Most of you have heard me say many times that our roots go back 1920, and my grandfather, Robert P. Faulkner. He did, indeed begin the company and help it to survive the Great Depression and World War II, but the most notable thing he did was probably hiring my father, Vernon Clark.
Dad was a biochemist by training and an engineer by direction of the U.S. Army and Congress, but he was an ink maker by God! He learned the industry from his father-in-law, his customers and even from his suppliers.
When Dad started working at Graphic Chemical he had just finished his studies at the University of Chicago, was married with two young sons, and from what I understand, was broke. He had retained his Army Reserve commission (not a great decision given that Korea was just around the corner) and he probably saw Graphic Chemical as a short-term employment opportunity. He was here, for the record, for 53 years
While Graphic was not directly involved in printmaking at the time, it did sell to printmakers - engraver's plate inks to etchers, and letterpress inks to block printers. Lithography wouldn't really be a viable medium until June Wayne started the Tamarind Institute in Los Angeles (yes, Los Angeles!) in the '50's.
One of his jobs was to travel around the Midwest calling on commercial engravers. One circuit was driving from Chicago to Indianapolis to Cincinnati, then on to Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and finally St. Louis - and this, I hasten to point out, was well before the Interstate system.
As the story goes, he got out of sync between Indy and Cincinnati, and had a little time to kill in Oxford, OH, the home of Miami University. He walked in, told them he sold printmaking supplies. In view of the fact that at that time nobody sold printmaking supplies, the staff at Miami figured they'd stumbled unto either a godsend or a real nut case. They took a chance and placed an order with him.
Dad was so confidant that he began making calls at other Universities in the circuit: the Universities of Kentucky and Tennessee, Austin Peay, Vanderbilt and several others. The confidence allowed him to convince my grandfather, who was clearly skeptical, to purchase an advertisement in American Artist Magazine, an ad which in 1949 cost $12.50. The ad offered a catalog (which by the way didn't exist until after the ad appeared) at no charge. Dad fired up the old Gordon Letterpress and printed catalogs at night and sold ink by day. After a few weeks the number of catalog requests was in the hundreds and we were on our way to becoming printmaking suppliers.
A couple of years later, my grandfather died unexpectedly and Dad was left to run the day to day operation, now working for his mother-in-law. He probably learned as much about business from her as he did from his father-in-law. Sadly, much of that learning curve was trial and error.
By 1962, he'd bought the business from her (in fact, he bought it twice because she wasn't happy with the first sale amount!). moved the business to our current location two blocks west of the previous location, doubled the space (it's now almost six times the space we originally had in Villa Park) and began focusing predominately on printmaking. In the late '70's, we closed the original product lines for commercial engravers, making us exclusively printmaking suppliers.
The rest, as they say, is history