known as one of the originators of canned food.  In 1861, Van Camp, who had been a tinsmith, allegedly conceived the idea of putting fruits and vegetables into tin cans so they could be preserved for later use.  One of the first items to be canned was pork and beans.  Van Camp, who ran a grocery with his wife Hester in Indianapolis, obtained a lucrative contract with the U.S. Army to supply canned beans to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

The company flourished for 70 years until 1933 when it was sold to James and John Stokely.  From that point on, the company was known as Stokely-Van Camp Inc., with pork and beans in tomato sauce being one of their signature products.  In 1983, the brand passed to Quaker Oats, which in turn sold the brand to ConAgra in 1995.

[Sources: The New Netherland Institute,; “Van Camp’s,” Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, pp. 1300-1301.]

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