History of SOIC - Beginning


25 Years of SOIC History
By Charles ‘Buck’ Van Tine, written in 2006

Imagine a young Vince McGraw in 1965 attending an auction, looking for something to place on his bookcase. An inkwell attracted his eye, and that’s how it all began. Vince and his wife Marie liked to go to auctions on weekends. It was a form of entertainment. Many inkwells were acquired in this manner after that initial buy. Somewhere around the 1971 time frame Vince was able to buy several collections of inkwells. This put him entirely into the inkwell collection sphere. He began searching for information and reached out to others who had similar interests in his inkwell passion.

In 1972 Vince published “McGraw’s Book of Antique Inkwells, Volume 1” This paperback volume contained over 100 pictures and descriptions of inkwells mainly from his collection. To promote the book, Vince advertised in a number of Antique publications. Sales of the book exceeded expectations. More than that, contacts with a number of fellow inkwell collectors were established.

General interest in inkwells was broadened by the Rivera’s 1973 book “Inkstands and Inkwells: A Collector’s Guide” and William Covill’s 1974 “Ink Bottles and Inkwells”. As more and more communication took place between collectors, it was apparent that there was enough interest to start a more formal organization, so in October of 1980 Vince announced the formation of The Society of Inkwell Collectors. Annual membership fees were $24.50 for which you received a membership certificate, a quill pen, and a specially made inkwell. Best of all was a newsletter devoted entirely to the inkwell collector which was appropriately named The Stained Finger. Membership in the charter year of 1981 reached seventy members with several in Canada and England.

During the 80’s the Society was a one man, or more accurately, a one family operation. Vince chartered the direction but was greatly assisted by his wife Marie, and daughters Michele and Catherine. Michele, particularly, became quite involved in Society operations by handling the membership operations and then becoming Editor of The Stained Finger for over a decade. We are blessed to have Michele continue her involvement as a member of the Board of Directors. The Society, with Vince as the focal point, became a means of communication between collectors. People like Harold “Kap” Henson and his English friend Bernard Barkoff, Charles Silverberg of California, Ed Hayes of Connecticut, and John Wherry of Cape Cod all began feeding information about inkwells. Charter member and our Historian Ruth Plym remembers writing Vince a number of times, establishing a friendship through correspondence.

By the late 80’s it was apparent that members wanted face to face contact so the first “International Convention” was set for May 27 & 28, 1989. The announcement said in part “It’s the fulfillment of a dream for us. For years, we’ve wanted to get the people together who care about inkwells and other writing paraphernalia. We don’t know everything we’ll be doing yet, but we promise it will be an exciting time for everyone.”That was enough for Ruth Plym. She and husband Andy jumped into their new car in Californiaand headed East to Minneapolis. Did she like the convention? Must have, since she has attended every one since, and has created three large scrapbooks highlighting the joys of each convention. Once again, quoting Vince “They came knowing they would find people with a mutual interest but not knowing just how far that interest would go or if it would be enough to begin any lasting relationships. They had no great expectations. They came with hope and a desire to make the best of the situation. They came to offer and share their knowledge, to show the pieces in their collections, to discuss, to learn form others, and to buy, sell and trade. They left with a bond of friendship, a renewed interest in their collections, and a renewed interest in The Society of Inkwell Collectors. It was a satisfying get-together…convention, show, gathering – call it what you will – it was simply great!” Great it must have been. Of the twenty families attending the first convention, eleven attendees or their spouses remain active to this day.

Successful conventions have been held in June of 1990 at the Days Inn in Kansas City, MO; August 1991 at the Adams Mark Hotel in Philadelphia, PA; November 1992 at the Birchwoods Manor in Whippany, NJ; June 1995 at the Marriot Hotel in Houston,TX; August 1997 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA; June 1999 with the Houston Pen Show, Houston TX; August 2000 at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, VA; May 2001 with the Chicago Pen Show at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont, IL; August 2002 with the Baltimore Antique Fair – Baltimore, MD; February 2003 with the LA Pen Show –Los Angeles, CA; February 2004 at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN; October 2005 at Colonial Williamsburg, VA. All of the conventions have featured seminars, dealer tables, an inkwell auction, nice banquet, and most of all – great fellowship. Details about past conventions may be found in back issues of The Stained Finger, or better yet, by looking over Historian Ruth Plym’s fabulous scrapbooks at the next convention.

Vince was in the midst of planning the 2000 convention when he passed away unexpectedly. Long time member Harold B. “Kap” Henson stepped forward and took over the arrangements to put together a successful convention and auction. Meanwhile several members worked together to bring forward a proposal to transition the Society of Inkwell Collectors from a family run enterprise to a not for profit incorporated organization. John Wherry, Charles L. "Buck" Van Tine, John Kochenburger, Jack Wiedabach, and others spent long hours on the telephone discussing how best to ensure the Society survived. The McGraw family, speaking through Michele, was very gracious in assisting with the transition, donating much of the inventory on hand. At the 2000 McLean, VAconvention a proposal was put forth for a group of volunteers to take over running the Society. Jane Betrus agreed to be the first Executive Director. A Board of Directors consisting of Gary Bahr,Bernard Barkoff, Pamela Goldman,Ed Hayes, John Kochenburger, Dixie Rodkey, Buck Van Tine, John Wherry, and Jack Wiedabach were elected by the membership. “Kap” Henson agreed to be Treasurer and Gary Bahr took over as Editor of The Stained Finger.

The “new” organization was off and running! By Laws were written, a lawyer hired, and in October of 2001, the Society of Inkwell Collectors was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Not for Profit” status was later granted by the Internal Revenue Service.

Since incorporation, numerous changes have occurred. Board members have changed, a new editor came on board, a research library has been started, the web page revitalized, and several research projects started. It looks like the Society will be around another twenty five years. Something Vince would be proud of.

History of SOIC - Later through 2008


Past, Present… and what about the Future?
By Barbara Bureker, written in 2008

Vince McGraw founded The Society of Inkwell Collectors in 1981 “with the intention of sharing inkwell information with other inkwell collectors” (McGraw, SF August 1999). In his 1999 Stained Finger article, he stated the membership was over 700 strong, residing in 13 countries, but that “we are not as healthy as perhaps we appear on the surface. He and others in the Society recognized that maintaining a strong organization would take planning and effort. A number of things were put into place at the 1999 convention, including the naming of committee chairs who became the Board of Directors.

Vince McGraw was the President of the Society from the time it was founded to his death in April of 2000. His primary goal had been realized by that time; people all over the world were connecting and becoming a “community of collectors,” all having the common interest of inkwells. His daughter, Michele McGraw, published the The Stained Finger, giving members a way to share and receive information. Annual conventions brought people together to talk face-to-face, and the Society Auction contributed both to members’ collections and as a fund raiser for the Society. SOIC had a presence on the web with its own web site.

After Vince died, the Board of Directors was able to step in to keep things moving smoothly forward. They organized the 2000 convention, where Jane Betrus became the first Executive Director. Members attending the 2000 Convention business meeting determined that “the growth of the SOIC is the main goal” (Betrus et al, SF October 2000). Plans were made to create by-laws and incorporate as a non-profit organization. This meant that goals and vision for the Society had to be expanded further, to include specific language regarding research and education. The Stained Finger was seen as one of the primary vehicles for educating membership and as such, “changes and enhancements were suggested” and later added. Gary Bahr took over as editor.

During the following years Jane and the Board of Directors continued to work on membership and on keeping the Society strong. If you were a member during those years you saw The Stained Finger grow, add features and most exciting, add color! The Society did become a non-profit organization, and as such had (and continues to have) a charge of researching and educating others about inkwells and their history.

In 2002 Jane and members of the Board of Directors retired from their positions. Charles “Buck” Van Tine took over as Executive Director and remained in that position until shortly before his death in January of this year. During his tenure, the focus on research became stronger; we added a library and, of course, a Librarian (originally Beth Leitz – now Sam Fiorella). Buck worked tirelessly on membership and on organizing successful conventions. He encouraged members to get involved with different aspects of the Society – and with his positive attitude kept people going even during rough times.

In the middle of 2003 I took over the editorship of The Stained Finger and have tried to live up to the Society’s mission of educating, as well as creating a forum for the exchange of information and ideas. I have watched changes, good and some maybe not so good, happen during these years.

In some ways the Society has become stronger. We have gotten involved in various research projects, our website has expanded, The Stained Finger has grown, and we have an extensive research library that is available to all members. We have taken Vince McGraw’s vision and expanded it. But in other ways the Society is weaker. Our membership has dropped from around 700 to less than 400. Our members are as a whole older, and we are not seeing many younger people getting involved in our collecting passion. As I went through past issues of The Stained Finger, I noticed that over the years the actual number of different names appearing as writers has dwindled.

So what does the future hold? How important is the SOIC to you? Do you believe in its mission? How important is the history of the collection you own? Is it important to “educate” youngsters about inkwells and the history of writing by hand with pen and ink? Is it important to instill a love of beautiful and functional things like inkwells in those youngsters? If it is, what should we be doing? What can you be doing?

Our Society currently has a Board of Directors which is keeping things running smoothly, as the directors did after Vince McGraw died. We have two volunteers who are organizing the next convention. But we are now lacking a leader with a vision, someone who can motivate people and move us forward, someone who will help us answer the questions I asked in the last paragraph – and come up with other questions for us to work on, someone who will carry on the legacy that Vince McGraw began, and that Jane Betrus and Buck Van Tine moved forward. Are you that person?

Please take some time to think about how important this Society has been to you, and what you’d like to see happen with it in the future. Take part in that future!

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