By Costantino Spinosa
Two articles from the New York Times from the late 19th century reveal the retirement of The Shoe and Leather Insurance Company of Boston, Massachusetts and provide insight into a scandal that may have impacted the company’s short-lived existence. The company was established in 1872 with a capital of $300,000.00, just one year before Christopher Foster signed insured his home, furniture and clothing against fire for $5,000 (see image below). By 1881, the company’s capital increased to $600,000.00, a gain that would soon be overshadowed by the company’s retirement three years later in November of 1884. This sudden retirement, after what appeared to be a decade of success, may be due in part to a scam by one-time company secretary Henry Brooks White. In 1881, White was arrested for the embezzlement of $20,000.00 from the Shoe and Leather Insurance Company, which may have served as the major blow to the company before its downfall and eventual retirement three years later.
This policy is referenced in chapter one of “The Fire Insurance Contract: Its History and Interpretation, published in 1922 by the Insurance Society of New York. The original policy, as well as a copy of “The Fire Insurance Contract,” is available for use at the Davis Library.
1 “A Dishonest Secretary: Arrest of A Boston Embezzler in This City.” The New York Times. New York, New York, October 24, 1881.
2 “AN INSURANCE COMPANY RETIRES (The Shoe and Leather Insurance Company).” The New York Times. New York, New York, November 14, 1884.