Richard Horne, Dime Museum founder, dies

Richard Howard “Dick” Horne, a co-founder of the American Dime Museum who restored and sold antique tin toys, died of cardiac arrest Dec. 20 at Sinai Hospital. The North Baltimore resident was 77.

For several years beginning in 1999, Mr. Horne and his business partner, James Taylor, owned and operated a private enterprise, the American Dime Museum, which The Sun described as a “mass of miscellany.” Its collection included a Coney Island Ferris wheel replica, a 9-foot Peruvian mummy and a monkey automaton.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Woodlawn Road in Roland Park, he was the son of Richard Foster Horne, a Bethlehem Steel manager, and his wife, Jane May. He attended Roland Park Junior High School and was a 1959 Baltimore City College graduate. He earned a degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

His daughter, Elizabeth Smith, a Lauraville resident, said, “He was always an artist, and he painted and sketched beautifully.”

Mr. Horne joined Sears Roebuck and became a manager. His daughter said he opened the chain’s Mondawmin Mall branch store.

“Even while he was with Sears, my father dealt in antiques on the side,” she said.

In the 1970s Mr. Horne opened his own shop, Horne’s Antiques, in Mount Washington Village on Sulgrave Avenue. He later operated in the Jones Falls mill complex that became a Whole Foods store.

Mr. Horne also restored antique toys and had a collection of early electric trains. He displayed his collections at train shows at the Timonium Fair Grounds. Among his wares, he sold Voltamp trains, a line of electric toy trains manufactured before World War I in a factory on Jasper Street near the Lexington Market.

“He was a guy who was knowledgeable and dedicated. He loved stuff in an astute way. He was intelligent and artistic. He was also a genuine nice guy,” said a friend, Richard W. Opfer Jr., an auctioneer based in Timonium.

In 1999 Mr Horne opened his American Dime Museum on Maryland Avenue near Lanvale Street. It was called a “repository of the bizarre and grotesque.”

When Mr. Horne closed his American Dime Museum in 2005, a Sun article said, “Can you imagine having to live once again in a Baltimore where you can't go and see a two-headed skull any old time you want? Or a Baltimore where you are denied a peek at a bunch of petrified, shrunken heads? Or a Baltimore where it is no longer your God-given right to gawk at an ice mummy, a Feegee mermaid, or a Peruvian giantess?”

The article said some of the exhibits were real but that most were fake.

“The dime museum was a place where you left critical judgment at the door. You paid to be surprised, to be frightened, to be sickened, and most people were not going to be denied, no matter how hokey the shows,” the 2003 article said.

“When we sold the Dime Museum, the bidding and the participation was intense,” said Mr. Opfer, the auctioneer. “There was as much interest — to a degree — was there was for the Haussner restaurant sale. He had such crazy stuff. It was a tribute to Dick.”

Mr. Horne continued to collect after he closed the museum and went on creating his circus sideshow-type artifacts.

"People who love oddities love to give them to me. I'm trying to decide what to do with this one,” he said of a Victorian era stuffed canary — a real canary — under a dome.

"I like Victorian sensibilities. Victorians loved nature. There was nothing cruel or exploitative about it. They just loved bringing it into their homes,” he said.

He also worked as a consultant for auction businesses and cataloged tintype, ambrotype and daguerreotype photographs for their sales.

Mr. Horne was the underbidder for a famous Baltimore artifact, the Haussner Restaurant ball of string made from the twine used to bind laundered napkins at the Eastern Avenue culinary institution.

“I know he wanted it very badly,” said his daughter. The ball of string sold at auction for $8,250.

A life celebration is being planned. No date has been set.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include another daughter, Katherine Thomas of Pikesville; his companion of 18 years, Sandy Sirota; a brother, Thomas Horne of Leesburg, Va.; and five grandchildren. His wife of nearly 30 years, Martha Hooper, died in 1990. His marriage to Dyana Neal ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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