Van Campo Bakeries

Years in Production

1904-1907

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Company History

At the turn of the 20th century, baker William “Big Willie” Van Campo owned three bakeries in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After attending the very first World Series games in 1903 at Exposition Park in Allegheny City to watch his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates battle for the championship (they would lose to the Boston Red Sox, 5 games to 3), Van Campo was inspired to honor the efforts of his heroes.

A set that was meant to consist only of Pirates quickly grew to include players from both leagues, and led to the issuance of the first set of Van Campo baseball cards in 1904.

The design and printing for that first set was handled by an outside printer, and those first cards were issued with “generic” backs with spaces to identify the player pictured on the front and the company sponsoring the giveaway (which was Van Campo) by stamping, however no other cards have been discovered as sponsored by anyone other than Van Campo to date.

That’s “Big Willie” Van Campo at the wheel, parked just up the street from the Van Campo Bakery in Gloversville. Note the children waiting for Van Campo to exit the car and distribute cards, as he often did.

Van Campo would eventually sell his bakeries to get into the real estate field, but his cards and his bakeries will be linked forever…