Horace White Harrison, 81, owner of insurance agency, stamp collector

October 09, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Horace White Harrison, a noted Baltimore stamp collector, jazz enthusiast and retired insurance executive, died of pancreatic cancer Friday at his Ruxton home. He was 81.

Born and raised in Garrison, Mr. Harrison attended McDonogh School and graduated from St. Andrews School in Middletown, Del., in 1939.

Mr. Harrison, who began collecting stamps in his youth, sold his assortment of stamps from the Philippines to finance his freshman year at Princeton University and his U.S. collection to help pay for his sophomore and junior years.

He also worked during his college years as a bartender, a university public relations specialist, meter repairman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and sportswriter for the Newark (N.J.)Evening News.

After earning a bachelor's degree in history in 1943 from Princeton, he enlisted in the Navy. He served as executive officer and navigator aboard the USS Burrows, a destroyer and convoy escort that patrolled the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific. After his discharge in 1946, he became an active reservist and was discharged with the rank of commander in 1967.

In 1947, after an apprenticeship at Continental Insurance Co. in New York City, he joined Hall & Harrison, an insurance agency founded by his father, Robert B. Harrison, in Reisterstown in 1903.

In 1952, he bought the firm with his brother and operated Horace W. Harrison & Associates in Stevenson until selling his business and retiring in 1984.

In addition to his general insurance brokerage, Mr. Harrison operated two sideline businesses. He combined an interest in stamps with his expertise in insurance to help dealers and collectors insure their coins and stamps.

"Harrison did much to reform the way the insurance industry deals with stamp collectors," said Jesse Glasgow, retired Sun business editor and stamp columnist.

"He was quite an imaginative guy and really was the `Father of Stamp Insurance.' He helped persuade insurers that stamps and coins are not equally risky. Today, the industry quotes a much lower rate to insure stamps than it does for coins," he said.

A member of the Baltimore Philatelic Society, Mr. Harrison's collecting interests included the Canadian registry system and postal stationery, of which he wrote a detailed history.

"His first love in stamps was British North American material and he was a world authority on the Canadian registration system, routes and rates," said Mr. Glasgow, who lives in Roland Park. "He has been honored many times for his research in this field, and, in fact, has a revised -- that is, updated -- edition of his major study of the Canadian registry system coming out this month."

Mr. Harrison was also a swing, blues and Dixieland aficionado who collected thousands of recordings from the 1930s through the 1980s.

"It is one of the finest collections on the Eastern Seaboard, and a lot of drive, effort and dollars went into it. He just had everything," said Louis G. Hecht of Pikesville, a boyhood friend since the 1930s who shared the same musical interests.

Mr. Harrison also liked collecting offbeat recordings, such as a Danish band playing Dixieland.

Mr. Harrison shared his musical archive with others, holding a monthly listening session for 20 or so like-minded enthusiasts in the club cellar of his Indian Head Road home.

"It was a lot of stuff that we had never heard. He had lived through the era and really had the collection," said Edward R. Goldstein, musical director of the Baltimore Jazz Orchestra and Peabody Ragtime Ensemble.

Mr. Goldstein will perform at the funeral service at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane, Garrison, where Mr. Harrison was a communicant.

Mr. Harrison's first wife, the former Elizabeth Harris, died in 1983.

He is survived by his wife of 17 years, the former Catherine Hunt France, and a daughter, Dr. Ellen Spears Harrison of Annapolis.

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