Growing Tomatoes for Van Camp

I found a piece of paper in my GG Grandfather’s stuff & wondered what it was all about. So I did a little digging. Here is the contract between GG Grandpa Lewis Elwood Millikan (1855-1949) and the Van Camp Packing Company:

LEMillikanVanCamp copy

So is this the same well known Van Camp company that makes Pork & Beans? And how did Elwood get involved in growing tomatoes for them?

Looking into the history of the Van Camp company, I found a notation at the Indiana State Library website. The company was started by Gilbert Van Camp in Indianapolis, IN. Gilbert’s son, Frank, is credited with adding catsup and bacon to the the baked beans recipe to give it a unique taste. So yes, this is the same Van Camp company that makes Pork & Beans!

How did Elwood get involved? He probably attended this meeting announced in the Sheridan News, January 10, 1902:


Seeing that the contract was initiated on January 25, he must have figured it was a good deal. He contracted for 3 acres of tomatoes. The last line of the agreement, however, gives an “out” for the company if they did not get a commitment of enough acres—their minimum was 300 total acres.

Another announcement in the Sheridan News January 31, 1902 indicated that the company was reaching the quota:


One more article in the Sheridan Weekly Sun November 13, 1902 gives a little information on how the overall crop did:


I don’t know much more about Elwood’s crop. I wonder how much money he made from this contract & if it was worthwhile for him. I did find that the Van Camp company advertised again in the Sheridan papers for tomato crops in the years to follow—so it must have been a lucrative deal for them.

So there it is, looks like GG Grandpa Lewis Elwood Millikan probably provided tomatoes to the VanCamp Packing Company at least for one season—what an interesting find!

© MJM 2018

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