Life Insurance Policy, 1798

This policy of insurance, dated October 10, 1798, was taken out upon the life of John Hardy of Heaton Norris in the County of Lancaster, a muslin manufacturer, age 34 years old. The beneficiary was Thomas Dewhurst of Marple in the County of Chester, who agreed to pay three pounds and six pence each year through 1805 for as long as John Hardy lived. If Mr. Hardy did not survive the term of the policy, Mr. Dewhurst would receive one hundred and fifty pounds from the Royal Exchange Assurance. The policy would be void if at any time during the term of the policy, Mr. Hardy departed beyond the limits of Europe, died upon the seas, or entered into or engaged in any military or naval service.

Three receipts accompany this policy, each dated October 10th of 1802, 1803, and 1804, documenting several of Mr. Dewhurst’s annual payments towards the life insurance policy upon Mr. Hardy. Each of the documents is stamped; the policy contains a papered seal.

Amicable Society Reciept for Payment on the Life of William Ross, 1781


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During the month of February, we are featuring 18th century life insurance policies and receipts.

This is a receipt for payment of one pound eleven shillings for one quarter’s contribution on the life of Mr. William Ross, as a contributor to the joint stock of the Corporation of the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office. The receipt is dated May 5, 1781 at Serjeants Inn, London, headquarters of the office, and is signed by the registrar, Mr. Baldwin. The company’s emblem, a dove standing upon a snake, and motto, prudens simplictas (prudent simplicity) is engraved upon the receipt.


James Locke’s Marine Insurance Policies, 1798-1809



The Davis Library has 40 original marine insurance policies purchased by James Locke of Newburyport and Salisbury, Massachusetts between 1798 and 1809. Some of the policies were purchased with other people – most often Benjamin and Jacob Morrill. Each policy insures a ship or cargo on voyages to ports all around the world. William Adams was the captain, or master, for ten of the voyages covered by these policies.

These policies can be viewed on our new digital collections site,


Marine insurance policy, 1795



George Sibbald purchased a policy from the Insurance Company of North America in Philadelphia on December 24, 1795. It insured the Schooner Two Friends, captained by Peter Foster, on its journey from Philadelphia to Havana.

A handwritten addendum at the end of the policy states, “This insurance is declared to be made against such risks as happen in time of peace only, and warranted free of capture and the consequences of capture save the usual risque of the sea which may happen after such capture.”

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Marine insurance policy, 1762



This policy insured the lawful goods upon the Schooner Tybee as it traveled from Charleston, South Carolina to the port of Philadelphia, under command of Captain Thomas Tucker. The goods were valued at “one thousand pounds current money of South Carolina.” Merchant Thomas Rennard purchased this policy on July 28, 1762 in Charleston from the insurers Smith Brewton & Smith & Co.

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Marine insurance policy, 1775



This month we are featuring a selection of 18th century marine insurance policies. These are some of the earliest marine policies in the Davis Library’s collection. Check back each week for another document.

On January 20, 1775, New York merchant David Van Horne purchased an insurance policy from the Old Insurance Office in New York. This policy insured the body, tackle, apparel, ordnance, munition, artillery, boat and other furniture of and in the Brigantine Elizabeth, with John Young serving as master for the voyage at and from New York to Liverpool.

The policy covered many “adventures and perils” including, “the seas, men of war, fire, enemies, pyrates, rovers, thieves, jettizons, letters of mart and countermart, surprisals, takings at sea, baratry of the master and mariners, and all other perils, losses and misfortunes, that have or shall come to the hurt, detriment or damage of the said vessel and appurtenances.”

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KSCD Library – Policy ID #1004

From the Archives: Flame Fiends and Fire Demons


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Two unique books in the Davis Library’s collection are children’s books aimed at fire prevention. They contain some frightening images of what can happen if children are careless with fire safety. Valine Hobbs, the author of “Sparks: Fire Prevention Rhymes and Stories” published in 1926, wrote her book based upon the experiences of teaching her own third and fourth grade children. She writes that the purpose of the book is, “to present to small children most of the careless habits which, if indulged in will lead to ruin and sorrow.”

Sparks Fire Prevention Rhymes and Stories - book cover sparks021

The other book was written by Hallie L. Jameson, formerly state supervisor of English, Austin, Texas. “The Flame Fiend: A Text-Book on Fire Prevention” published in 1921, was written for a slightly older group of schoolchildren, and includes an entire chapter on insurance. theflamefiendtheflamefiend011




Relics of the 19th Century: Obsolete Currency Issued by Insurance Companies


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The history of paper currency in the United States is rich and diverse, reflecting the distinctive political and economic development of the country.  From the first paper bill issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690 to the anti-counterfeiting design changes introduced in 1996, American paper money has witnessed a multitude of changes.  A particularly exciting period of monetary transformation was the Era of Free Banking in the early to mid-19th century.  This period saw the production of paper money from varied sources such as states, cities, municipalities and private industries like restaurants, churches and insurance companies.  After the charter of the Second US Central Bank expired in 1836, the country was left without a formal central bank, creating a vacuum that would be filled by private banks and insurance companies.

The Davis library at St. John’s University holds a collection of currency consisting of nonfederal notes issued by insurance companies during the 19th century.  These notes are referred to as obsolete currency because circulation stopped during the Civil War.  The collection features currency with intricately designed engravings, colorful typeface and notes printed on patterned paper.  The engravings and symbols on the currency and the paper it was printed on are illustrative of the times, revealing the ways in which people viewed themselves and their country as well as the methods used to deal with shortages in supplies.  Below are examples of privately issued paper money printed by insurance companies in the 19th century, both of which are available for viewing at the SJU Davis Library.

Adrian Insurance Company currencyThis intricately engraved currency was issued by the Adrian Insurance Company in the 1800s.  The document displays vignettes of agricultural workers (center), a Native American warrior with rifle (left) and a dog guarding a safe (lower right).  This item is hand signed by the Company’s President and Cashier and is over 100 years old.

Greensboro insurance company currencyThis fifty-cent 1862 note of deposit was issued by the Greensboro Mutual Life Insurance Company. The document displays black and red inks on paper printed in green with an ivy-like pattern, black “50” inside simple oval (top left), “50” in red (top right) and “50 CENTS” in red (center), a small standing female figure (left end) and an image of a one-candle chandelier (bottom right). The faded signature of the company’s treasurer, Dr. David P. Weir, is also displayed at the bottom right of the note.

Even in the early stages of the war, the printers of governmental currencies often found it difficult to locate or maintain adequate supplies of paper. Such shortages made it necessary to recycle paper or to use wallpapers and other types of paper not intended for printing money. Reportedly, the patterned paper on this Greensboro Mutual Life Insurance Company note is a type that craftsmen used to line the drawers in furniture or to paste inside keepsake boxes and other containers.




From the Archives: Featured Document


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By Adina Brizel

The Baltimore Life Insurance Company, founded in 1830, issued this list of rates of insurance during the presidency of John Donaldson, who was also one of the company’s directors. Although the exact year of this document is unknown, it is correct to assume it is dated before the Civil War.

Baltimore Life Insurance CompanyDue to pre- Civil War Maryland being a slave state, there is a specific section which mentions insurance rates that one can pay for one’s slaves. A table lists the rates of insurance of $100 on the life of a slave. The youngest slaves, starting at age 14, can be insured for a premium of $1.28 a year and a $1.54 premium per annum over seven years. The age caps out at 60, where one must pay a premium of $5.65 a year and $6.16 per annum over seven years.

Baltimore Life Insurance CompanyThis document notes that one is required to pay extra premiums for “Negroes employed in Engineer service, Coal Pits and Steamboats.” In addition, the rates were lower for white customers.

Baltimore Life Insurance Company


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