The founder of Van Camp Hardware, Cortland Van Camp (1852-1923), was born in Metamora, Indiana, in Franklin County. He was the son of Gilbert C. Van Camp and Hester Jane Raymond. His father moved to Greensburg in 1853 where he established a store and tin shop. The family moved from Greensburg to Indianapolis in 1860, where Van Camp’s father founded the Van Camp Packing Company in 1861, which later became
Van Camp joined his father in the food packing business, but by 1876, he “had become very weary of the perishable nature of the business” and wanted to sell products “that would not freeze or decay, comparatively free from hazard, and that would be as good in winter as the summer.” He sold his interest in Van Camp packing to enter the wholesale hardware business, taking over the firm of Anderson, Bullock & Schofield, which was located on South Meridian Street, and soon after consolidated that business with the heavy hardware firm (also described as an “iron business”), owned by J. A. Hanson and D. C. Bergundthal.
Renamed Hanson-Van Camp, the company sold blacksmith supplies, general store goods, and general hardware. When Hanson retired in 1886, the company became Van Camp Hardware & Iron Company. It incorporated in 1893. By that time its line of goods had expanded to include tinners’ supplies, woodwork for carriages and wagons, and guns. It also was well-known for its fishing equipment.
Van Camp expanded greatly in the first half of the 20th century to become the largest hardware firm in the state. The company sent salesman throughout Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio, and Iowa, and it produced massive 2,000-page catalogs that contained thousands of items. For 20 years, its headquarters was located on South Illinois Street, but as business increased, it eventually also had seven warehouses scattered across the city. To centralize the business under one roof, Van Camp purchased a tract of land at the southwest corner of Maryland and Missouri streets. In 1906, an eight-story structure at 401 West Maryland Street became its new home.
Van Camp was active in the business until his death. By the mid-1950s the company boasted 80,000 items in stock, with 100 sales staff and 200 other employees. Van Camp Hardware remained at its Maryland Street location until 1961 and continued in family hands until 1967. Its final move was to the 5000 block of West 86th Street. The company name eventually changed to Graystone Corporation in 1976, and the principal offices moved to New York City. Graystone dissolved in 1977.