H.E. Harris

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(January 21, 1902 – December 29, 1977) Boston

He was a philatelist and a pioneering stamp dealer who through his company, H.E. Harris & Co., popularized philately for many Americans, especially children. Harris began selling stamps at the age of 14 and eventually built one of the largest stamp businesses in the world.

Harris advertised extensively in popular non-philatelic magazines as well as philatelic journals throughout the world, promoting both himself and the stamp collecting hobby.

Harris used the radio show, "Ivory Stamp Club of the Air," and its popular host "Captain Tim" Healy to promote his business and stamp collecting. He supplied albums and stamps to the millions of listeners, thereby increasing the popularity of stamp collecting to the general public.

Harris also successfully promoted the hobby and his own company through his widely distributed booklets containing stories of famous collectors, famous rare stamps, and stamps with unusual human-interest stories. One of his most popular booklets was his The Stamp Finder, which helped novice and general collectors alike identify unusual stamps.

Over time, Harris's ads, offering a quantity of stamps for a small amount of money (usually ten cents) on condition additional stamps were sent on approval, became ubiquitous in many magazines and comic books. Harris's company, which was based in Boston, sent out millions of informational booklets and stamp approvals, all over the world. While the company was noted for selling low-cost packets of stamps, it also sold rarities as well.

Harris won international applause from the philatelic community for his action in the famous “Thatcher Ferry Bridge” case. His quick action in November 1962 prevented Canal Zone postal officials from flooding the market with deliberate misprints of the October 12, 1962 Canal Zone stamp issued for the opening of the Thatcher Ferry Bridge (now the Bridge of the Americas) over the Panama Canal. Several sheets (of Scott No. 157) were accidently printed with the silver ink, and thus the bridge, missing, and one sheet had reached the hands of a stamp collector. U.S. Postmaster General Day took steps to issue "missing bridge" reprints of the Canal Zone stamp to collectors as he had done in the case of the U.S. Dag Hammerskjold "inverted background" stamp (Scott No. 1204, issued October 23, 1962), flooding the market with the error.

With the APS acting in support, Harris eventually won his law suit against the Canal Zone government in 1965. He prevented it from reprinting the “missing bridge” error; the three sheets in its possession were transferred to government institutions. Harris received the Luff Award in 1966 for Exceptional Contributions to Philately.

Harris was elected posthumously to the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame in 1979.

Source: coneysstamps.com

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