Lewis J. Bonar.

A sketch and some sketches on fire insurance and its kindred associates and associates not kindred online

. (page 1 of 15)
Online LibraryLewis J. BonarA sketch and some sketches on fire insurance and its kindred associates and associates not kindred → online text (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

iTt O*



[ QQ^Psfield.Ohi^

A Sketch and Some Sketches


A Sketch and Some Sketches


Fire Insurance

and its

Kindred Associates and
Associates Not Kindred


L. J. Bonar

He who runs may read
He who reads may run

Mansfield, Ohio
December, 1920

Copyrighted, 1921

Mansfield, Ohio

To the State and Special Agents — to my personal
friends and co-laborers with whom I have had business
associations — with some for many and with others for
a lesser number of years — to the men with whom I have
shared the joys and sorrows, the hopes and disappoint-
ments, the anxieties and worries incident to our busi-
ness, what I have written is respectfully dedicated, in
the hope that it may serve the purpose of binding us in
the closer ties of professional Brotherhood.

And I wish to here express my appreciation to the
members of the History Committee, whose advice,
suggestions and encouragement induced me to under-
take the task assigned me.

L. J. Bonar
December, 1920.


At the regular meetings of the two Field Organizations
held in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, January 5th, 1916,
the President of each organization was instructed to
appoint from its own members, a committee of three —
the two committees thus appointed to act as a joint com-
mittee on Insurance History. The following persons
were appointed:

From the Ohio Field Club,
E. W. Raynolds Ray Decker A. W. Dorbert

From the Fire Underwriter's Association,
H. W. Clayton Thomas H. Smith Geo. Diebold

On Monday evening preceding the February meetings
of the two organizations, I met by invitation, this joint
Committee at the Hartman Hotel, Columbus, where I
was honored by them with a complimentary dinner. A
frank and full discussion of the project under consid-
eration brought out expressions from the members of
this Committee that the Field men of Ohio were prac-
tically unanimous in a desire to have something prepared
in the way of an Insurance History of Ohio, and that in
their opinion, I was the person who had been commonly
looked to to take up such a task. While this Commit-
tee, in a spirit of fraternal generosity, extended to me
unlimited latitude in giving my own personal experien-
ces, personal recollections and incidents in my own life,
they carefully avoided "entangling alliances" by not
promising to read what I might write or to subscribe for
any number of volumes of the book that might be pub-
lished. Upon consideration of the wishes expressed
and the suggestions made to me by this Joint Committee
I submitted the following reply:

Columbus, Ohio, February 1, 1916

Mr. I^. W. Raynolcls, ]

Mr. Ray Decker, > Committee Field Club.

Mr. A. W. Dorbert, J

Mr. H.W.Clayton, ]

Mr. Thos. H. Smith, >Ohio Underwriter's Association.

Mr. Geo. Diebold, J

Gentlemen: — I wish through you to express to the mem-
bers of our two Field Organizations my appreciation of
the personal compliment in tendering me the ofifice of
Insurance Historian. I have frecjuently been asked
to prepare and have printed some of my personal exper-
iences in the business but I have uniformly declined
this honor for the reason that I did not propose by any
act of my own, to set myself up as a target for the darts
and the javelins of unfriendly criticism. Having now
discussed the proposition quite thoroughly with you and
having arrived at final conclusions and an apparently
satisfactory agreement, I have decided that should the
time, the opportunity and the inclination, present them-
selves to me hand in hand, as I trust they may at some
future period, I will undertake the work.

In the performance of what has been assigned me I
will necessarily be compelled to include some of my per-
sonal recollections and experiences, but in doing so I will
not, I hope, be influenced by any personal egotism.
Feeling as I do that I can engage in this duty without
being obliged to make any apologies, I will endeavor at
some future date to present to my Insurance friends,
something in the way of a History of the Insurance
Business of Ohio.

Respectfully yours,

L. J. Bonar

Columbus, Ohio, January 31, 1916

The Underwriter's Field Club of Ohio,

Columbus, Ohio
Gentlemen: — Your committee on a History of the In-
surance Business in the State of Ohio met with a like
Committee of the Bureau organization January 31, 6:30
P.M., at the Hartman Hotel, Columbus, with the follow-
ing present: Ray Decker, H. W. Clayton, Thos. H.
Smith, Geo. Diebold and E. W. Raynolds. On invi-
tation of the Committee the President of this Club met
with us

On motion, Mr. H. W. Clayton was elected Chairman
of the Joint Committee.

The matter was thoroughly discussed with President
Bonar, and upon receiving the assurances of the Com-
mittee that he would not be limited as to time in which
to produce the work, that there was a popular demand
among the members of both organizations for such a
work, and that any expense, such as stenographic work
or other small items would receive the approval of the
Clubs, that gentleman took the matter under advise-
ment and promised an answer on the following morning.
Copy of Mr. Bonar's acceptance of the commission is
attached hereto.

The committee adjourned subject to call by the
chairman. Respectfully submitted,

E. W. Raynolds, Chairman

Same report as above made to the Ohio Underwriter's

Owing to changes in their business connections, the
members of the Committee from the Field Club were
unable to serve any longer and the following named
persons were appointed to succeed them. Mr. Cyrus
Woodbury, Mr. R. L. Raynolds, Mr. Walter A. Sawyer.


Adjustments _ 142

Aetna Bible 26

Appendix 177

Audit Bureau 48

Beginning, In the 1

Bennett, Mr. J. B 23

Brokers 11

Cincinnati-.- 134

Classification 92

Cleveland - - - 129

Combined Policy, Columbus - 96

Commissions 91

Competition 68

Dayton 137

DeCamp, Mr. J. M 25

Discovery of Steam Power 17

Early History 7

Expiration Notices 90

Fire Departments- 80

Fire Marshal's Department - - 35

Fire Prevention 38

First Fire Engine- - -.- 79

First Local Agencies 19

First Special Agents 17

Gangs 124

Green Tree Insurance Company - 15

Honored Associates 52

Impressions 94

Inspectors - .- 93

Insurance Blanks 84

Insurance Department - 33

Insurance Trust 60

Introductory ix

Law. Mr. John H 24

Lest VVc Forget , 181

Local Agents Association 74

Looking Backward 4

Magill, Mr. H. M 22

Mansfield — 138

Map Making 90

Moorehead, Mr. Sam 97

National Board 26

Ohio Insurance Exchange 66

Ohio Inspection Bureau..- 44

Ohio Provisional Committee 31

Ohio State Board (Members of). .179

Oldest Stock Company 12

Old Time Agents 81

Personal History .101

Presidents N. F. U. Association 66

Promoters 93

Put-in-Bay, Meeting at 65

Rest, Law of 127

Retired Veterans ._ 74

Schedule Rating 88

Smith, Mr. John E 72

Solicitors 87

State Boards and Clubs 61

Llnderwriting 20

Valued Policy 55

Western Adjustment Company 49

Western Departments 21

Youngstown 89

Zanesville I39

"Not to know what has been transacted in former
times is to be always a child. If no use is to be made
of the labors of past ages the world must always remain
in the infancy of knowledge."

A Sketch and Some Sketches

By L. J. Bonar

In the Beginning

Within an hour after I had suppHed my earthly taber-
nacle with the usual munitions for service, I found
myself sitting in my office chair (one of those Merry-go-
round affairs,) and without any definite aims or plans
before me. Just then, I chanced to look at my calendar
on the wall, which indicated to me that this was the 14th
day of February, in the year of our Lord, 1920. This
fact started a train of thought, as well as an inquiry,
wherein this day was different from thousands that
had preceded or from thousands that w^ould follow it.
In the common hum-drum of this busy life with its joys
and its sorrows — its loves and its hates — its expectations
and disappointments — its fierce struggles for existence,
this apparently is, to mankind in general, but a little
more than a common day — a day not differing greatly
from others, but in this instance, it is the day that sepa-
rates or splits the month into halves. Is it this only
that gives significance to me? No, this is St. V^alen-
tine's Day — the day when the birds are supposed to
choose their mates, though not to any great extent in
this climate, yet a pair of cardinals are getting their daily
food in my back yard. I recall too, that it is the day when
boys and girls are exchanging love ditties and comic
pictures, w^hen they make life merry with their laughter
and song, and add weariness and vexations to Post
Office clerks and the mail carriers; but to me, and for

anot licr roason, this day stands out in special prominence
as ail anniversary in my business life. Forty-eight
years ago I began my career as Special Agent and in
this connection I have had pleasure and prosperity,
longer than the average age of man.

Then again I call to mind that on the first day of this
month, at Columbus, I promised the members of our two
Field Clubs, that should the time, the opportunity and
the inclination come to me hand in hand, like minister-
ing angels, I would undertake, at some future time, to
give my insurance friends a brief history of some of the
happenings and experiences — some of my personal
recollections, of the events that have occured during
this long business career, and with such reflections and
meditations, I take up my not unpleasant task.

Having been complimented with the unanimous vote
of both the Field Club, and the Bureau Club, in their
selection of me, as their Insurance Historian, I feel that
I am relieved of the necessity of making apologies for
what I undertake to do ; but should I use the personal
pronoun with undue frequency, it will be through
necessity, rather than choice.

Commonly speaking, makers of history have neither
the time, nor the inclination to write it, while on the
other hand the writers of history commonly have little to
do in the making of it. My personal ambition would
be, to be a maker, rather than a writer of history, but
under existing conditions and circumstances, I am con-
fronted with the proposition to fill both positions, and
my failure or success will have to be determined by my

The inquiry, which has been anticipated, will natur-
ally, and somewhere arise, why I should write a brief
sketch of my life, and, in response may I be permitt-

ed to ask "Why not?" So long as I shall not exact any
promises from my friends to read what I write nor
regard their neglect to do so as a personal affront, why
not grant me unrestricted freedom in my task? If I can
place on my sacrificial altar a little sweet incense — the
ascending smoke of which will be pleasing to me, why
should I not gratify my sense of smell with its fragrant

Having been asked to write a history of Fire Insur-
ance in Ohio, and having been actively engaged in it for
so many years as State and Special Agent, it seems to me
that a sketch of my life so intimately interwoven with
the history of the fire insurance business should furnish
a reasonable excuse for what I have undertaken, and
mix with it an account of my life without egotism on
my part.

Would not this world in which we live be much better
and our lives much happier, if we would pluck up the
thistles along the path-way of life — clear the earth for
more sunshine, and cultivate flowers to be placed on the
tables of our living, rather than on the caskets of our

Somewhere, and in some well authenticated history,
it is duly recorded that the renowned Walter Van Twil-
ler, the first Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam (now
New York) had a striking personality, that standing in
his wooden shoes, he measured five feet and six inches in
height and six feet and five inches in girth, that his brain
was so ponderous and his deliberations so stupendous
that they could only be stimulated into activity, by vig-
orously smoking his huge Dutch pipe and his favorite
Virginia tobacco.

In imitation of this illustrious official, I will now light
my briar pipe and proceed to the task assigned me. Like

Job, I can say "Oh, that my words were written, Oh,
that they were printed in a book."

Looking Backward

Contrary to the usual order of business procedure,
a successful Salvage Corps was in active operation
and on an extensive scale, long before Fire Insurance
entered into the dreams of men. Noah, at his own
expense, and solely for Salvage Purposes, built a great
ark or ship, (on which he carried no Marine Insurance)
into which he gathered animals, birds and living creat-
ures of every kind, in pairs, to save them from the
great world flood.

The common impression that Insurance is a modern
institution or of modern origin, is erroneous. It can be
traced in some form or other back to ancient Egyptian
civilization. The earliest authentic account we have on
this subject, states that during the reign of one of the
Pharaohs, a young Hebrew by the name of Joseph,
formerly a slave, promoted, organized and conducted a
National Famine Insurance Company under government

Its name was probably an Egyptian term, equivalent
to our word "Agricultural," as the original capital stock
was composed entirely of the products of the cultivated
fields. Seven years were required to collect, get together
and store away the assets and during the next succeeding
seven years, these were disposed of, in exchange for
money, jewels, lands and live stock, and by gratuitous
distribution among the people.

The affairs of this Company were wound up with
honor and credit to the administration of its promoter
and manager, and gave him an imperishable name in

history. It would be a pleasant and most profitable
task to trace the zigzag and dotted lines of insurance his-
tory, during the next three thousand years, but as the
American business man is commonly impatient with un-
important details, we will make our parting courtesy
to the Pyramids and the Sphynx, and move on with our
literary luggage, and drop off at old London, on our way
to our own country.

In the palmy days of the Roman Empire, insurance
occupied an important place in the commercial affairs
of that people. Later on, in some of the Central Coun-
tries of Europe, taxes were levied, either by the state
or by municipalities on property owners, for the purpose
of indemnifying them against loss by fire and other acci-

Journeying along the foot hills of some mountain
range, we come across scenery deserving our enthusias-
tic admiration — scenery of wonderfully diversified char-
acter and beauty, but it is the high and rugged moun-
tain peaks, capped with eternal ice and snow that excite
our wonder and reverence. These will be photographed
on memory in vivid pictures to last long after the scenery
of the foot hills is forgotten. So, it is with history — the
important events, the mountain peaks will be remem-
bered and treasured, long after the minor things have
faded from memory.

Here in London, centrally located and popular, was
Lloyd's Coffee House, where the city bankers, money
lenders, speculators, and men of commercial pursuits,
were accustomed to meet — eat their roast beef and mut-
ton, sip their ale, smoke their pipes and discuss business.

Somewhere about the rooms would be posted "Pro-
posals for Insurance", stating the name of the vessel,
the name of the Captain, the character of the cargo, the

ports of departure and destination. Under these would
be written the names of the subscribers, with the
amount of the risk each assumed, which was based
upon a fixed rate or premium, and this early custom was
called "Underwriting," which name has since attached
to our business.

No modern policies and no modern policy contracts
were issued. One copy of the Proposal containing the
signatures of the Underwriters was placed in the hands
of a party representing the insurers, and another copy
with the assured. Should the vessel and cargo thus
insured, or underwritten, be lost or damaged, there
might be four, or even five months elapse before the news
of the disaster would reach the London Office. With
the growth of the Marine Commerce between the United
States and the mother country, and with the increase
of our exports, this individual underwriting was taken
up to some extent in our own seaport cities.

We cannot measure the traveled roads between the
early colonies and our present civilization without some
starting point. That our country has made progress
beyond the dreams of the most sanguine, that its
achievements are unparalleled in the history of the world
is commonly admitted.

That the insurance business has kept step in this
onward march of progress — that it has kept abreast
with the animating and controlling spirit of our American
people, must be conceded. • The incidents heretofore
mentioned in this sketch have not been introduced so
much as matters of history, as to show by comparison
and contrast the advancements made by the Insurance
Companies in the marvellous development of our

Early History

Our American exporters continued to patronize to
some extent the English Individual Underwriters, but
gradually a considerable portion of this business passed
to the control of our own citizens. Efforts were made,
and without much success to interest William Penn in
the Insurance Business, but he expressed his apprehen-
sions as to the "stability and desirability of a business
that did not have the sanction of heaven."

In writing to a business friend he says: "I shall be
glad if this dull sailor (Cantico) gets as safely as the
Hopewell. I am tender as to insurance and did nothing
in it for the Hopewell."

Benjamin Franklin was not only interested in the
general subject of insurance, but he was largely instru-
mental in establishing the first Company on our con-
tinent, known as "The Philadelphia Contributionship
for the Insurance of Houses for Loss by Fire." He was
also instrumental in promoting the general insurance
interests in their infantile days.

Mr. Joseph Saunders, an eminent citizen of Philadel-
phia, as well as a prominent member of the Society of
Friends, began issuing policies personally in 1758, all of
which he prefaced with the invocation "In the name of
God — Amen." Mr. Saunders was both a local Under-
writer and a pious Quaker. When changing the location
of his office, he made the announcement as follows:

"Notice is hereby given, That the Infurance Office for
shipping and Houfes, is kept by Joseph Saunders at this
Houfe, where Ifrael Pemberton, fen., lately lived, near
the Queen's Head in Waterftreet."

He evidently assumed that the business had divine

The spirit of adventure then lured men as it does to-
day, out and into the unchartered seas of finance, to
assume risks and engage in untried projects in the hope
of acquiring fortunes, as the following announcement
would indicate.

"N. B. Rcily, of this city, Conveyancer, will infure
Tickets in this Lottery at a very low Premium."

Among the various commercial interests of the city,
the insurance business had attained to one of such prom-
inence, as to attract the attention of a prominent New
York Broker, Mr. Anthony Van Dam, who opened an
office in the city of "Brotherly Love," in September,
1759, and announced the fact through the newspapers
as follows:

"The New York Infurance office is opened at the
Houfe of the Widow Smith, adjoining the Merchant's
Coffee Houfe; where all Rifks are underwrote at moder-
ate premiums. Constant Attendance will be given from
the Hours of Eleven to One in the Forenoon, and from
Six to Eight in the Evening, by Anthony Van Dam, clerk
of the office."

In 1757, six merchants of Philadelphia entered into
Articles of Agreement — the name and style of which was
"Thos. Willing & Co." for the purpose of underwriting
Marine Policies, which seems to be the first attempt at
an organization for this purpose Each of these parties
owned 1-6 interest in the Company.

Shippers procured their insurance from these individ-
ual Underwriters through brokers, at whose Office the
risks were offered — the terms arranged and the policies
secured for their clients, and without any direct or
stipulated remuneration. In due time these brokers
claimed an additional compensation for their labor
over and above what they had received for their services
in the adjustment of losses, and this was the beginning

of the payment of Commissions to Agents. The follow-
ing is the agreement which they entered into :

"That the several brokers in whose affairs they shall
hereafter subscribe Policies shall be accountable for all
the premiums arising from such subscriptions having all
allowed thereon by us the underwriters, a commission of
one and a quarter per cent, for standing the Risques of
such premiums, collecting and paying the same to the
following manner:

That such brokers shall settle each Underwriter's
Account every three months, and pay the balance due
thereon exclusive of all premiums arising from policies
which have not been subscribed above one month, and in
the Intermediate time between such settlements shall
pay all losses due from us out of the Premiums of Policys
which have been underwrote more than one month, or so
far as such subscriptions extend."

As the number of individual Underwriters and Brokers
increased competition between them grew up, which
very seriously affected the rates and in 1766, a meeting
of 19 of the Underwriters was held who then and there
signed an agreement as follows:

'The subscribers hereunto being convinced by said
Experience that the premiums of Insurance have of late
been inadequate to the Risques underwrote in this City,
and fearing that the Consequence of their continuing will
be an entire loss of so necessary and useful a branch of
business, as most of the present Underwriters are deter-
mined to decline the pursuit of it unless some regulations
of the premiums are made and generally agreed to it :

Wherefore we and each of us promise to and agree with
each other :

"That we will not subscribe our names to any Policy
or Policies of Assurance at any less premium or Rates
than are specified in the List annexed hereunto, signed
by the Brokers."

"That any person now in the practice of Underwriting
in this city do refuse to sign and agree to these articles.we
will not subscribe any Policy of Assurance to cover
any Ship, Freight or Goods, the Property of such refusing
Underwriters, nor any other Policy which the said Refus-
ing Underwriters have signed."

"We will subscribe no Policy but what comes from
an Office Keeper."

The hours for transacting business at such offices were
commonly observed by the Companies under the follow-
ing rule.

"That the Office shall be open for the Transaction of
Business from Nine O'clock in the morning to Two in the
afternoon, and from Four in the afternoon, till Eight in
the evening. That the attendance of the Secretary be
required from Ten to Two, and from Four to Eight in the
afternoon. That it shall be the duty of the President
to attend to this office every day from Eleven O'clock in
the forenoon until Two O'clock in the afternoon and from
Five O'clock in the afternoon, until Eight O'clock. And
that it shall be the duty of the Committee of the week to
attend every day from Twelve O'clock until Two in the
afternoon, and from Six till Eight O'clock."

Insurance on Frame Structures received the attention

in the following record :

"That the Insurance on Wooden Buildings shall not be
considered to be precluded by any article in our principal
proposals, but that when two or more wooden buildings
adjoin, a larger premium shall be required than is
demanded on a single wooden building."

Some of the conditions and stipulations of the early

Life Insurance Policies might require the attention of an

expert interpreter in the event of a loss. In 1794, one

of the Companies insured Captain John Collett —

"On his person against Algerines and other Barbary
Corsairs in a voyage from Philadelphia to London, in
the ship George Barclay himself Master, Valuing himself
at $5,000, the premium on which was two per cent."

Another contained the following stipulation or condit-

"The said President and Directors, therefore and in
consideration of Ten Per Cent, to them paid, do assure,

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryLewis J. BonarA sketch and some sketches on fire insurance and its kindred associates and associates not kindred → online text (page 1 of 15)