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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
INSURANCE COMPANY. In Babylonian times, around 2100 B.C., the Code of Hammurabi was the first basic insurance policy. This policy was paid by the traders in the form of a loan to guarantee the safe arrival of their goods by caravan.
As history progressed, the needs for insurance increased. The Phoenicians and the Greeks wanted the same type of insurance with their seaborne commerce. The Romans were the first to have burial insurance – people joined burial clubs which paid funeral expenses to surviving family members. In medieval times, the guilds protected their members from loss by fire and shipwreck, paid ransoms to pirates, and provided respectable burials as well as support in times of sickness and poverty.
The very first actual insurance contract was signed in Genoa in 1347. Policies were signed by individuals, either alone or in a group. They each wrote their name and the amount of risk they were willing to assume under the insurance proposal. That is the source of the term underwriter.
Underwriters play a big part in the insurance industry. They calculate the risk, based on statistics, and decide what the cost of premiums. In 1693, the astronomer Edmond Halley created a basis for underwriting life insurance by developing the first mortality table. He combined the statistical laws of mortality and the principle of compound interest. However, this table used the same rate for all ages. In 1756, Joseph Dodson corrected this error and made it possible to scale the premium rate to age.
By this time, the practice of insuring cargo while being shipped was widespread throughout the maritime nations of Europe. In London, in 1688, the first insurance company was formed. It got its start at Lloyd’s Coffee House, a place where merchants, ship-owners, and underwriters met to transact their business. Lloyd’s grew into one of the first modern insurance companies, Lloyd’s of London.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, British commerce was rapidly growing. As commerce grew, risks increased. In a way, progress was actually working against the insurance industry – there were more and more ways of goods being damaged or lost, as goods were shipped greater distances and by more advanced methods. Therefore, there were higher payouts for claims.
The members of stock companies saw an opportunity for a profitable business. They were chartered in the insurance business in England in 1720, and in 1735. The first American insurance company was founded in the British colony of Charleston, SC. In 1787 and 1794 respectively, the first fire insurance companies were formed in New York City and Philadelphia. The first American insurance corporation was sponsored by a church – the Presbyterian Synod of Philadelphia – for their ministers and their dependents. As other needs for insurance were discovered, the practice of classifying risks was begun. Although there was religious prejudice against the practice of insurance by a church, after 1840 it declined and life insurance boomed.
People accepted the fact that they needed to pay premiums to protect themselves and their loved ones in case of loss, including major losses like FIRES. The insurance companies had a rude awakening to this fact in 1835 when the New York fire struck. The losses were unexpectedly high and they had no reserves prepared for such a situation. As a result of this, Massachusetts lead the states in 1837 by passing a law that required insurance companies to maintain such reserves. The great Chicago fire in 1871 repeated the need for these reserves, especially in large dense cities.
Insurance companies had to work together to find a solution to the challenge of large losses. They devised a system called reinsurance where losses were distributed among many companies. This system is now commonly used in all types of insurance.
Now the insurance industry was growing to huge proportions. The companies, although competitors, worked together to create productive systems that could be used throughout the industry. They needed to keep up with the requirements of the increasing amount of laws governing insurance. For example, the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1897 in Britain required employers to insure their employees against industrial accidents. This also created what became known as public liability insurance, which came strongly into play when the automobile arrived on the scene.
In the 19th century, many societies were founded to insure the life and health of their members. Benevolent societies continued these practices in more modern times and provided income to those insured if they were ill. Most employers offer group insurance policies for their employees, providing them with life insurance, sickness and accident benefits, and pensions.
Insurance became an accepted practice. Everybody needed to protect themselves against the many risks in life. Farmers wanted crop insurance. People wanted deposit insurance at their banks. Travelers wanted travel insurance. Everybody turned to insurance companies to give them peace of mind. Insurance is the paying of a premium to protect against some form of loss.
The only insurance agencies shown are those with which a Dubuque relationship can be identified. Among those who have provided insurance of different varieties in Dubuque are the following:
Pages in category "Insurance"
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