Slave Insurance Policy, 1857


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In Havana, Cuba on July 30, 1857, Dr. Jose Ma. Morales purchased an insurance policy on the life of a slave for a term of four years from La Protectora Compania General Cubana de Seguros Mutuos Sobre la Vida de los Esclavos (The Protector General Mutual Insurance Company of Cuba for the Lives of Slaves). The slave, named Carlota, is described as being 26 years old, of robust constitution, with a small forehead and mouth, a short nose, and black eyes. Slave insurance policy, Cuba, 1857


Slave Insurance Policy, 1863


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The Davis Library’s collection includes two insurance policies on the lives of slaves. This week’s post will be about one of the policies, an 1863 policy from the American South. Next week will feature the other, which is from Havana, Cuba, in 1857.

The first of three related documents is a letter dealing with the purchase of a female slave to be a maid to the daughter of Samuel Pearson, who initiates the matter in a letter to his son-in-law, A. W. Lewis, which reads as follows:

“Columbia, October 3rd 1863
Mr. A. W. Lewis, Augusta, Ga.
Dear Sir My Dear Son I have intended for some time to give my Daughter Lizzie your wife a good trusty negro woman to wait on her and who can be depended on when she goes out and one that can take care of the children + house. Now if you can find such a servant in your judgement, get her and let me know the amount, and I will settle A + C. All are well.
Yours respectfully
Saml Pearson”
Letter regarding purchase of a slave, 1863

The second document is a receipt showing that a slave was bought according to Mr. Pearson’s instructions, a week after the letter was written.

[2850] Augusta, Ga. Oct 10th 1863
Received of Samuel Pearson Twenty Eight Hundred and fifty Dollars, being in full for the purchase of two negro slaves named Sarah + Child the right and title of said slave I warrant and defend against the claims of all persons whatsoever; and likewise warrant them sound and healthy to date. As witness my hand and seal P. L. Dawson.”  Receipt for the purchase of a slave, 1863

The same day as the purchase of the slave named Sarah, and her child, A. W. Lewis purchases insurance on the life of Sarah and child. It is Negro Policy No. 1079 of the Southern Mutual Life insurance Company of Columbia, South Carolina. For the premium of $75 paid by A. W. Lewis, Trustee, of Augusta, Georgia, the life of the slave “Sarah, sometimes called Henrietta, 30 years” is insured for one year for the sum of $2000. The policy will remain effective for up to 5 years if the annual premium of $75 is paid on time. Insurance policy on the life of a slave, 1863

An endorsement on this policy (handwritten on reverse) shows that approximately 5 months later, on March 24, 1864, Lewis paid an additional premium and substituted his slave “Sally” aged “about 42 years,” for the “Sarah or Henrietta” named in the policy, “after due examination by Doct Henry A. Bignon, Physician for the Sou Mut Life Ins Co for the balance of the term named in this policy.”

Below this is a note of the receipt of $82.50 for the renewal of the policy for an additional year, until October 10, 1865 at noon.

The conditions of the policy read:

“That if the application signed by A. W. Lewis Trustee and dated the 10th October 1863 shall be in any respect fraudulent or untrue or if the said slave or slaves, or any of them, shall die by his, her or their own hands, or by intemperance, or by the hands of justice, or in the violation of law, or by or in consequence of a mob, a riot, a foreign invasion, a civil war, or an insurrection, or any military or usurped power, or by the final-treatment or neglect of the owner, or of any person to whom he, she or they may be entrusted; or if the said slave or slaves, or any of them, are now, or shall be hereafter insured in any other Company, or shall abscond or be kidnapped, or shall, without the written consent of the said Company, either be sold or given to a new owner, or be removed fifty miles from their present residence, or be employed in a more hazardous occupation than their present one, the degree of hazard to be estimated by the said application and the scale endorsed on this policy, whenever it is applicable, or if, in case of the sickness of the said slave or slaves, or any of them, he, she or they shall fail to receive all due and proper care, promptly, and without delay, or if this policy shall be assigned, without the written consent of the said Company; then, and in all such cases, the said Company shall not be liable to pay the sum insured and set opposite the name or names of the said slave or slaves, deceased, or any part thereof, and this policy, so far as relates to such payment, shall be utterly void. And it is further agreed, That the said Company shall not be bound to pay more than two-thirds of the value of such of the said slaves as may die during the continuance of this policy, the said value to be estimated as at the beginning of the last illness.”

Additional conditions on the reverse read:

“Not hazardous when employed by their owner in ordinary occupations. Hazardous when hired out, even in ordinary occupations. Extra hazardous when employed on steamboats, vessels, railroads, rice-fields, or about a steam engine.”

Insurance policy on the life of a slave, 1863, reverse

Marie Antoinette, the present Queen of France, in “A List of the Nominees in the Life Annuities of 1775”


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This leather-bound book published in Dublin in 1777 is  often asked about at the Davis Library, because it happens to mention Marie Antoinette. She is listed on page 10, under the category, “Second Class” referring to the life annuities for 1775, as “Her Majesty Marie Antoinette” aged 20. Her “Abode, and other Descriptions” is noted as Present Queen of France,” and the amount subscribed is £100.

Page 10 Marie AntoinetteThe cover reads, “A List of the Nominees in the Life Annuities of 1775.”

book_1777_01The full length title as printed on the title page is,

A List of the Persons on whose Lives The Sum of 175000l. was subscribed, Pursuant To An Act of Parliament passed in the Kingdom of Ireland (in the 15th and 16th Years of the Reign of His present Majesty George the Third, King of Great Britain, &c.) for granting Annuities in the Manner therein provided. Disposed into The Three separate Classes, agreeable to the alphabetical Order of their Names: And Shewing The Sum subscribed on the Life of each respective Person, the Number of Lives, and total Subscription in each Class. To which are annexed, Extracts From The Act of Parliament: With Forms and Directions Relative To Different Cases which may occur in the future in the Progress of that Business.

The bottom of the title page states that the volume was published in Dublin, by order of the Right Hon. Nathaniel Clements, Deputy Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, in 1777.book_1777_02


Davis Library’s Oldest Insurance Policy



Among the many original insurance policies at the Davis Library, the earliest is a handwritten policy on vellum dated November 26, 1655. It measures about 7 x 9.5 inches and has five ties at the bottom corner.

The handwriting is elegant but difficult to read. We have transcribed much of the text below. If anyone can contribute to our transcription, please leave a comment below or email us and we will update this post with the new information provided.

1655 Fire Insurance Policy side 1* click on image to zoom in


Know by all men these presents that we the right honorable William Lord Marquesse of Herftes, Stephan Bowman of Compton Chamberlyane, in the County of Wilts Gont, Thomas Keylway of Lions from London Gont, Thomas Gape of the Middle Temple London Gont and George Thomas of Easten in the said County of Wilts Gont are bound and firmly obliged unto Henry ? of the ? Temple London in One Thousand pounds of lawful mony of England to be paid to the said Henry ? or to his ordayne. Attorney his  ? or assignds. To which paymt will and faithfully to be made We binde ourselves and every of us by himself for the whole and in the whole our and every of our heirs, appoints and admes by those sealed our seals the six and twentieth day of November in the Yeare of our Lord God One Thousand Six Hundred fifty and five.

Sealed and delivered by the above bound the marquesse of herfts, Stephen Bowman, and George Thomas in the presence of … W. Leuett, John Nye, John Shenton,

Sealed and delivered by the above bound  Thomas Keylway and Thomas Gape in the presence of Tho., John Shenton, John Hundreth.

Hertford, Bowman, Thomas Keylway, Thomas Gape, George Thomas.

1655 Fire Insurance Policy side 2* click on image to zoom in


The condition of this obligation is such that if the ? right honorable William Lord Marquese of ? Stephen Boromom, Thomas Keylway, Thomas Gayes, and George Thomas and their ? ? or assignors, or any of whom ? will and truly pay or ? to be paid unto  ?? named Benny Ehoot his ? or assigns, the forms of five hundred and fifty one pounds of lawful money of England, upon the eight and twentieth day of May ? written ? or ? the ? dwelling house of Thomas Bostock ? ? the Royal Exchange in London, ? this obligation to be void or ? it to stand in full force and virtue.

? The 28 day 1656

A Damaged Fire Insurance Policy, 1796


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fire insurance policy 1796 frontAbraham Codington purchased an insurance policy for $34.38 on August 22, 1796 from the Mutual Assurance Company for Insuring Houses from Loss by Fire in New-York. The policy protected his home for up to $1,250 during a term of seven years. Codington’s property included,

“his dwelling house and back building No. 41 in Barclay Street bounded east by Moore Tuties framed house, rear the yard and college yards, west by George Beaumans framed house, as described in the surveyors report No. 1615 Book D Folio 86 and are classed in the sixth rate of insurances…”

fire insurance policy 1796 seal

This document has a starburst-shaped papered seal near the bottom, and an engraving at the top, depicting a scene of a burning building with firefighters pumping water from an old fashioned fire truck. The engraving is signed by P.R. Maverick, 65 Liberty Street.

fire insurance policy 1796 engravingUnfortunately, this document is in very poor condition. A long ago repair-attempt was made using copious amounts of tape on the reverse, including directly over some of the handwriting. The entire document is brittle and crumbling, and some loss of paper has already occurred in a few places.

fire insurance policy 1796 back

Fire Insurance Policy, 1791



engraving, life insurance policy 1791

On July 30, 1791, Mr. Robert Wilson of Glasgow, leather cutter, paid 19 shillings and four pence, and agreed to pay a yearly premium of sixteen shillings, to the Phoenix Assurance Company of London to insure against loss by fire his property up to 750 pounds. This property included,

“His now dwelling house and shop communicating situate on the north side of Bridge Gate Street 150 pounds stock in trade therein, 160 pounds household goods and linen therein, 40 pounds wearing apparel therein, 20 pounds stock not hazardous in a cellar near, 140 pounds stock not hazardous in a cellar situate in ? Land near, 140 pounds all stone and slated and the fourth story and garrets of a tenement timber and slated in tenure of ___ situate on the west side of the salt market 100 pounds all in Glasgow aforesaid.”

This document has a beautiful engraving of a female figure holding a shield with a phoenix on it, in front of a scene of firefighters pumping water from an old-fashioned fire truck onto a burning building.


Fire Insurance Policy, 1782



policy_box01_010 hand in hand

Thomas Lowfield, Esq., of the City of Bath, purchased an insurance policy from the “Amicable Contributorship or Society commonly called the Hand in Hand Office” on November 22, 1782. The policy insured two buildings against being “burnt down, blown up, or demolished by or by reason or means of fire.” One building was brick and one was timber, valued at 200 pounds each, “situate on the east side of St. Margaret’s [?], in the Parish of St. Saviour Southwark, being the second house southward from the Talbot Inn …for the term of seven years from the date hereof…” At the top of the document is an engraving of the Hand-in-Hand emblem, depicting two hands clasping with a crown above.policy_box01_010

Mary Albert’s Fire Insurance Policy, 1781



This may be the earliest insurance policy in the Davis Library’s collection held by a woman, Mary Albert, a widow from Wales in 1781. It is also one of the largest policies in the collection, at 24 x 19 inches unfolded.

Mary Albert fire insurance policy 1781Mary Albert purchased this insurance policy from the Westminster Insurance Office,” for insuring houses, chambers, and all other buildings from loss by fire, within twenty five miles from the office” for five pounds eight shillings. The policy covered two brick and timber houses, one on the north side and one at the east end of Lancaster Court in the Parish of St. George Hanover, being the second and third houses from Bond Street in possession of Mr. John and Mr. Turnbull, for a term of seven years.

reverse of policy

Fire Insurance Policy, 1796



This month we are highlighting several 18th century fire insurance policies from our collection.

fire policy 1796 engraving

This policy of the Mutual Assurance Society Against Fire in Virginia, dated November 9, 1796 insured the property of Alexander Moseley of Norfolk, Virginia against loss or damage by fire. There is an intricate engraving at the top of the policy depicting a female figure holding a scale and a sword, on a pedestal inscribed, “Do unto others as you would be done by” all in front of a scene with several figures and the word “relief” and a building on fire in the background. Below the engraving and name of the company is “W. F. Ast author of — the Assurance Plan.

fire policy 1796

The policy states that, “Mr. Alexander Moseley of Norfolk has entered the building herein mentioned, for assurance from loss or damage by fire, in the Mutual Assurance Society, against fire on buildings in the state of Virginia, as per his declaration dated the 26 day of April 1796 marked No. 30 and filed in the office, to wit A kitchen marked B the walls built of brick covered with wood situated backward of his house on the main street at the said place now occupied by himself, between the said, and that of vacant ground in the county of Norfolk, the particulars of the situation, dimensions, and building, are as by description, No. 34 which he has deposited in this office, and valued at 500 dollars, deduct 100 [dollars] remained nett, 400 dollars, which said four hundred dollars, is the real sum insured, and on which he had paid eight dollars – cents premium, and one dollar – cents, for tax on the policy…”


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