Henry Ellis Harris

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Henry Ellis Harris
Born January 21, 1902
Died December 29, 1977(1977-12-29) (aged 75)
Nationality USA
Occupation Engineer
Engineering career
Projects Developed a postage stamp catalog that sold millions of stamps worldwide
Awards APS Hall of Fame
Luff Award

Henry Ellis (H.E.) Harris (January 21, 1902 – December 29, 1977) was a philatelist and stamp dealer who through his company, H.E. Harris & Co., popularized philately for many Americans, especially children.

Selling stamps[edit]

Harris began selling stamps to various local drug, novelty and variety stores at the age of 14.[1] When the Washington Post offered free advertising, Harris seized the opportunity to begin a mail-order stamp business. He opened his first retail store in 1921 at Kenmore Square in Boston.[2]

Over the years, H. E. Harris’s ads, which offered a quantity of stamps for a small amount of money (usually less than $1) on the condition that additional stamps were sent on approval, became ubiquitous in many magazines and comic books. While the company was noted for selling low-cost packets of stamps, it sold rarities as well.

The company developed a fully illustrated postage stamp catalog that sold for a fraction of the cost of the more detailed Scott Stamp Catalogue.

Stamp Club[edit]

Procter & Gamble (P&G) sponsored the radio show, "Ivory Stamp Club of the Air" during the Great Depression. The show was hosted by "Captain Tim" Healy, an authentic explorer and world traveler. H. E. Harris was contracted by P&G to send each new club member a stamp album, badge and packet of stamps in exchange for an Ivory soap wrapper. To receive more stamp packets, members could send two soap wrappers and 10¢. When the last show was broadcast in 1936, the club had 2.5 million members. Many of them became Harris customers and helped build the company into one of the largest stamp businesses in the world.[2]

Further expansion[edit]

Harris's business slowed due to a moratorium on stamp importation into the United States during World War II, so he went to England to serve in its Eighth Air Force. After the war, he revamped his business by acquiring the Kenmore Stamp Company in Kenmore, New York, in 1947 and reestablishing it in Arlington, Massachusetts.[1]


Harris gained media attention in 1962 when he went to court to prevent the Canal Zone and the United States Post Office Department from issuing large quantities of intentional error stamps to destroy the value of a few stamps that had reached circulation honoring the opening of the Thatcher Ferry Bridge (now the Bridge of the Americas) but lacking the silver ink used to depict the bridge. Harris had acquired some of the error stamps, and claimed that the issuance, which would reduce the value of the error stamps to a few cents each, violated his rights. He was successful in his lawsuit.

Honors and awards[edit]

For the success of his lawsuit against the United States Post Office Department, Harris received the Luff Award in 1966 for exceptional contributions to philately. He was also elected posthumously to the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame in 1979.[3]

Later years[edit]

In 1975, H.E. Harris sold his business to the venture capital arm of General Mills, which discontinued the stamps-on-approval mail-order service.[4] Harris died in 1977.


  1. ^ a b "The Kenmore Stamp Story."
  2. ^ a b Logan, Richard: “We NEED Another Captain Tim”, American Philatelist Magazine, February 2010, Pages 150-151
  3. ^ American Philatelic Society APS Hall of Fame Archived March 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "What Happened to H.E. Harris," Apfelbaum Inc., Friday, December 16, 2011

External links[edit]