Vintage insurance advertising!


Photo from the library of Congress

Photo from the library of Congress

Photoshop has nothing on the photo montage specialists of the 1800s, who were adept at “trick photography.” Witness this historic Civil War era image title “Union Commanders” from the Library of Congress. Linton Weeks of NPR’s history department took a closer look, noting that although the photo is dated 1884, several of the people in the photo had been dead for decades by that point.

It turns out it the “photo” is an example of an early insurance ad – from one of our insurance company partners, no less: A caption on the photo says “With compliments,” signed by Travelers Life and Accident Insurance Co. There was a similar image produced of Confederate generals.

NPR asked the folks at Travelers about the photo:

“The photo-artist “used individual photographs of the Confederate commanders and created a composite picture of them together,” she says. “The figures were cut from the print and pasted on a painted background. This process would be similar to using software like Photoshop in today’s terms to place images together in one photo.

“The idea of using the pictures as advertising came from Maj. Edward Preston, the Travelers superintendent of agencies, Davidson says. “The first copy of the ‘Confederate Commanders’ was delivered to Jefferson Davis by the Travelers representative in Montgomery, Ala. Copies also were sent to all the living generals in both pictures.”

She adds that the success of the ad campaign prompted more composites, including “Famous American Authors,” “Eminent Women” and “Famous Editors.”

Photoshop may have made photo manipulations easier for the average person, but photo manipulations go way back. Check out this fun gallery of 15 Photo Manipulations Before the Digital Age.

Whether using photos or illustrations, trade cards were a common form of advertising in the 1800s for all types of products and services. Life Insurance was a pretty common theme. Explores some fascinating examples of Victorian Trade Cards.

Time Capsule: the New England Blizzard of 1978


Today is the 36th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978! Well, actually, three days can claim title to the anniversary because the blizzard lasted from the 5th to the 7th. It’s still the storm against which all other storms are measured. We’ve tracked down a few videos and links that offer a look back for the 40+ crowd or an interesting new view to those too young to remember.

The clips also offer quite the time capsule!

Here are some additional features:

Excellent Blizzard of ’78 photo gallery with pics from various places in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire – as well as a gallery of the famous 128 pile-ups and newspaper front pages of the time.

A special Boston.com report

Personal memories of the blizzard

The meteorology behind the blizzard of 1978

Insurance on the High Seas



As you doubtless know from the media coverage, the Titanic sank 100 years ago last week. That disaster was long considered to be the most costly maritime insurance loss although the sinking of the Concordia Costa last year in Italy seems to have surpassed it. It’s interesting, therefore, that a Titanic insurance document has just surfaced for the first time in a century. The document, which records the total pay out of £4,000 (an estimated £263,000 or $419,432 in today’s money) by Royal Insurance, now part of the RSA Insurance Group has never before been seen by anyone outside RSA. This was only a small portion of the total insurance payments. As the ship’s hull and machinery was valued at £1 million, owners White Star Line would have had hundreds of different insurers.
The Encyclopedia Titanica has over 100 articles about insurance claims on the Titanic. Initial estimates two weeks after the disaster were that life insurance payouts totaled around $2.1 million, and accident insurance payouts came to a little more than $1.5 million. The industry estimated that life insurance losses would end up at $4 million, accident insurance losses at $2 million. Many passengers carried specific life insurance and travel policies while the survivors of other lost passengers filed claims against White Star Lines. One Mrs. Irene Harris claimed $1,000, 000 for the loss of her husband, a theatrical manager. The first claim settled was for a Mr. Ervin G. Lewy of Chicago and in a morbid note, the article comments that without a death certificate, the company had to “strain certain points” to allow the payment. Eventually, White Star paid $664,000 to settle all the claims.
In a fascinating look back at the insurance industry of a century ago, this New York Times article from April 1912 is highly complimentary to the insurers who settled the Titanic claims so quickly. It also notes that while in the age of sail, a ship was never declared lost until a year and a day after it was expected in port, modern technology – i.e., radios – had changed that age old rule and now ships were considered lost almost immediately upon the disaster.
While the golden age of ocean liners is undoubtedly past, cruise ships are at sea in record numbers. While the chances of anything happening on a modern cruise are so slight as to be almost nil, you, like John Jacob Astor, may want to consider buying travel insurance if you’re planning a voyage on the ocean deep. And you should periodically evaluate your life insurance coverage – a good idea whether you’ll be taking any ocean cruises or not. Your independent Renaissance Alliance insurance agent can help!
*Image source: PD-US – The Titanic