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General Questions: History

History - Pioneers Harry & Blanche Christy

1st Generation -- Pioneers: Harry & Blanche (Sullivan) Christy

Our Agency was founded in 1922 as the Mackey-Thiessen Investment Co and the name changed to American Insurance and Loan Co. in 1926. How the business came into the Sullivan family is the story of our agency “Pioneers”, Harry and Blanche (Sullivan) Christy.

Harry W. Christy was born in 1890 on a farm near Arkansas City, Kansas. The family later moved to Chandler, Oklahoma where he graduated from high school. He then received his teacher’s certificate at the age of 18 and began his teaching career at Floris, Iowa.  He served as principal of the Floris School before being appointed in 1915, at age 25, as president of Southern Iowa Normal School, the youngest college president in the nation at that time.  He met Blanche Sullivan in Floris and they were married on March 15, 1917.  

About a month later, America entered the Great War and Harry resigned from his college position to volunteer for officer’s training. He then served in active combat in the artillery during the WWI and earned the rank of Lt Colonel. In 1919, after the war, he returned to the Stanwood schools in Iowa and continued as Superintendent until 1926. But, the big guns of WWI had made him nearly deaf which made teaching and administration of a school difficult. At the urging of a friend, Harry decided to leave his education career in Iowa to pursue new opportunities in the great Northwest. So, in 1926 with his wife, Blanche (Sullivan) Christy and two children, Roger and Harriet Ruth, they headed out west for a business opportunity. With courage, hope and a pioneering spirit, they first came to Lewiston, ID.

Soon after arriving in Lewiston, Harry took a job opportunity in banking as cashier, in a then thriving Starbuck, Wash. (think Jimmy Stewart in the film classic, It’s a Wonderful Life). Although successful, Harry still hadn’t found what he really wanted until he heard through his banking connections two years later that American Bank & Trust Co. was selling their insurance and personal loan operation. Harry left the Bank of Starbuck and moved back to Lewiston to buy an interest in American Insurance & Loan Co. from O.M. Mackey on August 15, 1928.

Here, Harry and Blanche Christy staked their claim and worked side by side, building a successful insurance business and making personal loans.  Harry did the sales and Blanche did the clerical work.   

Harry was also busy with civic activities. His favorite endeavor was supporting the Boy Scouts of America which he began doing in 1917 and continued until 1968 when he was recognized for 50 years of service. Harry was also very active in the Lewis-Clark Post of the American Legion, service as Post Commander in 1937 & 38. He was Idaho State Commander of the Idaho Disabled Veterans in 1939 and was state commander of the American Legion in 1940-42.  Harry was also active in the Lewiston-Clarkston Kiwanis Club, the Lewiston Elks Lodge, the Masonic Lodge and the Greater Lewiston Chamber of Commerce.  

The business grew, even during the depression 30s, and they added staff and agents.   They hired Blanche’s nephew, Frank W. Sullivan, in 1946 following his return from service in WWII.  Other agents hired were Dan Emery and Von Prideaux.  Harry and Blanche retired in 1957 and sold an interest in the business to Frank “Sully” Sullivan, representing the second generation of Sullivan ownership.  When asked about his successes, Harry said that he turned his hearing loss into an asset as an insurance salesman because… “I couldn’t hear the word ‘no’!”


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