Doris Harris Hamilton, 87, an expert in the field of autograph and manuscript collection, died April 30 of a cerebral hemorrhage at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The first woman member of the Zamorano Club, an organization of rare book collectors, printers and librarians, Harris Hamilton was often asked by the federal government and large library collections to authenticate and appraise documents.
A Pennsylvania native and graduate of Wyoming Seminary and UCLA, she entered the field by accident in 1954, after she saw in a Manhattan antique shop window an old handwritten letter that mentioned President William Henry Harrison.
She bought that letter and a dozen others for $1.50 and took them home to her then-husband, advertising executive Charles Hamilton. With those letters, her husband launched Charles Hamilton Autograph Galleries, one of the first such businesses in New York City.
The couple divorced in 1962 and Harris Hamilton moved to Southern California, where she established herself as an autograph dealer in San Pedro. She later moved the business to locations on Hollywood and Wilshire boulevards.
She retired in 1999 after seeing how the auto-pen and e-mail had profoundly altered the future of autograph and personal memorabilia collecting.