Museum Studies Class Visits the Davis Library


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Last week, a group of students from the Museum Studies program at St. John’s University visited the Davis Library. They examined a variety of artifacts to assist in learning how to write a condition report. The artifacts included memorabilia from the College of Insurance, insurance company advertising signs and calendars, a scrapbook, a necktie, old-fashioned desk accessories from an insurance company, a framed engraving, and more.

Class visits can be arranged by contacting the Davis Library several weeks in advance.Museum studies students examine artifacts Museum studies students examine artifacts

An Act for Preventing and Suppressing of Fires within the City of London, 1668


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This month we will be highlighting some of the unique and early holdings in our rare book collection.

One of the oldest items at the Davis Library, and one of our many resources on fire prevention and suppression is an original copy of “An Act for Preventing and Suppressing of Fires within the City of London and Liberties thereof” published in London in 1668. It is bound in leather with beautiful marbling on the covers as well as marbled endpages.


This 10 page work was written just two years after the Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed much of the city over four days. The ideas presented within were quite revolutionary for the time.

Download the full version (PDF)


100th Anniversary of the Explosion on Black Tom Island



This Saturday, July 30, 2016, will be the 100 year anniversary of the explosion on Black Tom Island. The Davis Library is fortunate to have the records of the Special Committee on Black Tom Island Disaster, a group of insurance companies organized 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 is available for research by appointment only. The finding aid can be viewed here.

black_tom_docs_2black_tom_docs_3black_tom_docs_1*Click images to zoom in.

Newspaper clippings about the insurance claims, a scrapbook of meeting minutes and correspondence of the special committee, a bill from the house of representatives, and a pamphlet of photographs of the aftermath of the explosion taken by Pathé News.



Petition for the Formation of the Atlantic Insurance Company, 1824


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This petition for the formation of the Atlantic Insurance Company was sent to the representatives of the city and county of Philadelphia on March 10, 1824. The petition asked for these representatives to consider the needs of “a very large portion of our mercantile community” and support the formation of “a new institution, founded, supported and managed by men in active commercial business.” The petitioners asked that their proposal be considered before the end of the session, so that no business would be lost in the meantime. The petition is closed with ten signatures.  Soon after the petition, in April of 1824, The Atlantic Insurance Company was organized as a marine insurance company.

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petition_atlantic_ page 1petition_atlantic page 2

Bay State Beneficiary Association, Westfield, Massachusetts 1887


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This Statement of Death and Emergency Funds from the Bay State Beneficiary Association of Westfield, Massachusetts, was published on October 10, 1887. It details company’s assessments and emergency funds and also includes the names of the recently deceased who had death claims paid for them, listed along with the disease they suffered from, providing genealogical information to researchers. Bay State also uses this statement to advertise, illustrating how their rates are lower than the “old-line” companies.

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bay_state_001La Fayette F. Robinson, Medina, N. Y. Pneumonia, 5,000.00
James E. Vose, Ashburnham, Mass., Anemia, 5,000.00
Daniel Alexander, Lee, Mass., Acute Tuberculosis 5,000.00
Alberti C. Steward, Peterboro, N. H. Stricture of Oesophagus 5,000.00
E. Edwards Allen, Florence, Mass., Paralysis, 5,000.00
William W. Dewey, Lowville, N. Y. Cirrhosis of Liver, 5,000.00
Elizabeth Ladue, Springfield, Mass., Pneumonia, 1,000.00
Albert S. Mowry, Nantucket Mass., Brights Disease, 2,000.00


Travel Insurance Tickets, 1867


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This week we have two travel insurance tickets from the collection that were purchased by R. H. Belden of Hartsfield, Massachusetts in 1867. The first ticket is from the Provident Life Insurance & Investment Co. of Chicago, Illinois. The ticket, which cost 10 cents, was good for 1 day, from 12 noon on the day of the ticket stamp date. This travel insurance ticket would pay $15 per week in case of personal injury causing total disability for up to 26 weeks, or $3,000 to his heirs upon his death, due to an accident on any public transportation while in the United States or British North American possessions, excluding War Risk.

ticket_provident_side1ticket_provident_side2The second travel insurance ticket purchased by Belden, also for 10 cents, was from the Travelers Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut one month later. The terms of insurance were almost identical to the first ticket. The front of the Travelers ticket suggests Belden took the North Bennington – Troy & Boston Railroad.


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.

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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.