Travelers Accident Insurance Advertisement, 1888



This little card was distributed as an advertisement for accident insurance from the Travelers Insurance Company. There is an 1888 calendar on one side with information on the cost to professional and business men. The other side contains two images of steam-powered locomotives, the Best Friend, and the West Point, with a cautionary tale about why one should purchase accident insurance when the travel. Text at the bottom indicates the printer of the card: The Kellogg & Bulkeley Co. HTFD, CT.

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ticket_travelers_2_side2The Travelers Insurance Co.
Never Travel Without Accident Insurance
Accident Policies Cost But $5.00 Per Year To Professional
And Business Men For Each $1000 With $5.00 Weekly Indemnity



First Excursion Trip Of The “Best Friend”
The First Locomotive Built In The United States
For Actual Service On A Railroad,
In Charleston, S.C. Sat. Jan, 15th 1831.

The Travelers Life Policies Are The Best.

The Negro Fireman, Annoyed By The Blowing Off Of Steam From
The Safety Valve, Fastened Down The Valve Lever And Sat On It,
With The Result Of An Explosion, That Killed Him And Scalded The Engineer.

“Moral; Insure In The Travelers.”


First Excursion Trip Of The “West Point”
The Second Locomotive Built In the United States
For Actual Service On A Railroad,
In Charleston, S.C. Sat. March, 5th 1831.

All Claims Paid Without Discount.

This Engine Replaced The Exploded “Best Friend” And To Protect Passengers Against Such Explosions, A “Barrier Car,” A Flat Car, Loaded With Cotton Bales, Was Placed Between The Engines And Coaches, The Safety Valve Also Being Fastened Out Of Reach Of Anyone But The Engineer.

The Travelers’ Insurance Tickets
Cost Only 25 Cents A Day   $4.50 For 30 Days.

Declaration of Intention to form a Company for Fire Insurance, 1863



This week’s document is a handwritten declaration of intention to form a fire insurance company in New York City, called the Hendrick Hudson Fire Insurance Company. The declaration is dated June 4, 1863, and contains 22 signatures, most with addresses written lightly next to the name. The text is transcribed below.

declaration page 1*click on image to zoom in

Declaration of Intention to form a Company for Fire Insurance

We the Undersigned hereby give notice of our intention to associate and form an Incorporated Company agreeably to an Act of the Legislature of the State of New York entitled ” An Act to provide for the Incorporation of Fire Insurance Companies” passed June 25th 1853, and the acts ammendatory thereof, for the purpose of transacting the business of making insurance on – dwelling houses, stores and all kinds of buildings, and upon household furniture and other property, against loss or damage by fire, and the risks of inland navigation and transportation; and also for the purpose of transacting the business of making insurance upon vessels, boats, cargoes, goods, merchandise, freights and other property against loss and damage by all or any of the risks of lake, river, canal and inland navigation and transportation; such Company to be known by the name or style of The Hendrick Hudson Fire Insurance Company and to be located in the City of New York.

New York 4th June 1863

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declaration page 2declaration page 3


Ask the Secretary of State: Insuring Property in Seceded States During the Civil War?


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Recently we came across these two Civil War-era letters among our many documents that are in the process of being cataloged and digitized at the Davis Library. This correspondence is between an insurance agent in New York, Henry Henig, and the Secretary of State at time, the Honorable William H. Seward, in Washington D.C. regarding insuring property held in seceded states.

The first letter, dated September 19, 1861 is shown below with a transcription. In the top right corner of the letter is the word “Copy” indicating that this is a copy of his own letter to the Secretary of State that Henry Henig hand wrote to keep in his personal files.

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Letter from Henig to Seward 1861Copy
Insurance Office of Henry Henig
No. 118 Broadway
New York Sept 19 1861
To the Honorable Wm H. Seward
Secy of State
Dear Sir,
Please inform me if loyal citizens of this state may insure what property they posses in the seceded states against fire without infringing the proclamation prohibiting commercial intercourse as infringement of which as a loyal citizen I desire to avoid.
The kindness of your reply will exceedingly oblige.
Your mo’ obed
Hy Henig

The second letter is a reply from Secretary State William H. Seward. Received in Washington D.C. from New York, his letter is dated just two days later on September 21, 1861.

Letter from Seward to Henig 1861Department of State
Washington Sep 21, 1861

My dear Sir,
Your letter of the 19th September has been received. I see no objection to loyal citizens of the United States insuring “what property they posses in seceded states” against any loss by fire.
Very truly yours
William H. Seward

This is the envelope used by Seward to send his reply to Henig in New York. The stationary is from the Department of State, and has a red wax seal on the back featuring an image of an eagle and the words “Department of State USA.” A library stamp on the back of the envelope indicates that the letters were donated to our library in 1930.

Envelope 1861 front

Envelope 1861 back

Moses Cohen Fire Insurance Claim, 1771



This document is an insurance claim for a fire at the home of Moses Cohen of three Crown Court, Poor Jewry Lane. This claim states that the fire happened on or about June 8, 1771, was accidental, and caused the loss and damage of his household goods, printed books and wearing apparel worth sixty pounds. An inventory of said household goods was delivered to the Sun Fire Office. The claim affidavit was signed on July 30, 1771 by Brass Crosby, Mayor of London, at Guild Hall.

On the reverse side of the page, the “minister, church wardens and other inhabitants of the parish of [blank]” certify that the fire on June 8, 1771 at the home of Moses Cohen was accidental, and that “Moses Cohen is an honest man and that he really and by misfortune without any fraud or evil practice has sustained by said fire a loss to the amount of the sum mentioned in the within affidavit.” The document is signed by Sarah Snow and David Salomons.

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doc_0005aMoses Cohen p1side1









The second sheet of paper is titled, “An Inventory of the Losses Sustained by the Fire that happened in by back room”. The inventory includes items such as fabric, aprons, a wig box with caps and handkerchiefs, a cap, apron, and ruffles and lace my wife was married in, 1 trunk about 25 inches long & 15 broad marked M. M. with my children’s clothes, a bed, blankets, curtains, and books.

Underneath the inventory is a note about the original fire insurance policy, No. 205959, dated January 10, 1764, on his household goods and printed books, in his new dwelling house only…and wearing apparel therein.









John Reed Fire Insurance Claim, 1772


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This document is an insurance claim for damage caused by a fire in Exeter, England on September 5, 1772. John Reed, a merchant from Crediton in Devon, Exeter, states here that his buildings were damaged by an accidental fire, that the inventory provided contained a true and faithful account of the damage, that the buildings were not insured in any other office at the time of the fire, and that the damage amounted to the sum of forty four pounds, three shillings, three pence. Below this is a statement by the minister, church warden and other principal inhabitants of Crediton in Devon, Exeter, England certifying that John Reed is “an honest man and of good repute” and that the fire was truly accidental.

On the reverse side of the document is an estimate or inventory of the loss and damage by fire to Mr. John Reed of Exeter on the 5th day of September 1772. At the top of the page is written “Policy 103,347” although no insurer is mentioned. The inventory includes items such as floor board and joyst, roof and thatching, cob, and fine windows and glass.

Side 1

John Reed fire insurance claim 1772 side 1Side 2

John Reed fire insurance claim 1772 side 2

Nicholas Barbon Agreement for Purchasing a House


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We have another transcription challenge with this second Nicholas Barbon document from the library’s collection.

This document, dated April 11, 1684, appears to be an agreement between Dr. Nicholas Barbon and another individual for the purchase of a house in Devonshire Square. There are two wax seals near Barbon’s signature. There is similar damage to that of the mortgage document featured in the previous blog post, but overall, it is much better condition with no fading of the text.

We are seeking help in transcribing part or all of this 17th century handwritten document. Contact us or leave a comment on this post to contribute your knowledge. (Click on images to zoom in.)

Side 1

Nicholas Barbon house purchase 01Side 2

Nicholas Barbon house purchase 02






Nicholas Barbon Mortgage


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This week’s featured item is a transcription challenge!

This 17th century document appears to be a mortgage for a property called Devonshire House for Dr. Nicholas Barbon from Mr. Sayer. Nicholas Barbon is known as one of the pioneers in the formation of the insurance industry in London. This document contains various dates, from as early as 1616, to as late as 1679.

The beautiful but unfamiliar 17th century handwriting is a challenge to read. There is also considerable fading and damage to the fragile paper. We are seeking help in transcribing part or all of the document. Contact us or leave a comment on this post to contribute your knowledge.

Side 1

Nicholas Barbon mortgage side 1

Side 2

Nicholas Barbon mortgage side 2


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



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