“First Insured” by Peter R. Thibeault

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Image“First Insured”

By Peter R. Thibeault

Boston, Massachusetts

© September 19, 1990

The schooner A.F. Thorne was the first vessel insured by the Atlantic Mutual Companies in 1842. In 1990, the Atlantic Mutual Companies commissioned artist Peter R. Thibeault to create this ship hull of the A.F. Thorne. This piece is now on display at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library at St. John’s University.

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From the Archives: Records of the Special Commitee on Black Tom Island

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The Records of the Special Committee on Black Tom Island Disaster are now available for research at the Davis Library, St. John’s University Manhattan Campus. To view these materials, please make an appointment.

Black Tom Island

Source: Report On Explosion at Black Tom, N.J., July 30, 1916, by Colonel B.W. Dunn, Chief Inspector of The Bureau of Explosives. February 1, 1917. Photograph No. 3, page 7.

The Black Tom Island explosion occurred off the coast of New Jersey on July 30, 1916. Soon after, a group of insurance companies organized the Special Committee on Black Tom Island Disaster to make sabotage claims against Germany. The case was heard by the German-American Mixed Claims Commission and Germany was originally found not liable, but after a rehearing in 1939, several Germans were found responsible for the explosion. The result was a settlement of $50 million to be paid out to a group of 72 insurance companies. This collection includes newspaper clippings, Committee meeting minutes, correspondence, briefs on the hearings, damage reports, auditors’ reports, account books, bank statements, and additional records from 1916 to 1969.

From the Archives: Records of the CPCU Society – New York Chapter

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The Records of the CPCU Society – New York Chapter are now available for research at the Davis Library, St. John’s University Manhattan Campus. For more information please visit our website, or contact us to make an appointment to visit the archives.

The Society of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters (CPCU) was founded in 1944 in the interest of promoting professional ethics through fellowship and continuing education. Members are required to pass CPCU examinations, meet experience qualifications, and uphold the Society’s code of professional ethics. In 1994, the organization became known as the CPCU Society. The New York chapter was established on March 5, 1945. The chapter co-sponsors meetings with other professional insurance organizations and sponsors educational forums and other events that advance continuing professional development.

These records include meeting minutes and agendas from monthly Board of Directors and Officers meetings, correspondence, memoranda, press releases, reports, newsletters, programs and other publications generated by the New York chapter, other chapters, and the national organization. The collection also includes photographs and awards.

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Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York

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by Costantino Spinosa

 Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York, policy, 1832

Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York, policy, 1832

Two insurance policies in the KDSC archives issued by the Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York (seen below) from 1832 and 1836 include the signature of the company’s president, John Leonard. Insurance may not have been the only industry Mr. Leonard was involved in. An article from the New York Tribune written on May 1st, 1841 may reveal that Mr. Leonard was involved in patenting tailor’s shears. The article states that the U.S. Circuit Court was involved in a case entitled “Rochus Heisiesch vs. John Leonard and Herman Wendt,” regarding the “infringement of a patent right for an improved fashion of tailors’ shears.”[1] It is uncertain whether the John Leonard involved in the case is indeed John Leonard, former president of the Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York.

 Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York, policy, 1836

Firemen’s Insurance Company of New York, policy, 1836

The insurance policy signed by Leonard in 1832 also includes the signature of James W. Bleeker. Those involved in the New York Stock Exchange may recognize this name, as Bleeker served as the NYSE’s 4th president from 1827 to 1830.[2]


[1]  New-York Tribune [New York] 01 May 1841, 1st ed., sec. 19: 2. Print

[2] “Presidents and Chairmen of The New York Stock Exchange.” NYSE Euronext. New York Stock Exchange, n.d. Web. <https://nyse.nyx.com/inside-the-exchange/history/presidents-chairmen&gt;.

From the Archives: Records of the Insurance Women of New York

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The Insurance Women of New York (IWNY) was formed in 1934. It was one of the first insurance women’s organizations. In 1984, the organization was renamed National Association of Insurance Women – New York City. This collection is comprised of records from the IWNY including newsletters, meeting minutes, reports, flyers, mailings, and memorabilia.

The Records of the Insurance Women of New York / National Association of Insurance Women are now available for research at the Davis Library at St. John’s University. For more information, visit our website here.

IWNY Newsletter, 1962

Newsletter, 1962

From the Archives: Grad Assistant Audrey Belanger

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My name is Audrey Belanger and I am a graduate assistant at the Davis Library Archives and Special Collections. I am currently in the final year of my Library Science degree at St. John’s University. My main interest is archival and special collections librarianship, so I was excited to get to work at the Davis Archives this semester processing the Records of the Insurance Women of New York (IWNY). The IWNY started in 1934, making it one of the oldest insurance women’s organizations.

The bulk of the collection was comprised of newsletters and meeting documents (meeting minutes, reports, flyers, etc.) which were dated, making them fairly easy to organize. The newsletters were especially fun to go through since official club business was interspersed with news, poems, and the occasional illustration. I had expected a collection about an insurance organization to be dull, but it was actually very interesting to see the formation and development of a professional women’s organization from the 1930s. Alongside their professional interests, the women of the IWNY socialized, participated in charity, and attended cultural events.

Undated and miscellaneous items proved the most difficult to organize, as I imagine is the case in all archival collections! These items included two unlabeled and undated black and white photographs, detailed instructions for conducting a ceremony for the installation of club officers, and an invitation to a Christmas Tea.

The IWNY records contained such a wide variety of materials that I ended up dividing the collection into nine categories (called series). It is important that the collection is arranged and labeled in a clear and concise way that allows researchers to find the information they need. To further assist researchers, I created a finding aid, which is a written document explaining the collection and its arrangement. In my finding aid I was able to explain that the series “Organization information” included documents such as a ceremonial for the installation of officers and unlabeled photographs.

Processing this collection taught me about the interests and activities of professional women in New York beginning in 1934. It also helped me to learn how to take what at first seemed to be a random assortment of documents and arrange them in a way that they would be accessible to future researchers.

Arthur Cyrus Goerlich Papers

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By Costantino Spinosa

ImagePortrait of Arthur Goerlich, Davis Library Archives and Special Collections, St. John’s University.

Arthur Cyrus Goerlich was born in Manhattan in 1894. Following his graduation from Columbia College in 1916 Goerlich was deployed to France where he served as an artillery man in World War I and received a purple heart for his service. Upon his return to the United States in 1917 Goerlich began his professional career as the assistant educational director of the Bronx Y.M.C.A. During the 1920s Goerlich served as a professor of immigrant studies at Hunter College. In 1938 he was chosen as the educational director of the Insurance Society of New York, a position which he held for over two decades.

In 1962 Goerlich helped to found the College of Insurance and would serve as the college’s president for two years until his retirement in 1964. In 1973 he was granted an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College of Insurance. He passed away on April 6th, 1975 at his home in Sharon, Connecticut at the age of 81. Goerlich is best remembered for his contributions to the advancement of education in insurance and has been widely recognized by his students and colleagues as an intelligent and amiable educator. Below is a phonetic which appears to have been written by students or colleagues from the College of Insurance. 

The Arthur Cyrus Goerlich Papers are now available for research at the Davis Library at St. John’s University. For more information, visit our website here.

ImageArthur Goerlic Phonetic, Davis Library Archives and Special Collections, St. John’s University.

To make an appointment, please call us at 212-277-5135, or email henniga@stjohns.edu.

Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library
Archives and Special Collections
St. John’s University
101 Murray St., 3rd Fl.
New York, NY, 10007

Intern Report: Costantino Spinosa

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My name is Costantino Spinosa and I am a senior history major at St. John’s University. I have been interning at the Davis Library for four months. I chose to pursue an internship at the Davis Library Archives and Special Collections because I would like to pursue a career in public history. My experience thus far has involved research on insurance companies dating back to the 18th century and has introduced me to a sphere of history in which I had not previously known about. My research focused on multiple aspects of insurance companies throughout history such as emblems, damage repairs, and major people in the insurance industry.

I am currently working on a collection that is centered on a well-known person in the insurance industry in New York City during the 20th century: Arthur Cyrus Goerlich. Processing the collection has educated me in the steps that are taken in organizing archival collections. Perhaps the most important (and certainly time consuming) aspect of organizing a collection is going through materials and trying to find commonalities that may exist amongst a set of records (for example in the collection I am currently working on, I have divided the materials into sets of personal correspondence,  press clippings, photos, etc). When the collection is organized, the next step is to prepare a finding aid that will outline the contents of the collection. The finding aid provides general information about the collection, as well as outlines how the collection has been organized; it is important that the finding aid is done properly in order to better assist researchers.  

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Items from the Arthur Cyrus Goerlic Papers, Davis Library Archives and Special Collections.

Invitation to Davis Library Open House on October 9, 2012 – New York Archives Week!

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Davis Library Archives and Special Collections, St. John’s University, Open House
Tuesday October 9, 12:oo p.m. – 7:oo p.m.

The Archives and Special Collections at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library originated with the formation of the Insurance Society of New York in 1901. The library has since collected historical documents, artifacts, manuscripts, and rare books on insurance; providing a world renowned research destination for scholars of the history of insurance, as well as many other areas within the humanities. Visitors should bring some form of picture ID to enter the building.

Web Site: www.stjohns.campusguides.com/davisarchives
Location: Davis Library Archives and Special Collections, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library, 3rd Floor, St. John’s University, Manhattan Campus, 101 Murray Street, New York, NY

No RSVP required

A complete list of Archives Week events and schedules can be found on the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc.’s website: www.nycarchivists.org.

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From the Archives: Fire Insurance Policy, Phillip Varlo

By Costantino Spinosa

An insurance policy dated “on or about the tenth day of August 1772,” was issued to Philip Varlo of Portsmouth regarding a fire that damaged utensils and stock within his storehouse. At the time Varlo was working as a block maker, a craftsman who engraved the blocks used in the printing industry, but has historically been documented for having been a five-time mayor of Portsmouth (1764, 1768, 1770, 1774, and 1776).[1] Receipts regarding his policy list multiple payments made by Varlo regarding the restoration of his storefront, one of which includes an unusual and rather humorous payment. The receipt (see below), most likely recorded on the day of the fire, notes that “By Cash paid for Mr Love for Beer on the Day Fire & Removing the Rubbish.” It appears Varlo had no problem rewarding a laborer with a nice cold beer for his work cleaning up the damages to the storehouse.


[1] “History In Portsmouth”, n.d. http://www.history.inportsmouth.co.uk/people/mayors.htm.

Phillip Varlo Fire Insurance Policy Receipt 1772

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