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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hartford - Insurance Capitol

A children’s coloring book from years ago taught about the 50 US state capitols. Each page in the coloring book featured an iconic image to color about each state capitol. I think Boston’s picture was of a Pilgrim, or possibly a Minuteman. State capitols from the Midwest featured ears of corn or Abraham Lincoln, or the St. Louis Arch. There were images of Alaska and Kansas, Florida orange groves, of fishing boats, the Liberty Bell, oil rigs, cowboys, and lobstermen.

The page for Hartford, Connecticut had a picture of an insurance policy.

Once called the insurance capitol of the world, Hartford continues to host many insurance company headquarters, and it is still a major industry here.

Here we have Travelers, Aetna, CIGNA, Phoenix Mutual, and of course, The Hartford. Some companies, like MetLife and MassMutual have moved out to the suburbs. Those that remain occupy buildings that are bastions, famous for their architure.

Aetna’s headquarters is considered the world’s largest colonial revial-style building. Above we have a shot of the distinctive Traveler’s building. Contrasting these traditional architectural forms, is the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Building, a modern structure reputed to be the first two-sided building in the world, and as such, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Aetna issued its first life insurance policy in 1850. According to the website of The Hartford, among its most famous customers was Robert E. Lee, who in 1859 took insurance out on his home, which as General of the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War, he lost when the Union Army began to bury its dead in his front yard. His home is now Arlington National Cemetery. One wonders if he was insured for Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln also took insurance with The Hartford out on his home back in Springfield, Illinois in 1861, which he would never see again, after his Presidendency ended with his assanation.

In 1890 Buffalo Bill Cody collected on a claim after a fire on his property. In 1920, the same day Babe Ruth was traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees, Ruth bought a “sickness” policy to protect his income should illness threaten his career. The Red Sox should have bought a Curse of the Bambino Policy the same day.

In 1947, the Junior Fire Marshal Program began, and many of us were taught in school the basics of fire prevention, and took home one of these little toy badges. Check out eBay sometime and you’ll see many of them still exist.

Perhaps some of you fans of Old Time Radio will remember “Johnny Dollar” an insurance investigator working out of a fictional Hartford-based insurance company.

Next year The Hartford will celebrate its 200th anniversary. There is more to Hartford than the insurance industry, but page in a coloring book devoted to an insurance policy must tell us it’s at least as important as a cowboy or a Minuteman. Probably not as much fun to color, though.


Unknown said...

Really interesting-- loved the info about the insurance policies of famous folk. Never spent much time in Hartford, or Connecticut in general during my New England days.

& any post that uses coloring books as a starting point is good by me. I was obsessed with them as a lad.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Hi, John, thanks for commenting. I was always fond of coloring books, too. I can just imagine the little kids scratching their heads over the picture of the insurance policy. What is this? What color is it supposed to be anyway?

Hard to get the little ones hepped up on insurance when we adults hate it so much. At least the toy fire badges were fun.

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