In October of 1972, the Conchologists
of America organization was born. Eight enthusiastic shell collectors
met at the Newport (Rhode Island) Motor Inn. They were: Kirk
Anders of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Mrs. Robert Armstrong of
Westford, Massachusetts; Carl Erickson of Auburn, Massachusetts;
Dorothy and Robert Janowsky of Brooklyn, New York; Mrs. Bette
Rachlin of Brookline, Massachusetts; Miss. Mavis Walkup of Clovis,
New Mexico and John Paduano of Newport, Rhode Island, COA's
founder. Bette Rachlin was elected as the first COA president.
A short and simple
constitution and by-laws were adopted in 1973 which officially
established the Conchologists of America and its purpose "to
unite shell collectors and clubs in the United States and promote
conservation and interest in shell collecting. The emphasis
of this organization shall be on CONCHOLOGY rather than Malacology."
The constitution has been revised several times since then,
but the concept of the basic purpose remains the same.
officers were to be President, Vice-President, and Secretary/Treasurer
(this position was later divided ). These people, along with
the immediate past president, would be the Executive Committee
to organize the annual COA meetings. During the 1979 convention,
the constitution was changed to add two board members at large
to be appointed by the President. Also a Historian and Publicity
Chairperson would be appointed by the President. During the
1990 convention, it was decided that the Board would have a
"mid-year" meeting in January as well as the annual
business meeting at the convention due to the growth of COA.
Any person interested
in Mollusca could become a member. By the 1973 convention, COA
had 141 individual and 5 club memberships, and by the end of
the 1977 convention, COA membership was 300 strong. Today there
are over 1,350 memberships worldwide.
COA by-laws stated that "a newsletter shall be sent periodically
to members covering club activities, and for the exchange of
thoughts, ideas and experiences in the field of Conchology."
This newsletter, called Conchologists of America Bulletin, was
first edited by Frank Nelson. The publication grew and developed
under several different editors with the current editor, Lynn
Scheu, taking over in 1987. The Bulletin's name was changed
to American Conchologist in 1987 and today it is published as
a quarterly, well-respected journal with a worldwide circulation.
the 1978 convention adopted a proposal for a COA Trophy to be
presented at shell shows. The Trophy would be given by the official
judges at a shell show to the most outstanding exhibit, or to
one showing particular excellence. It would not be given to
an exhibit receiving another major award at the same show during
the same year. Dr. Abbott was named chairperson of the Awards
Committee and the first COA Trophy was presented at the Astronaut
Trail Shell Show in January, 1979. Gene Everson was the proud
recipient for his exhibit "Seashells of the Americas."
Today, 27 COA Trophies are available to be presented at shell
shows around the world.
The 1978 Convention
saw another new development. Visiting dealers' hotel rooms to
buy shells had become a popular extracurricular activity among
convention goers. A local dealer did not have a hotel room so
he set up a sale table in the hotel lobby. The response from
members was so great that other dealers quickly followed suit.
The formal "Bourse" or "cooperative marketplace"
for conventions was born. Since then, the Bourse has become
a leading attraction at the annual COA conventions.
The COA Local
Club Representative program was approved in June 1985 to help
communication with clubs around the country. The current president
of each club designates a representative to act as liaison between
the club and COA. The representative has to be a COA member
in good standing.
Early on, COA
members saw the need to support research on mollusks through
a grants program. Since 1985, the COA has awarded over $42,000.00
in grants in the field of malacology. In June, 1995, Dr. Gary
Rosenberg was appointed COA Grants Director, and is assisted
by Dr. Henry Chaney and Dr. G. Thomas Watters.
Are you interested
in further, more in-depth details on the history of COA? See
our publications page for information on how to obtain a copy
of Twenty Year History of Conchologists of America (1972-1991).