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Life Insurance History from Rome to Newark

Life insurance was born in ancient Rome when a Roman military leader named Caius Marius created burial clubs for his troops. If one of the troops died, the remaining club members would all pitch in and pay the funeral expenses ensuring a proper burial. Romans believed that an improperly buried person would be an unhappy ghost in the after life. These clubs were heavily adopted by government and military members, and these burial clubs evolved, they provided funds to the deceased survivors as well. Let’s discuss life insurance history. 

Edward Lloyd’s London Coffee House

Jump forward to London in 1688, where ship captains, owners, and merchants began gathering at Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House to share java and mariner gossip. Lloyd’s began selling marine insurance in addition to coffee. As so, Lloyd’s of London, the first modern insurance company, was born.

Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Contributionship

The first insurance company in America was founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 1735, and in 1752, Benjamin Franklin helped form The Philadelphia Contributionship, a mutual insurance company whose fire mark can be viewed at National Museum of American History.

The financial crisis in the late 1830s, started the shift toward mutualizing life insurance companies, meaning that the pooled money was shared amongst policy holders rather than being a strictly a cash-holding entity. This was a helpful advancement in opening insurance up to more groups of people, such as women, religious groups, the working poor and other people whose social status had excluded them from buying insurance.

Only 44 percent of our nation’s households have life insurance in place; a 50-year low in terms of policy ownership in the USA.

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Widow’s and Orphan’s Friendly Society

The company we know as Prudential started in Newark as Widows and Orphan’s Friendly Society, the first company to offer a simple burial product to the working class.

After World War I the sales of life insurance increased at a dramatic rate; by the late 1940s, more than 90 percent of married couples had some form of life insurance. In contrast, the numbers of life insurance policy owners are surprisingly low today even taking into account all of the life insurance history 

LIMRA studies show that only 44 percent of our nation’s households have life insurance in place; a 50-year low in terms of policy ownership in the USA.


Photo credit to: S3ISOR


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About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Writer, Editor, and Co-Host of Quotacy’s Q&A Friday YouTube Series

Natasha writes and edits content and is co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. She is also working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation. When not working or studying, you’ll find her throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on.