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THE SPECTATOR COMPANY, Sole Selling Agents, 
95 William St., New York. 





encircle /M^b fir r 




CHAP. I Of My Parentage, 

Birth and Education. 
II The Country Editor. 
Ill My First Agency. 
IV The Town and My 

V Antecedents of My 

VI The Office Clerk. 
VII A Missouri Rate. 
VIII Reorganizing the Lo- 

cal Board. 
IX Soliciting Business . 

X Men I have Met. 
XI Local Observations. 
XII The Financial 

XIII The American 

Agency System. 
XIV A Message From the 

Far West. 
XV-A Visit to Texas. 



CHAP. I Introduces the Special. 
II The New Man. 
Ill The State Board. 
IV A Delinquent Agent. 
V Planting an Agency 

in Missouri. 
VI Inspections. 
VII Changing an Agency 

in Kansas. 
VIII Cultivating the 


IX My First Loss. 
X A Special's Decalogue. 
XI -The Hail Man. 
XII An Adjuster's Yarn. 
" XIII The Public Adjuster. 
XIV Agens Speciarius. 
XV Autographic Biog- 
raphy of Jones. 



CHAP. I Introductory. 
II The Manager. 
Ill Responsibility. 
IV Ethics. 
V Legislation. 
VI The Rate. 
" VII The Individual Rate. 

CHAP. VIII Insurance Associa- 
IX Organization and 

X Diagnosis. 
XI Prescription. 
" XII Conclusion. 


HE reader may blame the 
Editor for the lack of conse- 
cution in Mr. Jones' Me'moires. 
They were as voluminous as a 
last century romance, and as 
prosy as the sermons he might 
have delivered. The Editor is also responsible for 
the suppression of three-fourths of his manuscript, 
but not for all of his opinions. Opinion is so 
much a matter of temperament and environment 
that a change in either may produce different 
conclusions. If you do not agree with all his 
dicta, it may be attributed to difference in tem- 
perament, for Jones was red-haired. 

Judged by his Me'moires, he was, with one 
exception, an ordinary business man. He says 
he was large and strong, from which I infer that 
his digestion was good. Yet there are many 
symptoms of the pessimist, a physical and mental 
combination most extraordinary. He begins life 


jokingly, and his jibes grow progressively sarcastic, 
cynical and Schopenhauerish. Disenchantment 
follows the realization of his expectations. How 
many of his middle-aged readers can reconstruct 
the process from experience? 

The tale of his commonplace life is told with- 
out literary pretensions. If the story be dull and 
uninteresting, it is still a fair caricature of the 
business in his time, and is overdrawn only enough 
to accentuate some of the abuses that have grown 
into and become a part of the agency system. 
As he is not a reincarnation of Dickens, it is too 
much to expect that his satire may correct bad 
practices; but some of them may be abated, or 
at least deserve the contempt born of familiarity. 

Few who have not had personal experience 
are at all acquainted with the lot of the Country 
Agent, though some of the foremost American 
Underwriters began their insurance career in the 
country town. If he deserves or receives any 
sympathy, it will be from men familiar with the 
great expectation, and consequent disappoint- 
ment, of the humble country agent. His city 
brother is trained in a different groove, and can 
see beyond the tinsel of title and authority. He 

lives so near the throne, that he cannot conceive 
of such innocence ; he is disenchanted from birth. 
The business future is unpromising, but it is 
not hopeless. Napoleon arose out of the chaos 
of Revolution, and, under his guidance, anarchy 
became order; weakness was converted into 
strength. Strong men are the product of desper- 
ate situations. May we not expect the coming of a 
Moses who will lead us through the Wilderness? 






N the middle of the nineteenth 
Century, before the discovery of 
petroleum, Northwest Pennsylva- 
nia was noted for its hills without 
soil, good timber, abundance of 
game, rough roads, poor trans- 
portation facilities, and self-sus- 
taining, self-supporting people. 
The Allegheny River was the 
highway, rafts were the vehicles, and Pittsburgh 
was the Mecca. All that portion of the State was 
out West, Ohio being 'way out West. 

The early settlers were the Dutch from East 
of the mountains, Scotch-Irish, and a few trans- 
planted French peasants, wooden shoes, supersti- 
tion and all. Everyone knows of the Pennsylva- 
nia Dutchman and his peculiarities. He is fre- 
quently born in a log house, while his cattle live 
in a frame barn. He works in the field fifteen 




hours a day, and at least three hours about his 
stable; thrives through hard work and economy, 
and thus leaves to the next generation better 
prospects than he himself inherited. The Scotch- 
Irish are more ascetic and hard-headed, with 
strong, well-disciplined religious convictions and 
prejudices. They make steady citizens, of robust 
constitutions and healthy blood. 

Such was the time and place of my nativity, 
and as indicated, I am a Dutch- 
Irishman, differing from Cun- 
ningham in that he is an Irish- 
Dutchman. The ascetic pre- 
dominated in the home life and 
morals of both. Neither of us 
were permitted to whistle on a 
Sunday when we were boys, and 
I attribute the sedate and austere 
manners and conduct of the lat- 
ter to his early training. However, I do not set 
much store upon my Geburtsort. We Americans 
are so migratory that home does not mean as 
much to us as to our old world ancestors. The 
chief point is that I was born, not where or when. 



The writer of an autobiography should com- 
mence early. With due reference to the good 
example he is to set his readers, his youth should 
be filled with noble thoughts and aspirations, thus 
distinguishing him from the common herd. Alas, 
even the uncommon youngster if there be one 
is much like Gargantua in his childhood, differing 
from other children only in degree, and giving 
little promise of his future greatness. There are 
prodigies and good children, but they mostly go 
crazy or die young. 

The educational facilities of a backwoods 
community were not equal to those of the present 
city. schools, yet I learned to read, "figger" and 
fight. Of the three accomplishments, I think the 
last the most useful for an insurance career. It 
is true I did not acquire it with malice prepense, 
as I was a grown man before I ever saw an insur- 
ance policy. It was not much of a policy either, 
as it belonged to the brood of township or county 
mutuals, a few of which have survived even to 
this day. 

The life of a farmer boy is romantic in the 
perspective of the past. In the present it is a 



life of realities. As soon as he can walk he is 
set to herding stones on the meadow, while hun- 
gry fish are watching for worms. Then he must 
drop corn, and hoe it when it is up; carry water, 
turn the grindstone during harvest a thankless 
task, but strengthening to the arms dig pota- 
toes, husk the corn, and, beside a hundred other 
employments, chop the fire wood and do the chores. 
Is it strange that he should think a professional 
career more attractive? Is he not 
justified, considering his exper- 
ience, in seeking more remuner- 
ative employment, since his aver- 
age wages (though he often does 
more than a man's work) is a quar- 
ter on the Fourth of July and an 
occasional circus ticket? 

Next to naming the baby, the most anxious 
family discussion is connected with his future vo- 
cation. What shall we make of him? My god- 
father was a minister, now one of Chicago's 
prominent divines, and I was destined by my par- 
ents to the same career, but the cherished hope 
withered, much to my mother's chagrin, and the 



Church unknowingly lost a shining light. As 
piety and good lungs often outweigh brains, it is 
possible I might have become a presiding elder 
in the fulness of time. Whether even this ex- 
alted position outranks that of an insurance agent, 
I leave to the judgment of the reader. At any 
rate, what might have been, wasn't. 

When I was sixteen and six feet ; when I had 
not only gone through all the country school 
books, but had taught a country school one term, 
I was sent to college. The result of the four 
years spent there I summarize as follows: My 
clothes fitted me better; part of my gaucherie had 
disappeared; I had absorbed a little Latin, and 
less Greek, and was less qualified to earn a living 
at twenty than at twelve. My bump of self-es- 
teem had developed out of all proportion; in fact, 
I was a fair sample of most college products; I 
had a distaste for manual labor, and was not 
equipped for anything else. I, therefore, trav- 
eled for a couple of years, and attwo-and-twenty, 
that serious 1 problem, How shall I collect my liv- 
ing from the world? was still unsolved. 

, off. K <? - 



Y first employment was that of a 
clerk in an insurance office at 
Podunk, Mo. I was on my way 
to Mexico , a country much talked 
of at that time , and where op- 
portunities to make a fortune 
were said to be abundant. My 
funds were low, and I tarried to 
replenish the chest. It was a more 
serious undertaking than I imagined. 
I was a finished architect of Castles in Spain, but 
my plans never progressed beyond the drawings, 
and my dreams of making money differed slightly 
from the reality. I could pay my board by 
economy, but I could not accumulate, and the 
business of insurance, as introduced to me, was 
not attractive. Although a fortune awaited me 
in Mexico I was unable to claim it. It awaits 
me yet. 




Cherchez la femme, our Gallic friends say. 
I found her without seeking. Without serious 
thought of matrimony, behold me married. I had 
been in love a dozen times before, but not often 
enough to evolve an ideal. It is the old fellow 
who has a stock of unattainable ideals, and 
they do not result in marriage licenses. The 
world is repeopled by youthful love, not by mature 
calculation, (which is not a component of love) 
or, as the cynics and bachelors say, by rashness 
rather than reason. 

By this time I had established a country news- 
paper, and had a fair prospect of such a compe- 
tence as usually comes to the country editor. In 
inducing Matilda to share my prospective fortune, 
I was as honest as Col. Sellers and about as wise. 
What brains I had were evidently not employed 
in the business department, where a superior 
quality and quantity was needed. 

In every community there are a number of 
aspiring writers, but most of them are too wise 
to own their own educator ; they borrow the local 
paper for their effusions, and place it under obli- 
gations for the copy. My refusal to sponge on 



my neighbor was responsible for a valuable busi- 
ness experience that to many men conies too late 
in life. I was young, my enthusiasm was not 
exhausted, although my small capital was, and 
my next venture had to be chosen accordingly. 
My creditors owned the plant. 

While inexperience was partially responsible 
for my failure, one of the causes lay deeper, and 
is inherent to the business. The country merchant 
imagines space is worth nothing. The editor 
must get out a paper every week, and might as 
well fill up on advertising as on longwinded edi- 
torials that nobody cares to read. Consequently 
when he trades out an advertising bill, he feels 
as if he was doing his whole duty to the commu- 
nity. He no more thinks of paying money for 
locals than does the patent medicine man. 

The farmer pays for his subscription in pro- 
duce the merchant pays for advertising in goods 
the doctor in services and a good many of the 
others not at all . The cash drawer is always empty . 
During the horse season money is easier, but there 
is never enough to go around. Everybody pays in 
trade, and everybody wants to be paid in cash. 



Even the devil wants a quarter occasionally . I could 
stand off my home creditors, as they presented their 
bills in a perfunctory way, not expecting them to 
be paid; but the St. Louis houses were not so 
easily jollied. When I didn't pay promptly, they 
sent their material C. O. D. and who has learned 
the art of working an express agent? I never. 

Once I made a killing on a tax list, paid all 
my foreign bills, and was the proudest man in 
town. It was so unusual and delightful to have 
an established credit that I worked it overtime, 
and it wouldn't remain established. Even a 
chattel mortgage as a last resort could not keep 
it going, and when the sheriff added the last straw 
by getting his sale bill printed at the opposition 
office, the Bazoo ceased to toot. 

If you want advice on how to conduct any 
business properly, you can always get it from the 
man who tried it and couldn't. I know a plenty 
about the newspaper business enough never to 
undertake it again, and I offer my experience 
and conclusions gratuitously to the aspiring youth, 
who thinks he is fashioned to fill a long felt want. 
Use some other man's paper freely, if he will 


permit you, but do not attempt to publish one of 
your own. There is no money in it. The Wash- 
ington hand press reminds me too much of the 
grindstone on the farm. It is a thankless work, 
but strengthening to the arms. 



are many ways of estab- 
lishing a business; but in 
practice most local insur- 
ance agents are graduates 
of the school of adversity. 

Demonstrate by failure 
that you are unfitted to conduct 
a business of your own; add 
creditors q. s., and the pre- 
scription is finished. I took 
this course, with a diploma from a country news- 
paper office, in addition to the following qualifi- 
cations: A good local acquaintance, some 
experience as a solicitor, and the good will and 
best wishes of all my creditors. The latter not 
only assisted me to companies, but helped the 
companies get business by trading over-due 
bills for policies. 





Nothing so clearly demonstrates the laxity 
in the general conduct of the agency business as 
its facility; the companies are literally easy. 
Ranking next to banking in the volume of finan- 
cial transactions, entirely at the mercy of an 
incompetent or dishonest representative, one not 
_ familiar with the business would suppose an 
I agency hedged about with some safeguards. On 
the contrary, agencies go begging in every 
community, appointments are often made by 
correspondence without even the pretense of 
investigation, and men whose local credit is 
limited to a quarter's worth of soap secured by 
the washerwife's wages, are authorized to jeop- 
ardize the assets of million-dollar companies 
every day in every State. Is it not a legitimate 
and honorable calling? If so, is it just to depre- 
ciate the business of established agents by the 
creation of disreputable competitors? Yet greedy 
competition is responsible for even worse condi- 
tions than the elimination of justice, fairness and 
professional ethics. 

I had desk room in a jewelry store ; my sign 
was a modest lie; it read "Insurance Agency," 





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the writer inadvertently omitting the "Wanted." 
In the make-up, it got into the wrong column, 
that was all; but it served a purpose, for it 
attracted the attention of the special agent of the 
Cataract Insurance Company. After some pre- 
liminary conversation, he told me a lot of things 
I did not know; explained the safety valve con- 
struction of the company; dilated upon the 
attractive name, and more attractive sign by 
some great master; persuaded me I could renew 
all the business on his books (one policy) ; gave 
me such preliminary instructions as other topics 
permitted, and went on his way rejoicing. His 
original report was recently resurrected from the 
old files of the Cataract office, and is reproduced 
as a confirmation of the statement that I was 
made, not born, an insurance agent. The special 
agent is a practical every-day optimist; every 
agency change is a good one or he would not 
make it. Every man will learn at some com- 
pany's expense. Every prophecy is good if it 
is fulfilled, and if not it can be repeated ad. lib. 
Once a start was made, it was astonishing 
v how many companies wanted to change agencies. 



They showered in, and in a month iny inexperi- 
ence had been imposed upon by half a dozen 
specials. All they wanted at first was an agency. 
It required a second visit to develop the want 
of business, and sometimes several to get that 
want supplied. The result was inevitable; as 
most of them left one over-crowded agency for 
another, they were still on wheels, and dissat- 
isfied with my particular brand of dust on their 

The necessity of living by your own efforts 
is a powerful incentive to industry. A very few 
may work because they love work, but most of 
us work because we must, being born aristocrats 
vulgarly called lazy. Necessity was the mother 
of my business, which increased as time passed 
until my leaders had a larger premium income 
than the oldest agency companies that had been 
established there "time to which the memory of 
man runneth not to the contrary." The then 
special of the Vesuvius, now one of her managers, 
had occasion to change his agency, and as it was 
a valuable company, I was an applicant; but he 
passed me by for a banker. This was an instance 


of careful selection, for the banker shortly failed. 
The sign of Bank over his portal was a bigger 
humbug than my Insurance Agency sign of the 
previous month. Haec fabula docet: things are 
not always what they seem ; also : we take 
chances even in selecting a banker. Why not, 
since we deal in probabilities, not certainties, 
and the laws of chance form the basis of our 





ODUNK CITY was the corporate 
name of the town, but it was not, 
strictly speaking, a metropolis. 
The founders of many Western 
villages were fond of Hyperbole 
quite unconsciously, however, as many of 
them could not distinguish her from Aphro- 
dite if they met her on the street. 

The plan of the town was not original, 
but a fair copy of the famous capital of the 
Blue Grass region in Kentucky. The type is 
a common one in all the Southwestern States. 
A public square ornamented with a dilapidated 
Court House and scrubby trees; a rickety 
fence decorated with mule teams and mule 
drivers, both of the lazy, indifferent type; 
sidewalks frescoed with ambier, buildings 
sadly in need of repair, and citizens 
over- grown with moss. 



The old settlers all came from Kentucky. If 
all the Missourians who claim origin from the Blue 
Grass country had never emigrated, it would be the 
most densely populated region on the globe. If it is 
as charming as represented, why did they leave? 
Or, is it possible that some of them were poor 

While Podunk was a good field for a moulder 
of thought and a leader of opinion, the hope of 
securing the county printing was the immediate 
cause of my choice of location. After my brief 
and disastrous career as a publisher, and when I 
enlisted as a recruit in the army of insurance 
agents, I had no choice. My free-will was dom- 
inated by my inability to leave, even if I wished, 
and the necessity of providing food and raiment 
for myself and family. 

In the course of time the town grew. Many 
emigrants on their way to Kansas re-considered 
and located with us permanently. The character 
of the buildings changed, the appearance of the 
town changed, business opportunities were en- 
larged, and the effect on the insurance business 
was marked. 



While Podunk was moribund, one agent with 
half a dozen of the pioneer agency companies had 
supplied the needs of the inhabitants, but with 
the increased importance of the town other com- 
panies sought foothold with the following result: 
Every clientless lawyer and estateless estate agent 
carried insurance as a side line while we others 
practiced it for a livelihood : 

1 ex-clothier, 

1 ex-publisher, 

1 ex-Kansas Boomer, 

1 ex-banker, 

2 ex-preachers Campbellite and 

1 ex-druggist, 

3 ex-County officers, 

and the above mentioned Old Agent, who was 
not an ex-, not even an ex-Confederate nor an 
ex-Kentuckian, but he had the business and we 
wanted it. 

Covetousness was properly forbidden to the 
Jews, but under the new dispensation the Deca- 
logue is reduced to nine, and the old tenth is 
included in the Beatitudes. Thus the moral code 
is accommodated to the increasing demands of 


modern business, or insurance agents would have 
little show for their white alley. 

A load of lumber gave us the same sensation 
as the bread and butter gave the scholars at 
Dotheboys Hall. We knew there was not enough 
business to feed us all, and each wanted to be the 
one served first. This condition of semi-starvation 
crowded me out of a local into a special agency; 
sent one of the ex-county officers to the peniten- 
tiary ; bankrupted the Old Agent, but never phased 
the preachers, probably because they had been 

During one of the rare intervals when the 
local board meetings were well attended, its 
sessions resembled a church conference meeting. 
The trouble with us was, that, instead of fining 
each other for cutting rates when we had a plain 
case, we pouted, refused to attend the meetings, 
and took personal revenge by stealing a line from 
the other fellow on the best terms we could get. 
I have often wondered if the agents in other towns 
acted in the same way. We had no guide but our 
consciences, and some of them were so seared 
that they were not in good working order. 




OU know how and why I 
came to be an insurance agent, 
and the antecedents of some of 
my confreres at Podunk may be inter- 
esting and serve as a warning to others. 
The ex-clothing merchant, who inci- 
dentally was of Hebraic extraction, blamed 
the mice for his misfortune. It is more than 
passing strange that the freak appetite of the 
mouse for sulphur matches should always coincide 
with an old stock, dull trade and pressing cred- 
itors ; but he denied having anything to do with 
it himself, and said it must be mice and matches. 
He made more reputation as a claimant than as 
an agent. There wasn't as much money in the 
agency branch as in the claim department, and 
he soon abandoned it. Further, deponent sayeth 


The Campbellite minister was not really 
unfrocked, he was gently dropped. His charge 
was in the country, and, as the picking was 
poor, he cultivated hogs between sermons. It 
was charged, and I fear, proven, that his season's 
run of sorghum molasses was emptied in 
the sand, and when the hogs had eaten a 
hundred pounds or so apiece they were 
marketed. This was considered too much 
of a Yankee trick for a Southern congre- 
gation ; and as such abilities should not go to waste, 
they were utilized in his new profession. 

The supply of town lots in Kansas was never 
exhausted, but it was said that the Boomer got 
one of the new additions mixed up with a piece 
of land he held four or five miles out. As the 
real values were probably equivalent, this wasn't 
much to raise a row over, but he emigrated to 
Missouri, and later, as a precautionary measure, 
to Arkansas. There were rumors of fictitious 
mortgages floated on the Eastern market, but 
they were set a-going by the malevolent, and 
never gained general credence. 



Before the high license law was enacted 
there were seven or eight drug stores in Podunk, 
and they all did a thriving business. But when 
Pat Soakum and his fellows were asked to pony 
up a thousand semi-annually in advance, they 
became temperance advocates. The profits from 
the sale of drugs alone would not pay the rent, 
and some of them retired, among them my old 
friend, who supplied my newspaper force with 
medicines for years, in exchange for an advertis- 
ing bill. We settled accounts annually, and 
each added say a hundred to his bill to offset what 
he suspected the other would add, exchanged 
ratifications, as the diplomats say, and opened a 
new account. He was one of the best fellows 
in the business and deserved the success he 

We unfortunately lost one of the brightest 
members of the Podunk Board. It is said he 
went to Canada. Country business was no more 
desirable then than now, and it was sometimes 
necessary to meet competition to make the 
diagram fit the rate, thus: 



The Company after a loss, refused to accept the 
common definition of detached as unattached; it 
found, through inspecting the business closely, 
that he had made some mistakes in describing 
special hazards as dwellings, and threatened to 
cut up over it, so the poor fellow had to abandon 
the profitable business he had established, as 
well as his wife and family. 

From these samples you will see we were 
not so slow, we Podunkers. If a premium 
got away with all of us on its trail, it had 
to hustle. There wasn't a better insured 
town in the State; all the inhabitants were 
educated. Even the farmers had their eye-teeth 
cut, for the famous Col. Tram of Iowa worked 
Jay County for a season, and he was the equal, 
in his special line, to the entire Podunk Board. 





AVING been an employee as well as an 
employer, I know something of the 
duties and responsibilities of a clerical 
position. A scape-goat is a necessity; 
somebody must be responsible for 
errors and mistakes, and who so convenient as 
the clerk? 

The selection of a clerk is like the choice of 
a business partner you nearly always wish you 
hadn't. Men are usually employed in local 
insurance offices, but my preference is for the 
feminine. I unhesitatingly recommend a young 
woman, the prettier and more attractive the 
better. There are so many unpleasant incidents 
in the daily drudgery of life, that it is a rest to 
the eye and the brain to gaze upon beauty, grace 
and neatness. 

It is true a woman can talk back, but so can 
a man, and she cannot strike back while he can. 


She is not too ambitious ; does not expect a raise 
in salary over twice a year, and is not apt to 
open an opposition office and try to do business 
on your expirations. These are some of the 
reasons for my preference. An anonymous ver- 
sifier has quoted more, and while I adopt his 
conclusions, I refuse to accept his barbarous 
pronunciation of clerk, which is too much for 
even poetic license. 

Out of employment ? Can we give you work ? 

I'm sorry, sir, 
But we have no use for another clerk 

Since we have her. 

Though she is a girl, we find she can do 
The work that was formerly done by two; 

Men, too, they were. 

She does not expectorate, drink nor swear 

As some men do; 
Whenever she's wanted she's always there 

Till work is through. 

Flirt? Of course she does, but she does not smoke 
Nor take a night off and come home dead broke. 

Not bv a 



She's honest and faithful as well as cheap 

( Not half your price ) . 
She is neat and tidy and knows how to keep 

Things looking nice. 
We are satisfied, sir, and do not care 
To discuss it further; as you are aware 

This should suffice. 

There are some exceptions. If the agent be 
young and susceptible, she is dangerous. If he be 
old and susceptible, she is perilous. If he be mar- 
ried, his wife has probably grown so accustomed to 
believing fibs she may balk at the truth ; and while 
a little jealousy is as spice to married life, too 
much is worse than tobasco with a catsup label. 

In any event, even if it is necessary to allow 
your wife to select her, get a girl; the plainest 
is better than none, and is not likely to reserve 
the only extra office chair for her retainers. The 
specials will, of course, keep the office supplied 
with gold pens, ink-stands, and small office knick- 
knacks usually charged to postage account, and 
you can amuse yourself by watching their culti- 
vating antics and listening to their smart and 
gallant speech and compliments. 



JMONG the perennial troubles of 
underwriters, I reckon rates the 
chief ; and while we Podunkers 
were simple insurance agents, 
and did not aspire to 
j|l be underwriters, the 
troubles mentioned did 
not draw such fine dis- 
tinctions. We had our 
full portion and to spare. 

Following the dissolution of the old National 
Board, rates in Missouri also became dissolute, 
from force of example probably, and one of the 
first good resolutions of the recently formed Union 
was the encouragement of State organizations of 
field men. Among these the old Missouri, Kansas 
& Nebraska State Board easily took first rank. 

It is now, because of secession and legisla- 
tion, only a memory, but a pleasant memory 




withal. The old associations and friendships are 
dearly cherished by the few surviving members, 
some of whom are still in the field and some of 
whom wish they were again in the field. 

Rates were theoretically made by a Committee 
of the State Board, acting with and advising a 
Committee of the Local Board, but in practice 
the State Board Committee found Garnbrinus a 
more pleasant consulting associate. The Com- 
mittee swallowed him, made the agents swallow 
the rates, and all were full if not content. 

In thus exhibiting the inner workings of 
rating, I am open to criticism from a respectable 
branch of the fraternity that does not believe in 
educating the public or taking it into our confi- 
dence that is so noisily advocated by some under- 
writers and class journals. There are arguments 
on both sides, and as only one has been heard, 
I shall give the other a line or two. 

Stock fire insurance is business, not philan- 
throphy nor speculative philosophy. Business is 
conducted to make money. No matter what the 
subject the object is the same. The public under- 
stands this quite well, and is interested in any 



business not its own, only as you and I are inter- 
ested in the selling price of clothing, groceries, 
coal oil or coal. We do not care by what system 
the Standard Oil Company figures its prices, but 
we are interested in the prices. 

The public does not weep because fire insur- 
ance was conducted at a loss in any given year 
quite the reverse. It considers itself the gainer. 
You do not pay your railroad fare if you can get 
a pass. The cost of transportation does not worry 
you if your own be only cheap or free. Yet rail- 
roads are public utilities, while stock company 
insurance is plain ordinary private business. 

Consider for a moment that you are part of 
the public ; reflect upon how little you are inter- 
ested in your neighbors' business, and you 
will concede the folly of the proposed cam- 
paign of education. 

To return from the field of speculation 
to Podunk. It was after the departure of 
the State Board Committee that rates were 
actually equalized. Pat Soakum's saloon 
had always been coveted by the Campbellite 
preacher, but he couldn't reach it alone, 


\r M 



so he took the Kansas Boomer into his confidence. 
The Old Agent was Chairman of the Board and 
ex-officio of the rating committee. The two 
worthies above were his associates and Pat's rate 
was reduced from 3% to 2% by a vote of two to one. 
The companies being dissatisfied, they next 
usurped the rate-making authority, and the third 
factor, the compact manager, was born. He flour- 
ished for a while, but this time the people were 
dissatisfied, and they took a notion to do some 
usurping on their own account. As I think it 
well to leave something to the imagination, I will 
do so here and allow the reader to imagine, if he 
can, a Missouri Rate that was fathered by the 
State Board, nursed by the Local Board, reared by 
the Compact Manager, and tried, condemned and 
executed by the legislature. 





EVERAIy committees of the 
State Board had failed to get 
the Podtmk locals into line, so 
Major Macleur, the grand high 
commissioner of Commission 
No. 4, since deceased, the Commis- 
sion, not the Major was sent out to 
try his hand on us. 

The meeting was called by the Old Agent, 
the greatest sufferer, who unanimously elected 
himself Chairman, and appointed me as Secre- 
tary. As the report of the proceedings is copied 
from my original notes, it is accurate enough for 
historical purposes. 

The Major, in his own inimitable way, made 
us a speech, of which the following is the sub- 
stance; but its drollery is necessarily omitted. 
"Now, boys, I have got you together, and we 
want this devilment stopped. There's only one 



way to stop it. Sign the local board agree- 
ment, be honest, and we will re-rate the town 
and commence anew. Bygones shall be by- 
gones, we'll wash the slate and start afresh." 
Motion put by the Chairman ; any remarks ? 

1st County Officer: "I'm agin signin' any- 
thing till the rates are made. If they suit I'm 

Kansas Boomer: "I'm opposed on prin- 
ciple to surrendering our right to make and re- 
vise the rates to anyone, and for one, refuse to 
vote for the motion." 

The Campbellite preacher, who has loaded 
up on shaded business: "I favor the motion. 
Honesty is the foundation of our business. Let 
the dead past bury its dead, and let us resolve 
here and now to abide by correct practices in the 
future. I hope all members present will sign up 
and join us in an effort to establish the business 
on a sound basis," etc., etc. 

The ex-Druggist: "I agree with my prede- 
cessor, provided all agents are first made to can- 
cel cut-rate business. I have lost too many cus- 
tomers to come here and cinch them for the other 



fellow by any such action as is proposed. Re- 
pentance first, then absolution is my motion." 

The Old Agent: "Are there any more re- 
marks on the motion? I think I have suffered 
more by bushwhacking than any of you, and I'm 
plumb tired of it. If you don't do something, 
I'll make rates wide open, and see how you like 
it. My companies have reached the limit, and 
I'm ready to fight. If there are no more remarks, 
all in favor of the motion will say " 

The Major: "Excuse me, Mr. Chairman; 
before you put the motion I want to say that there 
is no compulsion about this. I want to help you 
out of a bad box. Down in Arkansaw durin' the 
war, the Yankees had us cornered, and we'd been 
livin' on parched corn for about a week. The 
General said one day, 'Boys, I want to help you 
out. If we stay here we'll starve even the 
corn's runnin' low. Who's willin' to make a 
break? ' Now, I'm the General, who's willin' 
to follow me? " 

Motion put by the Chairman, and carried, 
17 to 2. The seventeen signed the constitution 
and by-laws, and appointed a committee to labor 


with the two negative voters. Their companies 
finally forced them to sign, and the Podunk Board 
was again an entity. 

As Secretary, I am willing to assert that it 
was for at least three days after the Major left, 
as good a Board as ever was sawed. But it 
couldn't stand the weather, and got shaky before 
a month, sides warped and ends split as poor 
a piece of lumber as ever sold for seconds. Then 
the Major came again, and the process was re- 
peated with slight variations; old scores were 
wiped out again; bygones were bygones again; 
we started fresh again and finally, we busted 
up again. 

Those were good old days just the same. If 
we didn't see all the good in them at the time, 
it was solely from lack of comparison with mod- 
ern conditions, and we may in twenty years, if 
we live so long, refer to the present in the same 
terms. Who knows? 





VERY town has a char- 
acter, a local celebrity, 
and Podunk was no 
exception. He was a 
half - witted German , 
who built with his own 
hands a reproduction of his 
old country home, laboring 
on it for ten or fifteen years. 
He threw stones at a storm cloud because it 
interfered with his work, swore awful oaths in 
mixed German, and was an unsociable brute, 
living like a hermit on his scissors-grinding 
income. Everything in town but his shack was 
insured, and no one had the nerve to tackle 
him until the advent of the clothing merchant. 
Now if a full- witted German is a Judenhetzer, 
what could you expect from a half-wit? 



" Andy, you ought to have your house 
insured. Let me write it up for you." 

" My vat?" 

1 ' Your house insured so if it burns down 
you get pay for it." 

"You burn my house down if I don't pay 
for it?" 

"No, no, I want to insure it so it won't 
burn down." 

' ( Kreutz ! Himmel ! Sackerment ! 
Nochemal ! Get out ! I haf you arrested yet. 
Dots my house, versteh? My house. I don't 
want him to burn down once. Du verfliichte 
Jude, come 'round tell me my house burn down 
if I don't pay for it? I show you once I " 

But he didn't wait to be shown, even though 
he was a Missourian. Andy followed him up the 
street with a mixed shower of stones and curses, 
and remained a celebrity the only man in town 
uninsured ! 

The leading hardware merchant was my 
neighbor and a crank on insurance , not that there 
was necessarily any connection between the two. 



He had a Vesuvius policy twenty-odd years old, 
with twenty-odd renewal receipts, and thought 
this antiquated document better than any up-to- 
date policy. We used to drink a bottle of seltzer 
on a summer evening on my porch of course I 
furnished the seltzer. 

"John, I want a policy on your stock." 

(I had told him so a hundred times, but he 
either wouldn't believe it, or didn't want to 
believe it) . 

"Jones, my boy, I can't quit the Vesuvius. 
There isn't another policy in Jay County as old 
as mine " 

1 ' Did you ever study law ? ' ' 


"Well, I have. Did you ever hear of the 
Statute of Limitations ? ' ' 

" You bet I've heard of it! Old man Cowan 
knocked me out of a two hundred dollar note 
Statute of Limitations." 

' ' How much have you in the Vesuvius ? ' ' 

"Five thousand." 

' ' If old Cowan would plead the baby act for 
two hundred dollars, what could you expect 


from a soulless corporation with five thousand 
involved ? ' ' 

"By George! I never thought of that. 
Think they'd do it." 

' ' Do you know who would adjust your loss ? 
You know what reputations adjusters have ? 
John, you've been taking chances long enough. 
As an up-to-date business man, you're a failure. 
Let's finish this bottle and I'll write you a policy 
to-morrow that will be worth a hundred cents on 
the dollar." 

Did I ? Of course. One day his old store 
fell down and when I refused to pay the loss, he 
got mad and went back to the Vesuvius but as 
I was a special then, it didn't matter. 

Farm soliciting was not my forte. Old Col. 
Snively had a fine farm and was uninsured. I 
had talked insurance to him a dozen times, in 
and out of his cups, and finally got a promise 
that he would consider it. One day I drove out 
to his place, about fifteen miles, to close the deal. 

"Hello, Colonel, how 're things?" 


" Putty fair. Onhitch, come in and have 
somethin' to wa'm you up." 

After I had had something I broached the 
object of my visit. 

" How much did you tell me it 'ud cost ?" 

" Depends on the amount and the term. 
One-and-a-half per cent for three years say 
seventy-five dollars for five thousand." 

"Only seventy-five dollars? By ginger, 
ain't you mistaken ? ' ' 

" No, that's the cheapest going rate." 

"Well I'll be darned. Look here, old Col. 
Tram was out here last week and nothin'd do but 
I must take a policy in the American. Said it 
wouldn't cost hardly anything, and I didn't have 
to pay for it now nohow, and jest talked me into 
it. Wouldn't take no for an answer. Writ 
me fer windstorms too. Been a powerful lot 
o' cyclones in these parts lately. You never 
said nothin' 'bout cyclone insurance did you?" 

' ' Cyclone policies cost one per cent more for 
three years can give you combined policy for 
two per cent one hundred dollars for five thou- 
sand. Have you got your policy yet? " 


"Sure! I'll let you look it over, and 
since you're here you can tell me if it's all 

Cold comfort this for a solicitor. I had 
worked him up, and Col. Train had landed him. 

Ten thousand ! Fire, lightning and tornado, 
for five years. Premium four hundred dollars; 
ninety dollars in six months, and eighty a year 
in four annual installments. Notes good as wheat. 
The first probably already discounted, and Jones 
in the soup. Served him right. The next time 
he will not talk per cent to a farmer. Talk 
money. Eighty a year isn't much for ten thou- 
sand, and decreases as payment is postponed. 
No, as a farm solicitor Jones was a failure. I 
could tell an untruth sometimes, but not all the 
time. I charged my livery hire up to experience, 
issued a policy in payment, and abandoned that 
branch of the business. I didn't want to be 
classed with Col. Tram "nohow." 

How easy it is to establish a habit, and how 
difficult to break it. As editor of the Bazoo no 
one ever thought of paying me money, and the 



people expected to continue the custom with 
Jones the insurance agent. 

Mrs. Wheat was proprietress of the local 
Millinery Emporium. 

"Mrs. Wheat, I want a policy. You used 
to advertise with me. We ought to be repre- 
sented on your stock. Can't I write you one 
for a thousand dollars? " 

" Mrs. Jones used to buy her Easter hat of 
me too, and you paid for it in advertising. I've 
a beauty, Paris pattern, that would just suit her. 
Take it along with you. If she don't like it she 
can exchange it. Times are so hard and money 
is so scarce I have to give my insurance to my 

Now Matilda wasn't what you could call 
cranky or finicky, but I knew my idea and her 
idea of a hat too well to try to reconcile them, 
and some one of my companies lost a good risk. 

There is room in this country for another 
line of banks. We have enough National, and 
too many State institutions. Their ideas on 
finance are too restricted. What we country 


agents need is an exchange bank, where we can 
convert harness, agricultural implements, hard- 
ware, building material, etc., into New York 
Exchange. We can always use dry and wet 
goods and groceries. Or, as the insurance com- 
panies reserve the right to pay a loss in kind, 
why not give the Agent the privilege of paying 
the premium in kind ? Such an institution 
would take in Podunk and Jay County like wild- 
fire. I think it would be even more catching 
than a local mutual. 




WAS clerking for the Old 
Agent when I saw the first 
special. I shall never forget 
him. He was one of the 
best specimens of his class; 
a man of substantial appear- 
ance, positive and forceful, 
but withal jolly and com- 
panionable ; neither too quiet nor too 
loud, not a saint, but an all-around 
human being. Though I was not 
in love with the local business when I was a 
clerk, this particular special impressed me as 
occupying an enviable position. 

Who was he ? He has since left the 
field, but my notions of what a special should 
be were based on what he was. If I had his 
company I would make it a leader, and other 
agents evidently held similar views, for it was 


always near the top of the column of State 

The visit of a Manager was a rarity in 
Podunk. Our hotel wasn't the kind a Manager 
would choose to rest up in, nor the town im- 
portant enough to justify expensive cultivation. 
But once one of mine called, and I confess that 
I was disappointed. 

He was the one who wrote me long, fatherly 
letters; who closed two pages of correspondence 
on the likelihood of fire in a vacant dwelling, 
with two more pages, written cross- wise in 
horribly poor manuscript, explaining what he 
had previously dictated. He was so prolix and 
convoluted that he forgot the thread of his argu- 
ment before he got to the point. He was a 
living, moving, acting German sentence, with 
the verb missing. From his letters I had 
pictured him far past middle age, of a dreamy, 
philosophical turn of mind, with baggy trousers, 
and a silk hat of uncertain vintage. Well, he 

Had I known that he was only a couple of 
years older than I, dressed in modern fashion, 



and that he talked and acted like one of my 
specials, I wouldn't have stood his lectures; I 
would have talked back. I never had any occa- 
sion to complain of him or his correspondence 
afterwards. He changed his agency. 

One of my companies conducted a farm 
department; that is, it turned a lot of solicitors 
out to insure a farmer for twice the value of his 
property, and when the invited and expected 
happened, sent another man out to pay him half 
his loss. Yet it claimed there was no money in 
it, and actually abolished it a few years later. It 
seemed better than a faro bank, and there is 
money in faro for the banker. 

There was a loss in Jay County and the 
adjuster called upon me for information. He was 
a large, gruff, swaggering fellow, the kind of man 
you would like to whip if you had a claim in his 
hands. But you would be in doubt how to go 
at it, and, on reflection, would reconsider. 

"Jones," in a Valentine Vox voice, omitting 
the Mr. though we were not intimate, "What do 
you know about Jarvis' loss at Poseyville? " 




1 ' How far is it out? ' ' 

" Eighteen or twenty miles." 

" All right, see you when I return." 

But he didn't, though Jarvis did. Jarvis 
said he accused him of burning his house, threat- 
ened to have him arrested, frightened the children, 
told him the company was no good anyway, and 
offered him three hundred dollars for a thousand 
dollar policy. 

' ' Did you accept? ' ' 

"Of course I did. A law suit wouldn't 
bring me much more if what he said was true. 
I think I'm in luck to have saved my life." 

Jarvis was a member of the legislature in 
1889, and do you know what he did? He lob- 
bied for the valued policy bill and took revenge 
on the whole fraternity for the disreputable 
practices of a small, a very small, portion. 
Farm adjusters and professional appraisers were 
the authors, and though I believe the bill was 
not introduced over their names, it bears their 



Col. Tram lived in Iowa, and only made in- 
cursions into Missouri at intervals. In some 
parts of the State the intervals were long, as the 
farmers were watching for him, and he wasn't 
anxious to meet them. The Colonel was one of 
the original farm solicitors, took pride in his 
work and never let any man with even a chicken 
coop escape. 

Missouri barns were his specialty. Ever see 
one? Only a crib of rails, covered with straw, 
but they were every one of them good for a 
premium and a policy fee. The Colonel carried 
a portfolio like the assessor, and went about his 
business in a business-like way. Opened his 
book, took out an application, asked the farmer 
the questions he thought would not make him 
suspicious, and in a matter-of-fact manner, shoved 
the document over to him and said: "Sign!" 

" What mought it be, stranger?" 

4 ' Statement that the questions you have 
answered are true to the best of your knowledge 
and belief. Are they?" 

"They be." 

"Then sign!" 



Some of them wouldn't some did and were 
sorry, for lie was not modest, the Colonel wasn't, 
and the crops were often too short to buy gro- 
ceries and pay his note too, so the grocer had to 
wait, as the Colonel's company wouldn't. 

These were the good old times my country- 
men, when my business card was equal to a 
patent of nobility in the country; when the 
insurance agent was greeted with expressions 
usually offered only to Deity the same expres- 
sions, but with different inflections. 






[OUGH Podunk was a small town, 
we had samples of nearly every 
variety of agent especially the 
poor kinds. We had one who per- 
sistently cut the rates; more than 
one rebater, and a good many willing 
to trade insurance for anything, no 
matter what. 

Now, there is a little excuse for a rate cut- 
ter, as he is generally a man who has no business 
to be an agent "nohow, ' ' cannot compete on equal 
terms, and it follows if he does any business at 
all it must be secured by special inducement. 
The railroads help out the weak, roundabout 
brother by giving him a differential, and our weak 
brother takes one, whether we give it or not. 

I have often regretted my choice of such an 
unsatisfactory vocation, but from the statements 
of lumber dealers, railroad men, and others sim- 



25 '/. 
/O - 

ilarly conditioned, I have learned that they have 
tariff annoyances equal to our own. There are 
rarely over half a dozen railroads competing on 
nominally equal terms and agreed rates for the 
business at a given point. Do they strictly ad- 
here to published tariffs? Do the two competing 
lumbermen of the village execute their private 
agreements loyally? The number of competing 
companies and agencies being relatively much 
greater, is it strange that some of them should 
seek the advantage most easily obtained by un- 
derbidding their fellows? 

But the rate cutter, bad as he is, does not 
approach the rebater in cussedness. One of the 
Podunk fraternity was especially noted for his 
liberality. He had an excess commission agency, 
and they always seem to run to rebates. Their 
income is so much greater than the average, that 
they think they can take the assured into part- 
nership and still come out ahead, but they can- 
not. I never knew such an agency that lasted 
five years, but usually before one dies another is 
born. If they should all happen to die at the same 





time, Podunk would be a pretty good agency 

I never made any pretense to righteousness. 
I have applied all the ordinary methods of cir- 
cumventing my neighbor, but I was never ac- 
cused of the assininityof rebating my commission. 
No reputable company asks for business on such 
terms; no reputable agent solicits business on 
such terms; and no agent can expect to succeed 
if he loses his good repute and represents com- 
panies without repute. If suicide be evidence of 
insanity, business suicide is proof of imbecility. 
One is the end of life; the other of the living. 

Nearly every agent has a hoodoo company, 
and so had I. Of the first seven risks I wrote 
for this company, six burned within the year, my 
other companies escaping. The business was of 
good quality, but the company was out of luck. 
Without investigation, I was considered the hoo- 
doo, and the agency changed. As the manager 
shortly lost his position, and the special resigned, 
with a large overdraft, it is possible that the office 
needed a rabbit-foot more than the agent. 


Another one of my companies had a mana- 
ger whose vocabulary was limited to the two 
words "Please cancel." I once sent him half 
a dozen dailies, five good brick risks and a frame 
hotel, a custom I am told much in vogue. His 
telegram and letter did not mention the bricks, 
but I supplied the omission. He cancelled his 
company out of half the agencies in the country, 
and wound up by having his own engagement can- 
celled. He remains an ex-manager, and though 
many years have intervened, the company has 
not recovered its lost prestige, and may never be 
a factor in the agency field, though its size, age 
and loss-paying ability are in its favor. The 
frame hotel still stands, a monument to ultra-con- 

Did you ever come in contact with the smart 
examiner? An agent cannot always distinguish 
between chronic dyspepsia, an acute night-off and 
a fool examiner, but he soon becomes familiar 
with the symptoms . The less the examiner knows 
about the business, the more foolish questions he 
asks, and his impertinent queries have queered 


more agencies in an hour than a special can fix 
in a week. The cause, I suppose, is ignorance 
of the local business and local conditions. If 
the office staff could be recruited from the field, 
as the latter is from the agency force, there would 
be much less friction. The next best custom of 
sending the examiner to the field at every oppor- 
tunity is recommended to managers, by a local 
agent, as a wise one. 





HIL,B the city agent has his 
troubles and brokers (syn- 
onymous terms?) they are 
not comparable to his 
country brothers' worries, 
foremost among which is 
the financial problem . The 
National Standard labyrinth is simple in 
comparison ! What matter whether we meas- 
ure wealth by a gold or silver unit, if we 
lack the yard-stick? And of what use is a 
yard-stick if we have no cloth? 

It is all very well for the General Agent 
to insist upon prompt remittances. Instant 
decapitation of a lame duck is also a good rule for 
a special, but, my grave and reverend seigneurs! 
have you ever sought the cause of his delin- 
quency? Have you ever diagnosed the complaint? 



I lxcHA,N<;r PA.C 
7. Ext5SCHAR 

And will you contribute your portion to the cure 
when the disease is located? 

You give your agency to Tom , Dick or Harry ; 
sometimes to all three. The business is all placed, 
the natural growth slow, but they must have 
premiums and cannot get them without offering 
some inducement. To meet their illegitimate 
competition the agent who has the business must 
demoralize his own customers, deplete his ex- 
chequer, and ruin his future prospects by meeting 
their offers. They promise to give unlimited time 
credit; to divide commission, or even to give away 
the whole of it to get the business on their books ; 
to trade out the premiums as if ready to open a 
junk shop! They promise anything, having all 
to gain and nothing at stake, and unless your 
agent who is always the best agent is willing 
to sacrifice his income he loses, first his business, 
then his companies, and stands to lose his repu- 
tation, whichever horn of the dilemma impales 

So long as present methods 
prevail, just so long will the de- 
linquent be with us . Since the 



principals are responsible for the excessive com- 
petition, multiple agencies, and the over-crowded 
field, it is but just that they should occasionally 
suffer; yet the loss by defalcation is infinitesimal, 
hardly a fraction of a percentage, and not half the 
amount absorbed by postage overcharges. This 
should be sufficient evidence of the agents' finan- 
cial integrity, and I assert that nine-tenths of the 
shortages are the result of misfortune and not 
one-tenth of design. 

The reason is easily assigned. The Local 
Agents are, as a class, superior men. There are 
exceptions, as previously intimated, and the mar- 
vel is that the rule and the exception have not 
changed places. It is a business requiring more 
brains than the weighing of sugar or the measur- 
ing of cloth, yet it does not yield a revenue equal 
to professional or mercantile pursuits . The intelli- 
gent, tenacious energy required to build up a local 
business would earn fame if applied to the arts or 
sciences; reputation in the professions, and wealth 
in barter. Few agents secure even a modest com- 
petence, none get rich, and most must be content 
with a bare living. What charm attracts and 



retains them? The only reward for exceptional 
ability is the doubtful promotion to a special 
agency, a change from independence to depend- 
ence, from the comforts of home to the discomforts 
of travel. 

Note by the Editor: Mr. B. P. Sadlord, a 
well known Denver agent, has made a study of 
the unequal division of premiums between the 
companies and the agents, with the following 
conclusions : 

' ' A successful agent must be one of the best 
fellows on earth; has to be with the people, and 
is expected to keep his end up on all occasions. 
A charity fund is prospected; the Local is leading 
and circulating. An enterprise connected with 
the welfare of the town finds the Local on the 
committee and one of the shining lights. If he 
is not a member of all clubs, he is not in it. In 
church work he is a leader, song singer and con- 
tributor. If a customer has friends in trouble, he 
goes to this same Local for assistance, which is 
never refused. 

"As a pall-bearer he is always in demand. 
At the theater, prize fight, and political meeting, 


he always has a front seat; and thus he goes on. 
In all cases the companies get the benefit. But 
let him get into trouble; do the companies pat 
him on the back, think of his past record or the 
amount of money he has made for them by his 
efforts? No. A special is immediately put in 
possession of the facts ; a settlement is required ; 
the Local's friends, relatives or bondsmen are 
called upon, and if the companies don't get their 
money the Local goes in the jug. That is busi- 
ness. The Local has customers who have done 
business with him for a number of years. Some 
of them, unfortunately, get into trouble ; the Local 
extends credit, and loses. Do the companies? 
Not on your life ! There are many other samples 
of the Local's trials and tribulations that could be 
given, but are these not enough? Anyhow they 
show that the business is too much for the $ 
standard on the companies' side." 



UR system of voting is named 
the Australian ballot probably 
because it originated in Canada. 
Our Agency System is known 
as the American, possibly be- 
cause no other country is will- 
ing to father it. Many years 
ago, the name described it 
fairly well. There was a time when an agent 
was all that his Commission described him, but 
that is ancient history. In the golden age, he 
selected his risks, reported his acceptances 
monthly, sent his principal a bordereau and 
account, and was responsible for the form and 
details. Good men were in demand, and only 
the best of the good ones were employed. That 
was before the telegraph and telephone made 
Chicago a suburb of New York. 



The progress and development of forty years 
have intervened, and though the skeleton still 
exists, the heart is dead. One by one the 
ancient prerogatives of the agent have been 
absorbed by the official, until the former is but 
a vehicle for the delivery of the policy and the 
collection of the premium. Judgment is elimin- 
ated; responsibility, respectability, familiarity 
with the local credit and position of insurers 
are all sacrificed. Policy forms, riders, clauses, 
mandatory rules, are prescribed by the office. 
Who and what made a broker of him ? Who is 
responsible for the passing of the agent ? 

The passing ? He has passed ! The shadow 
only remains, a poor photograph of the original. 
The manager or general agent has assumed his 
labors, arrogated his judgment, usurped his pre- 
rogatives. From maps, diagrams, ratings, fire 
records, mercantile agencies, inspection bureaus, 
he attempts to supply the lack of local and per- 
sonal knowledge. The one time agent offers him 
a line on behalf of the assured. His responsi- 
bility ceases when the copy is mailed. His 
clerical function is ended. His interest in the 



risk is gone until it expires he is not even a 

What will the harvest be ? The crop will be 
a manifold reproduction of the seed. The next 
planting? Already there are evidences of a 
tendency to localize the general agent sub- 
stitute salary for commission, employees for 
solicitors, and exclusive representation for the 
so-called American Agency System. With co- 
operative special work, co-operative adjustments, 
co-operative inspections in perspective, even the 
special agency system is in danger. As we 
approach European conditions, we adopt Euro- 
pean methods. The Golden Age is turned to 
steel. The wheel is broken at the cistern. 

Note by the Editor : 

The following metrical grumble is contrib- 
uted by a far Western local, who is still ground 
down by the iron heel of the Compact. When 
the legislature of his State follows Missouri's 
lead and emancipates him, will he be any 
happier ? 


I have been a local agent, let me see; since '62. 

You may call me an old fogy, and in some 
respects that's true. 

I'll not discard old ideas just to take up some- 
thing new, 

When the old ones suit my notions. 

I can recollect the day 

When the business was conducted in a very 

different way, 
And I venture the assertion, contradict it if you can 

That the old way was the better. Time was 
once, when every man 

Could not be a local agent; brains were a sine 
qua non; 

Special training was required; but these times 
are past and gone. 

Now the forces are recruited from the rag-tag 
and bob-tail 

Of all business and professions. 

Ruined merchants; men who fail, 

From their faults or their misfortunes, chiefly 
men past middle age, 

Take insurance for a Mecca and begin a pil- 



The agent's an automaton, can neither think 

nor will; 
With duties purely clerical. Once judgment, 

sense and skill 
Were prerequisites for agents. Now the bureau's 


Makes our rates with square and compass on a 
geometric plan. 

Everything is done by schedule, a defective 
schedule too, 

That rates reputable merchants same as a dis- 
honest Jew 

If construction and exposure happen to be just 
the same. 

Should not reputation, standing, and a good or 
a bad name 

Be considered in the rating? Mandatory forms 
as well, 

Clauses, riders, regulations , more of them than 
I can tell 

Cut and dried for our consumption. 

If the present system lasts 

Agents will not long be needed their days now 
are nearly passed. 


Canvassers are their successors book agents 
and fruit tree men 

Ought to reap a golden harvest when the era's 
ushered in. 

When all these new-fangled notions have been 
tried, and cast aside, 

Other systems just as useless will be trotted out 
and tried, 

Until, from experimenting, the whole fabric may 

Then we old style fellows will be in demand 
again perhaps . 





NE hot summer afternoon I was 
half dozing in the office, dreamily 
listening to the buzz of the flies in 
the windows, when who should 
enter but P. V. Wisdom, an old 
acquaintance I hadn't seen for 
years; in fact, I had lost track of 
him entirely. His intimates 
called him "Purely Virtuous" 
for short. 

" How are you, P. V. ? I hav'nt seen you 
nor heard from you for ages. Give an account 
of yourself." 

" Been to Californy for the last three years." 
"Fine climate they tell me. What have 
you been doing ? Home on a visit ? Did you 
get rich ? ' ' 

"I'm back to Missoury for good and all. 
Got enough climate to do me the rest of my life, 


and that's all I did get except left cleaned out. 
See you have quit the newspaper business and 
are in insurance. You still have my sympathy." 

"What did you follow out West?" 

"Followed the other fellow's trail 'bout as 
you do I reckon: was an insurance agent." 

"We don't hear much in Podunk about the 
rest of the world. Business out there about the 
same as here ? ' ' 

"The same? I should say it wasn't. You 
think you have troubles here? No more'n heat 
rash to small-pox." 

This was years ago. If P. V. were a con- 
temporary, he might change his comparison 
reverse it even. At this point a few of my asso- 
ciate agents had dropped in, and after the usual 
greetings and introductions, he continued: 

" In the first place there's mighty few what 
you'd call real agents in Californy. Most of 'em 
are only subs. Policies are written in San 
Francisco, and all an agent has to do is to 
make out a daily in pencil, fire it in, and back 
comes the policy. Office in his hat and pocket. 
It isn't a bad scheme, as it saves rent and clerks 



and lots of expense, but it was a come-down for 
me. About all a fellow needs to know is how to 
get a risk, so pretty near every man that has one 
or can get one is an agent, and it makes pickin' 
mighty slim, I tell you." 

' ' How are rates and commissions? ' ' 
"Both 'way up; that is, rates is if they 
don't cut 'em, and commissions ain't if they 
wouldn't raise 'em but they do." 
"Any local boards out there?" 
" No room for 'em. There's one big com- 
pact, covers the whole coast. They call it the 
P. I. U. They don't take any chances on 
honesty. Have a lot of clerks and stamp and 
check the daily, and if it isn't just right, they fire 
it back to you for correction." 

1 ' Then there isn't any chance to cut a rate? ' ' 
" There isn't? Why, the rates are made to 
be cut, and they're big enough to stand a good 
deep cut, too. You see, some company always 
wants the inside track, and it's easy to make 
arrangements to send in rebates that don't get 
stamped. Then another company finds it isn't in 
it, and goes one better by passin' rebates and 



coughin' up commission too. Oh, if there's any- 
thing the agents out there are not on to I never 
heard of it." 

' ' This is very interesting, Mr. Wisdom, ' ' said 
the Campbellite preacher, who was an attentive 
listener, "how are the rates made?" 

' ' They call him a surveyor, and he belongs 
to the compact. Just makes 'em to suit himself. 
Prints 'em, then tackles another town. They've 
got rate-making down fine, but they don't 
seem to be able to stick to 'em, that's the 

' ' We haven't any difficulty here on that score, 
have we, parson?" said I; whereat, though it 
wasn't funny, everybody laughed. It takes so 
little to amuse good humored people. 

' ' How are they on remittances? ' ' asked the 
Kansas Boomer, who, being a chronic, is most 
interested in the subject nearest his heart. 

" Oh, they're easy. You don't have to remit 
till you collect, and if you never collect you never 
remit. Mark it off to profit and loss or something 
or other. Trouble is, you lose your commission 
if it's never paid." 


The Boomer sighed a deep sigh. If it hadn't 
been for the railroad fare, I'm satisfied he would 
have gone to California instead of Arkansaw. It 
was an ideal land, a land of promise to pay. 

When the visitor was gone, and we had time to 
think it over, not one of us, the Boomer excepted, 
was anxious to emigrate. The ills we have may 
be hard to bear, but there are worse. The limit 
has never been found. 

Since then there has been a change for the 
better in California, while Missouri is going from 
bad to worse all along the line ; the trial by fire 
has had a good effect on the Coast. Many of the 
old abuses have been abolished. Rates are down, 
commissions are down, expenses are down. If 
Wisdom had an agency there now, he might be 
happy yet ; but he stayed in Missouri and never 



I HEN I was an editor and had 
little use for them, I had 
annual passes on all the rail- 
roads, in exchange for adver- 
tising. When I wanted and 
needed transportation as an 
insurance agent, I could not 
get it. Thus what we do not 
want comes easily, and what 
we need is hard to get. Matilda had relatives in 
Cleburne, Texas, and took a notion she wanted to 
visit them, and when a woman gets an idea into 
her head, nothing is impossible; even poverty is 
not an unsurmountable barrier. After a deal of 
begging and wire-pulling I secured trip passes 
and gratified her wish. 

Wisdom's tale was proof that the companies 
varied their methods and practices according to 
locality. In my inexperience I had supposed, 




being under one management, that all the States 
were a good deal alike; but I had changed my 
opinion and expected to learn something new in 
Texas. For once, the expected happened. If 
California was wide open, Texas was at the other 
extreme, and I was more satisfied than ever to 
stick to Podunk after my trip south. 

In the first place, there were only two or three 
agents in Cleburne, which was good for the two 
or three that had the companies, and they were 
pretty good men, for Texas, as far as I could 
judge. The one that had most of the companies, 
Netherwood, I think, was the name he had 
assumed, was suspected of having a record. Some 
said his graveyard had three occupants, some 
said more; but he was as mild mannered, quiet 
and pleasant as the Methodist preacher at Podunk. 

I soon got acquainted with him, and one day 
while I was loafing in his office he got a telegram, 
and as soon as he had read it, he began to swear. 
I asked him what the trouble was, supposing, of 
course, it was an order to cancel a policy, as I 
never received a telegram with anything else in 
it. He handed it to me and I read: "Meet me 



at hotel to-night with the register," signed some- 
body, a special agent. I did not see anything to 
swear about, but Netherwood, the agent, did. I 
handed it back to him, said as much, and he gave 
me some information, about as follows: 

"It's his cussed impudence that riles me. 
In this Godforsaken town the specials, and the 
companies too, seem to think they have an over- 
due mortgage on the earth, with a right to fore- 
close any day. We have to beg its pardon for 
living. The smart- Alec specials travel in couples, 
or quartettes, work the society racket, play poker 
all night, and don't consider a local any more 
than they would a dog. Whistle to us and if we 
don't run there's the devil to pay." 

" There must be a cause what is it? They're 
sweeping the streets for agents and business up 
in Missouri." 

" O, the reason is all right, I suppose. They 
don't make any money, and are independent, 
damned independent. The State Board is a close 
corporation, they all pull together, and if a fellow 
tries to play one against the other they always 
catch him at it. I'd like to be in business in 




some town where there wasn't any fires, or where 
there wasn't so many. I'd like to be the big dog 
awhile myself." 

While the Texas way had some advantages, 
I would rather suffer a little from too much com- 
petition than to be under so much restraint. It 
is more consoling to the pride to have the special 
cultivate me, than for me to cultivate him. I do 
not know whether the whole State was like Cle- 
burneor not; if it was, the companies had a warm 
time, for there was a fire nearly every day. The 
agents were almost as independent as the com- 
panies, and would not deliver a policy until the 
premium was paid, another point where they had 
the advantage of Podunk. But take it altogether, 
Missouri suited me better than Texas. 






HE life of a country agent is 
monotonous and matter-of- 
fact. I cannot, even from the dis- 
tance of a quarter of a century, crown 
the daily routine with a halo of romance . 
The fete days were marked by the 
arrival of some special, but 
even these sometimes ended in 
mourning because of the sud- 
den demand for an overdue account. Thus pleasure 
and pain march through our lives , hand in hand ; 
we never know when the smile may hide a tear, 
when joy may end in sadness. 

The business being limited, I had many hours 
of enforced idleness. During these intervals my 
thoughts were not always as quiescent as my limbs , 
and fancy explored regions beyond the boundaries 
of Podunk. Shortly after I had learned to write 
a dwelling house form that was not returned 




for correction, ambition despite the warning of 
Caesar's fate whispered Special Agency in my 
ear. My abilities should not be confined to the 
narrow limits of Jay County even, and the more 
I considered the attractions of a fixed salary and 
an expense account, the more alluring they grew. 

I had met many kinds of Specials, and despite 
my fund of native modesty, which had been aug- 
mented by my newspaper experience, I felt equal 
to the apparent labor required. 
The usual methods of cultivat- 
vating the agent were 
especially attractive. 
Have a cigar? Take 
lunch with me? Want 
to go to the theater to-night? What '11 you take? 
interspersed with an up-to-date collection of road 
stories did not seem difficult as long as Jones 
didn't have to pay the freight. 

As soon as my fellow- sufferers at Podunk 
understood that I was a candidate, they all rec- 
ommended me. I never considered it judicious 
to analyze motives too closely. A good action 
frequently serves a selfish end, as in this instance. 



Like Joseph's brethren, they expected to divide 
my raiment as soon as I was out of the way. The 
preachers were especially solicitous, as they were 
the natural residuary legatees of my best custom. 

To the country local, who would be a Special, 
a word of advice. If you cannot see your way to 
the end by working some company, try general 
cussedness. Make it so warm for the business that 
they will all want you removed, and consequently 
work for your removal. If you are intelligently 
active, some company may hear of you and employ 
you upon general principles. 

My insurance godfather was a Special of long 
experience and had the usual aversion to country 
town agencies. He considered he was squandering 
too much of his time and abilities upon them, and 
induced the manager of the Cataract to permit him 
to employ an assistant. Accident and the recom- 
mendation of a good friend a local of course 
directed his attention to me, and as a result I was 
turned out to graze upon the high grass localities. 
I traded my agency for a promissory note ; became 
surety for my successor and paid his indebtedness 
to the companies thereunder in due time. With 



high hopes I was immediately transformed into a 
knight of as large a grip as an inexperienced 
traveler ever carried. All that remained of my 
local agency was the promissory note (I have it 
yet), and some experience as a solicitor that 
promised to boom the Cataract's business in the 
country agencies of Missouri and Kansas. 

My income was doubled. When the exhilara- 
tion incident to promotion had disappeared and I 
could give my finances close attention, I found 
my expenses had increased in still greater propor- 
tion; instead of making money, the Special was 
poorer than the local. This was a condition at 
variance with all my theories, and subsequent 
attempts at reconciliation have failed. With every 
increase in salary there has been a corresponding 
growth in expenditures. The surplus of the 
employe as well as of the Company, depends more 
upon the outgo than the income. 





I SB your judgment. You will find 
out what is necessary to be done 
when you get there," was all the 
instruction Goodword ever gave 
me, which, at the time, seemed 
to me rather attenuated advice. 
After ten years' experience on the 
road I have altered my opinion. 
Judgment is the one necessity of 
men, of things, of time, of place; 
whom to select and when, how and where to 
approach him . A hundred Specials can name 
the best man; ten can get into his agency, 
but only two or three can get his business. 
It follows that the remainder must appoint second 
or tenth choice, or get second or tenth choice of 
business; sometimes both. 

My difficulties commenced as soon as my 
new connection was announced. Feminine like, 



Matilda Jones had her notions of the marriage 
contract, and was not pleased with the new 
arrangement. As her opposition could not be 
attributed to jealousy, it was probably due to a 
distorted imagination. Whatever the cause (and 
I do not pretend to analyze female humors or fore- 
bodings) , she objected to a traveling husband. I 
conquered at the first bout, but I had to fight the 
battle anew every trip. Matilda wouldn't stay 
conquered, which I am told is one of the pecu- 
liarities of the sex. 

To the new, all things are new. New suit, 
new business cards, and new valise, twice as large 
as necessary. Like fresh paint every one touched 
me to test the truth of the sign, found me adhesive 
and passed me up. I was asked for authorizations 
on prohibited risks; to solve conundrums that 
would stump the undauntable Sexton. My judg- 
ment was solicited on frame range rates, and 
applauded only when I advised a reduction. I was 
asked more questions in a month than the dean 
of the corps could answer correctly in a year. At 
first I wired for instructions, but as the reply 
was invariably, "Use your judgment," I soon 



learned to imitate my associates ; that is, I looked 
wise , filtered wisdom through platitudinous meshes , 
and never admitted there was anything connected 
with the business that I could not master. 

Nor did my troubles end with the locals. 
While there is not as much esprit de corps among 
Specials as in the military or trades unions, it 
still exists . It was manifested by personal actions , 
varied by personal views, but present and apparent. 
I was considered a local, not an agent of a com- 
panion Special, consequently an interloper, and 
treated accordingly. There were exceptions, and 
they occurred among the older field men, who 
welcomed me to their ranks, encouraged me by 
advice, and laid the foundations of friendships 
that have continued uninterruptedly to the present 
time. While jokes and quips at the expense of a 
greenhorn may tickle the perpetrators, the amuse- 
ment does not counterbalance the loss of dignity. 
The greenest timber is seasoned by time and the 
elements, but the scar of the woodman's axe is 
never effaced. 

One of the difficulties of an inexperienced 
man is his expense account. I have rarely heard 



a Special whose education was finished, complain 
of his inability to strike a balance, but the neophyte 
must learn this by practice as he learns penny ante 
(an acquisition indispensable in some fields) . 
They are convoluted, and the mastery of one pre- 
supposes acquaintance with the other. Billiards, 
cigars, entertainments, and numerous similar items 
are a serious drain upon the salary of the new 
man, as their connection with the hotel bill is not 
apparent to the unassisted sight. In a few months 
he acquires a mysterious occult vision, and sees 
things he never dreamed of before. 





OODWORD, who had been 
responsible for me 
up to this time, 
crowned his work by 
introducing me at the 
first meeting of the 
State Board. I paid 
my tuition, signed the 
Constitution, became a 

full-fledged member of the guild, and was made 
chairman of the rating committee of the Twenty- 
ninth Congressional District, which included 
Podunk within its boundaries. I never knew why 
our divisions were made upon political lines, but 
presumably it was because it created enough dis- 
tricts to go around and thus prevented jealousies. 
I was so proud of my rapid recognition that for 
six months I gave quite as much time to board 
work as to the Cataract's business. Jones was 







getting his education, as usual, at the Company's 

One of my first observations at the meeting of 
the State Board was the importance of Podunk. 
It was used to point a moral or adorn a tale ; held 
up as a horrible example, or cited as a model. 
Whenever they ran short of subjects to cuss or dis- 
cuss, Podunk was whistled for, and like a sailor's 
breeze, carried the meeting along under full sail. 

How short is an insurance generation. While 
a few patriarchs survive, most of us are of few 
days and full of trouble. The then President and 
Secretary of the State Board, Alf. Bennett and 
Herb. Low, have both long since passed from the 
scene, and been forgotten by all but the old guard. 
Even the old guard has been reduced by death, 
retirement and promotion until less than half a 
dozen survive. 

We had no jurisdiction over the large cities. 
St. Joe was the limit, and even she disputed our 
authority to interfere with her scraps; but the 
smaller cities and towns were kept well in hand, 
necessitating frequent committee visits, a good 
deal of work, and not a little diplomacy. The 



agents all had an axe to grind, and wanted us to 
turn the stone; but generally the rates we pro- 
mulgated were equitable and 
satisfactory to both agents 
and policy buyers. 

No better training school 
for a Special could be imag- 
ined. He became familiar 
with the construction of the 
towns and the standing of the 
principal business men; ac- 
quainted with all the agents, 
and an expert upon rates and 
rate making, as then under- 
stood. I have done a little board work in several 
Western States, and regret that the same curri- 
culum is not open to the young man of the present 
generation. It improved both the man and the 
business. The time was well spent, and the 
results quite as satisfactory under the old system 
as under the present one, while less 
provocation was furnished for restrictive 
legislation. There were no compacts to 



One of the reasons why I am an earnest advo- 
cate of field men's associations is the excellent 
resultant co-operation. It is quite easy for the 
managers to assure each other of their hearty 
co-operation and just as easy to forget the assur- 
ance until the subject is gray- whiskered. They 
not only can wear out the complaint with delay, 
but they have done so, and have been suspected 
of designedly evading their obligations. 

The field man cannot afford to do this. He 
is in constant contact with his associates, and, if 
he establishes a reputation of this character, it r 
reacts upon his business. Some one of his agents 
is met every day by some one of the boys, and 
even without any preconcerted plan, how natural it 
is to greet the local with such deprecatory remarks 
as these, when they see the sign on the wall: 

" Oh, you are the agent for the Eastern, are 
you? " 

' ' I didn 't know you represented the Eastern. ' ' 

' ' Whatever induced you to take the Eastern 
agency? " 

''Well, I didn't suppose you would represent 
the Eastern." 



Such remarks and innuendoes, shrugs and 
winks to each other, cause an agent to think, and 
neither increase the popularity of a company nor 
help its business. The punishment is so swift 
and sure that many recalcitrants have seen a new 
light, and changed their methods from necessity. 





O more disagreeable work is assigned 
to a Special than the collection of 
delinquent balances. The agency 
book showed for Circleville, Janu- 
ary business, $46.00; February, 
$92.00; March, $18.00. I found 
an agent whom I thought would be 
a business-getter early in January, and was 
patting myself on the back when I got a 
letter from the office. 'Twas ever thus. 
I never congratulated myself upon being 
devilish cute but something turned up to 
dampen my ardor. This is the letter: 

" CHICAGO, April 20, 1884. 

DBAR SIR: Agent I. M. Pudent at Circleville 
returns our draft for January, balance $38.60, with a 
memorandum by the bank 'no attention.' He owes 
us in addition $77.45 on February account, now over- 
due, and fails to cancel policy 5018, covering on a 
second-hand stock, premium $18.00 in March, which 


we have repeatedly asked him to take up. He appears 
to be an undesirable agent, and when you appoint his 
successor please take more care in your selection. 
Please give the matter your attention at first oppor- 
tunity, and oblige, 

Yours truly, 



This was cheerful news, but I made the best 
of it, and started for Circleville at once. I found 
Pudent in his office with his feet on the table and 
sucking at a cob pipe filled with long green. 

"Hello, Jones," he said, indolently untang- 
ling his feet. "Wasn't looking for you again so 
soon. What's up?" 

"I got a letter from the office about January 
balance, and as I was going to Sedalia anyway, I 
stopped off to see what was the matter." 

"I never have paid and never will pay a sight 
draft, that's what's the matter," bristling up like 
a cat at a strange dog in the yard. 

"All right, then, as I am here you can fix it 
with me, and you had better include February in 
the check while you are at it." 

"If you get it before I do, let me know, will 
you? ' ' 



Human nature can endure many things more 
patiently than impudence. I was six feet at six- 
teen and wasn't any less at thirty, and when I got 
through with him he tied up our supplies nicely, 
dusted the sign, borrowed the January balance 
from somebody, and cancelled the February and 
March policies. This was the second time my 
early education was adapted to the business. 

This was an extreme case. I have often 
assisted the agent to raise the money, have visited 
relatives in the country, driven fifty miles to see 
an old friend who might lend, have found money 
for chattel loans, and once was a bar-keep in a 
Kansas joint until the till relieved the local 
stringency. This was also an extreme case. 
When coaxing, cajoling and soft words are in- 
effective; when the sureties are stubborn; when 
all ordinary efforts fail, the prison is pictured in 
all its horrors, and when threats avail not, they 
are executed, though fortunately such measures 
are rarely necessary. 

Some day when the business is reduced to an 
exact science, all the annoyances will be elimin- 
ated. Then the Special will not grumble there 



will be no Specials. The adjuster will not com- 
plain there will be no adjusters. The manager 
will not lose his temper there will be no man- 
agers . Only good agents and happy shareholders 
in Utopia. 

We are sailing for Utopia, across the unknown 
seas ; 

The rudder's gone, the masts are down, the 
skipper's ill at ease; 

He has lost his charts and compass, and the navi- 
gator's ill, 

The scurvy crew is mutinous and threatens to 

With breakers port and starboard and rocks on 
every hand, 

We've lost our course and reckoning, and almost 
lost our sand. 

We are sailing for Utopia, the region of the blest, 
Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the 

weary are at rest; 
Where there are no legislators no taxes to be 

paid ; 

Where political examiners have never made a raid ; 
Where dividends are guaranteed and premiums 

abound ; 
Large, fat and juicy premiums, enough to go 



We are sailing for Utopia if ever we arrive, 
How many of the middlemen, the voyage will 

Where every one is honest, no necessity occurs 
For adjusters, special agents, or even managers. 
Though present ills are hard to bear, there may 

be worse in store. 
Shall we stand by the derelict, or jump, and swim 



ET me introduce myself, 
Col. Moore; I am 
Jones, Special Agent 
of the Cataract In- 
surance Co." Col. Moore, who is a North 
Missouri Justice of the Peace, portrays his 
part. No collar, silk hat of uncertain date, 
spattered shirt front, short, baggy trousers, 
and sockless feet. He pushes his specs to 
his forehead, wipes his watery eyes with a 
bandana, and says: 

"I'm looking for an agent and have 
been referred to you." 

"What d'ye wanta change fer?" 
" I do not want to change. The Cata- 
ract has never been planted here , and I wish 
to get an opening. The town is growing 
and appears to be a desirable agency 




" 'Umph See here young man, I've got 
more companies 'n I can use. ; They 'es more com- 
panies 'n risks here now, an' more agents too. I 
couldn't do nothin' fer you nohow." 

Drops his spectacles, takes a fresh chew, 
coolly turns his back, and considers the interview 

" Mr. Smartweed, my name is Jones, Special 
agent of the Cataract Insurance Co. I am looking 
for an agent, and you are recommended." 

Smartweed runs the local paper, and when 
the horse bill season is ended, practices insurance 
to help out. 

" Hello! Jones of the Podunk Bazoo? Met 
you at Jefferson in '80 at the State Editorial Con- 
vention. Don't you remember me?" 

Of course I remembered him, now he men- 
tioned it, but hadn't he changed his appearance? 
No, same old Smartweed. Wasted an hour on 
reminiscences found he only wrote his own plant 
(chattel mortgaged) , but if I would be satisfied 
with half of it, he would take us in. Would like 
to do business with an old acquaintance, etc., etc. 



My next call was upon Mr. Chitty, in Black- 
stone & Kent's office. I had had an application 
from him a couple 'of months before. He was a 
student and expected to be admitted to the bar 
next spring. Found eight glass signs on the 
walls and half a dozen tin ones on the stairway. 
Usual preliminaries. Of course he would take the 
Cataract. Said he: 

" I intend to have the largest agency in town. 
I have nine or ten companies now, and if I can 
get the Home and the Aetna and the Phcenix and 
a few more, I will do all the business in town. 
They'll have to come to me if I once get them 

In the two months he had issued three or four 
$200 dwelling policies, but his expectations were 
too great. We might want each other, but we 
didn't need one another. 

"Mr. Hardcasein?" 

A sour visaged, dyspeptic little man acknowl- 
edged that he was in. Wasn't in the insurance 
business for his health. Rates were too high 
any way. What commissions could we pay? No, 



wasn't any money in the business at fifteen per 
cent. His signs were not displayed. From a list 
I found that he had all the notorious rate cutting 
and excess commission companies in the State. 
As I couldn't get a fifteen per cent agreement from 
him in any event, he was barred, even if he 
wanted the Cataract but he didn't. 

U7i7.ll Tiri 

A day wasted for I was whitewashed. Should 
I stay over and try it again? I had seen every 
man who had companies, and must look up a new 
man if I got in at all. Yes ; it was better to have 
my supplies there for the next visit ; it was easier 
to change an agency than to plant a new com- 
pany. A dead agency was better than none. 
After supper I met the County Clerk, and per- 
suaded him to accept the great distinction I was 
ready to confer. He did, and may be agent yet 
for all I know. I never had to collect a balance 
h*Mi2iS from him while I was with the Cataract, for his 


page on the agency book was never marred by a 
figure . 

This is a sample day's work. If you find a 
man who wants you, take care. If you investi- 



gate, you will probably find you do not want him. 
There were a few towns in the Southeast where 
companies were in demand. They swelled both 
columns in the State reports, but the larger figures 
were in the second column. Where I could get 
business the company didn't want it, and where 
I couldn't get it, the manager was always hungry 
so geht es in die Welt. 

He v/o 

fs u ' 


are many instruction 
books on the market, and I 
have no intention of increasing 
the number, so instead of tell- 
ing how inspections should be 
made, I shall confine myself 
to telling how they are made, 
without recommendation . 
These are my Me*moires, not 
my confessions, and I decline 
to assume personal responsi- 
bility for common practices. 
First, the easiest and most common is known 
as the office, or register inspection. If the exam- 
iner has sent out the blank slips, so much the 
better, as a Special's time is too valuable to waste 
upon clerical work. This is the kind of inspec- 
tion that pleases the local and the assured, and is 
very popular. 




Second on the list is the car-window and map 
inspection, especially used for soap factories, glue 
factories, fertilizing works, pork packing estab- 
lishments, and similar nasty malodorous things. 
What is the use of upsetting the stomach, soiling 
the clothes, and wearying the body, only to learn 
that they are dirty? That is known already. Who 
can tell when or where a fire will originate, or 
where or when it will stop? Not one of us. The 
inference is plain. 

The third variety is the sidewalk inspec- 
tion. If combined with the alley, up one and 
down the other, it is quite effective for frame 
range business. The exposures and stovepipes 
are all noted, and the slips O. K.'d with a clear 

We have been gradually approaching the risk, 
and have reached the fourth, known as the inside 
inspection, chiefly made by the younger members 
of the fraternity. It has its advocates. 

Memo. The desirability of a clothing stock 
may depend as much upon the size and shape of 
the nose as upon the amount of insurance carried, 
or the name; yea, more, as it is fashionable to 



change or anglicize the name until the identity of 
the Pole is submerged. 

Memo . Always inspect millinery lines closely , 
as I have seen prettier things in some millinery 
stores, than the last summer's hats in the display 

Memo. Saloons and liquor stocks are best 
inspected by sample. The early part of the day 
recommended; they might burn before night. 

Nearly all field men would be considered 
sprinkler experts, though the knowledge of most 
of them ends with the "double line on risks 
equipped with approved sprinklers." I cannot 
withhold a word of advice. Subscribe for Once 
Upon A Time, whose editor knows more about 
Western sprinklers than the mill mutuals more 
than the inventor thought he knew. Sample copy 
sent to any name and address upon application. 

There is yet another method in use. If you 
know as little as I do about some of the modern 
technical hazards, use some other fellow's inspec- 
tion, copy it, and send it in as your own. His 
judgment may not be infallible, but it is better 
than none. 


I always retained a duplicate of all inspec- 
tions, and found it a great comfort in time of 
trouble. Every time I visited Adair, I could gaze 
upon the old frame flour mill I had cancelled off 
five years ago ; note the frame range marked K. O. 
(a paraphrase of O. K.), that had persistently 
refused to burn ; turn from the press reports in the 
morning paper to my duplicate slip, and see how 
little my judgment was really worth. It was also 
convenient on a request for re-inspection, as mem- 
ory is often treacherous, and a Special gets tripped 
up often enough unavoidably, without setting pit- 
falls for himself. 

Possibly two or three times in a century, a 
risk I cancelled would burn. Oh, the delight. 
Then Jones patted himself on the head, joshed the 
agent who had made a row over it, and wrote his 
manager a congratulatory letter, offering a good 
opening for the compliments of the season. Did 
they shower in? Every Special can answer from 
his own experience. 

I was once asked to inspect a dozen farm risks 
at a small Missouri agency, and when I inquired 



of the agent where they were, and how I should 
lay out my route to reach them easiest, he 

' ' You ' 11 waste your time . You can ' t possibly 
have a loss, as there isn't anything there to 

"How is that? " 

"I'll tell you. A loan agent has his office 
next door, and, as his loan company will not lend 
on unimproved farms he sends a policy along with 
the loan papers, and I furnish the policies. Don't 
you think it is good business? Just like finding 
money? " 

What would you do under such circumstances? 
So did I, and I have never regretted my action. 

St. Louis business had been burning 
as usual and the manager sent me there to 
inspect all our business, probably suppos- 
ing this would charm our sorrows away. I 
had worked my legs hard for two months 
and had seen all our risks but one a $2,500 
line on stock for the Ruth Pipe Company. 
Weary and jaded at the close of the day, 



I halted at No. 423-425 S. Main, with my last slip 
reached, saw the signs by the doorway, entered, 
looked around and said : 

1 c You make metal piping here? ' ' 

The workman nearest me coincided and con- 
tinued his labor, while I inspected the stock; with 
a deep sigh of relief and a clear conscience I marked 
the slip "Metal worker Mfrs. Sheet and Metal 
Piping O. K. Jones." 

Three months later I was on my usual first-of- 
the-year visit to the head office. After the cus- 
tomary greetings to the staff, the manager called 
me to his private office, set up the cigars, com- 
plimented me on the satisfactory results of the past 
year (this was unusual) , and said : 

"Mr. Jones, did you personally inspect all 
our St. Louis risks? " 

"Certainly. I never put in two months of 
harder work." 

"Did you inspect the Ruth Pipe Co. line?" 

' * Why, yes. I remember it well , It was the 
last risk I looked at." 

"Well, Jones, I know you wouldn't make a 
false report, but I have it on good information that 



this was a cob-pipe factory. The risk has since 
burned, and Mr. Kellner, the adjuster, evidently 
labored under the same impression, for he allowed 
their claim on a stock of cob pipes. You can't 
both be right one of you must have made a 

My explanation was probably satisfactory, for 
I am still on the Cataract's force. When other 
kinds fail, honesty is good policy. 



EOGRAPHICALLY, an imagin- 
ary line only separates Missouri 
from Kansas. Morally, politi- 
cally, and, I may say, in 
intellectual structure, they are far 
apart. Ante bellum antipathies 
to some extent, survive in the 
descendants of the original slave-holder on one 
side, and the abolitionist on the other. While the 
ex-confederate was the prominent citizen, and 
inferentially the leading agent in Missouri, the 
one-armed or one-legged Union soldier was his 
prototype in Kansas. Time has effaced some of 
the old rancor, and is rapidly exterminating both 
species. Veterans of the Civil War are now rarely 
met in active business, but they were abundant in 
the early eighties. 

My agent, the town constable, had defaulted. 
His friends made good his shortage, but were not 



kind enough to select his successor. I looked 
over the ground and found the following men in 
the business: Carl Weiskopf, Ole Johnson and 
Major Hunter, leading agents ; Judge Morrow and 
D. R. A. I,ane close seconds, with the usual num- 
ber, hanging on the skirts of the business one or 
two company fellows, unlikely material to work 

Weiskopf was teller in a local bank. I thought 
I would approach him properly, as much depends 
upon the first impression you make. 

" Erlauben Sie, Herr Weiskopf?" 
' ( That is my name. What can I do for you? ' ' 
A peculiarity of the German- American or 
American-German, is his apparent inability to 
speak his mother tongue. He nearly always 
answers a German query in English, or, perhaps 
my Dutch was too much for him? As he was evi- 
dently ashamed of his nationality, I ceased to be 
his Landsmann at once. 

<( I am looking for an agent, have you room 
for another company? A liberal writer, first class, 
old and well-established, the Cataract." 

' ' Liberal writer? What do you write? ' ' 



* ' Frame range business ; ordinary special haz- 
ards, etc. I don't think you have a prohibited 
risk in town." 

u If you will carry $5,000 on the Parkhouse 
Sugar Mill, I can give you a policy to-day." 

Now, this was a prohibited risk a sorghum 
sugar factory, experimental or worse, since the 
process even with Government assistance never 
progressed beyond exhausting the appropriation. 
It was silent, partially dismantled, and heavily 
mortgaged to the bank. No, we couldn't swallow 

Weiskopf froze up and wouldn't consider the 
matter further, so I called upon Mr. Johnson. 

He represented, in a way, the large Scandi- 
navian farming community north of town. After 
he had read my card, and I had stated my mission, 
he said: 

"Aye tank aye haf company aynuf. Aye 
been too bizzy to make out so much account efery 

All my persuasions fell upon phlegmatic ears 
I had to give him up. 





Major Hunter was one of the original Jay- 
hawkers; fought against Quantrell; was in the 
Lawrence Raid, was also a local politician, and 
generally of much more importance than the army 
records admitted. It was quietly hinted by the 
opposition that he was in the Commissary Depart- 
ment, but he was commander of the local Post, and 
would not take a back seat for anybody on military 
record or reminiscences. I saw the sign of the 
Old Springfarm, and, looking at it, introduced 
myself by asking if Major Wiseman had been there 

"Know the Major?" 

' ' Of course ; every insurance man knows 

Whereupon he entertained me with a selection 
of anecdotes I had heard half a dozen times from 
the originator, the only Major himself ; talked local 
politics; gave me his army record; scored the 
rebels and their apologist, the Democratic party, 
but wouldn't take the Cataiact. I was too young 
to have served, and as my father was not fortunate 
enough to have been a conscript, I couldn't show 
family patriotism enough to do business with him. 



Judge Morrow was out of town, showing some 
one a likely farm, or making a survey for a farm 
loan applicant. I never met him, 
but I have seen many of his loan 
applications, and they were works 
of art. He divided the quarter 
section into small squares, painted 
the orchard green, the wheat red, 
the corn yellow; forwarded an 
insurance policy for $1,500 on a 
$250 house , and secured a thousand- 
dollar-loan on an eight-hundred- 
dollar farm. I did not care to get 
into his agency except as a last resort, and was 
not very sorry he was out. 

Lane was a young man, a native Kansan, 
reared in Leavenworth, and, as his initials indi- 
cated, at a time when stirring events were pulled 
off. He was known as Anthony Lane Tony for 
short. To my surprise, I found an opening, or, 
I persuaded him to make one, and was relieved 
of the necessity of chasing after the above men- 
tioned hangers-on. He even gave me a bond, 



though he demurred at first, and before I left I 
had seen all our policy holders and given them as 
good a talk as I could to induce them to stay with 
us. He made a good agent, and, if alive, 
must be a rarity the variety is almost extinct in 



HEN I was not 
changing an agency 
or adjusting a loss, 
or inspecting a risk, 
or attending to one 
of the multifarious 
duties of a Special, 

I was supposed to be cultivating the busi- 
ness ; which, being translated, means jolly- 
ing the agents. I have hinted at some of 
the most common methods employed; a 
catalogue of all of them would fill a vol- 
ume, and serve no useful purpose. Every 
Special is au fait, before he has been in the field 
a year. What will get me under his vest? How 
can I increase my business? 

Dollars and cents not only talk, they roar, 
but they are coarse. The Special that buys busi- 
ness is sewing his own shroud. He must get it 



on even terms with his competitors, or his exist- 
ence is not justified. I, Jones, have invented a 
dozen plans, have tried them and cast them aside. 
No general scheme will fit all cases. You must 
adapt yourself and your conduct to the circum- 
stances for instance: 

It was on my regular visit to Glorietta, and 
while I was cultivating the agent in his office, a 
firm-jawed, unprepossessing, half -masculine crea- 
ture sailed in and said to my agent: 

" You're a nice man, you are. Where is the 
kindling I told you to order this morning? We 
can't cook without a fire, nor make a fire without 

"Excuse me, Arabella, this is Mr. Jones, 
Special of the Cataract; Mr. Jones, my wife," 
in an apologetic tone and manner. 

One glance and I decided Arabella was our 
real agent she was the one to cultivate if I 
expected results. She was the whole household. 
I told her a parlor story, talked her into a good 
humor (for her,), and was invited to supper. I 
played with the children, and, in addition to 
securing her good graces, placed the agent under 


obligations by taking him down town during the 
evening without the usual preliminary row. This 
was repeated every visit and the Cataract didn't 
suffer in that agency. 

At Podunk, the Methodist preacher gave most 
of his business to a company that ordinarily would 
not command one-third of the volume. I asked 
him why he favored this particular company? 

"I'll tell you, Jones. The Special is the 
most artistic swearer I ever met. A man that can 
swear and curse in as many different ways as he 
can, anent nothing at all, is certain to have a 
hard time hereafter, and it is my duty to make 
this life as pleasant as I can for him. The next 
is likely to be dreadful." 

No one but a preacher would do it. A 
layman would have kicked him out of the 

I once put over $200 in premiums on the 
books at a small agency by personal solicitation. 
The agent never gave us another risk, because 
we had more than our share. He was the only 


agent in town and said he would have gotten the 
business anyway. This was an illustration of 

Tom Johnson was our agent at Gordon, Mo. 
The town isn't on the map. No use to look it up, 
as you couldn't get in if you tried. He gave us 
practically all his business. Stuck on the com- 
pany ? No. On the Special ? No. I ordered an 
extra one of our works of art, which the vulgar 
call a sign, for his parlor, and because his wife 
didn't fancy any other company's sign, he had 
to give us all his business to keep peace in the 

One of the meanest tricks was played by a 
Special of the Kansas Boomer at Podunk. His 
agent's daughter was the clerk, and what do you 
suppose he did? Make love to her? Worse than 
that ; he married her. When the competition for 
business reaches such proportions, I shall move 
to Sulu. The laws of this portion of these United 
States are not liberal enough to justify an exten- 
sive list of father-in-law agencies. 



Nothing so taxes the ingenuity as the com- 
petition for premium income, consequently there 
are no tricks or devices imaginable left untried, 
some honorable, many questionable, a few dis- 
reputable. Detraction re-acts, and is never used 
by a reputable Special. Innuendo is a more 
common weapon, but the secret is, to get yourself 
liked, not your competitor in the agency disliked. 
Positive action aids you directly, while the result 
of negative action is scattered. You only get a 
small portion of the benefits. It may require 
years of waiting to get into a particular agency, 
and more years to get a fair share of the business, 
bnt the slow process is the better in the end. 
Pertinacity is nearly always rewarded, and if you 
stick to it you can almost get blood out of a 
turnip. Of course, if you find your agent is a 
rutabaga, you would better quit at once and try 
another, but ninety-nine per cent are capable of 
being worked if you can only find their weak- 

It isn't so hard to get business for a leviathan ; 
it commands a certain amount, and being in 
demand as a leader in the agency, almost works 



itself to the top. Most of us travel for the com- 
pany of medium size; its dollars are good, but 
not better than gold dollars; its indemnity is 
equal to any, but it has neither great age, great 
size, nor great prestige to recommend it, and the 
personality of the Special increases as the demand 
for the company decreases. 





AVE you ever been to Osceola? 
No? I congratulate you. 
After a thirty -mile drive 
from the railroad, fording 
or swimming the Osage, 
as the stage of the water 
permits or necessitates , you 
are ready for as many corn dodgers and as much 
bacon and other aliment as the local hotel supplies. 
And such a hotel ! Built before the war ; full of 
unregistered guests in summer and draughts in 
winter (when the guests are more or less quiescent) , 
food swimming in grease and dyspepsia oozing out 
of the very walls, saturated with the kitchen fumes 
of half a century. Is it marvelous that white- 
caps abound and lynchings are frequent? Is there 
not more connection between food and morals 
than we suspect? Are not grease, ague and quinine 
frequently the cause, or at least the indices, of 


night riders, regulators, and other predatory suc- 
cessors to the original Ku-Klux-Klan? 

On the Osage bottom, ten or twelve miles 
below the town, I settled my first loss. I had 
been doing agency work for a couple of years, 
and was, presumably, by this time, equipped for 
adjusting, though the connection between the two 
branches of the business, aside from availability, 
has never been explained to me. I was considered 
competent to handle a farmer, at any rate. Yet 
the unlettered tiller of the soil is full of shrewd- 
ness and guile, and a more difficult customer to 
deal with than the average country town business 
man. His notion of well dressed humanity is gath- 
ered from lightning-rod peddlers , farm machinery 
salesmen, gold brick merchants, and other like 
birds of prey. Can you blame him if he is sus- 
picious of even an embryo adjuster? 

The agent wished to drive out with me, but 
I was uncertain of my ground and did not care to 
have a witness to my possible discomfiture ; so I 
found my way alone over the flint hills and mucky 
bottom land, arriving about dinner time. The 
claimant was a sallow, lank individual, one of the 



real old stock, and was plowing his corn, when I 
arrived. I sat on the fence until he crossed the 
field. When he was about to 
turn for another round, I said: 

* * Howdy . Fine weather for 

"Middlin 1 ," he replied, 
glancing at me out of the tail of 

i 1 i w ^ L* f ' \\3 

his eye, but evincing no disposi- 
tion to stop his work, and swearing at his mule 
while he yanked the cultivator around. 

" I am Jones, adjuster for the Cataract Insur- 
ance Co., and have come out to settle your 

u Ye have, have ye? Now that's what I call 
doin' the square thing. If ye'd writ me, I'd a 
met ye in Osceola and saved ye the trip." 

He commenced to thaw a little now. Probably 
supposed I wanted his money when he first saw 
me, but to give him my money that was different. 

"What burned?" 

"The hull durned shootin' -match burned, 
that's what." 

"Barn, too?" 



"Didn't have no barn, but the house an' 
furniture all went." 

" Did you save your policy?" 

" The loan fellers up to Kansas City have it. 
I reckon I wouldn't 've had any insurance if they 
hadn't made me take it." 

"All right. I have a copy, so it doesn't 
matter. L,et's see : $300 on frame dwelling house, 
and $200 on household furniture, wearing apparel , 
etc. Iross, if any, payable to Jawis, Conkhite & 
Co. Is that correct?" 

"Not by a durned sight it ain't correct. 
That was a log house, made of hewed walnut logs, 
and you can't run any flimsy studdin' shebang in 
on me, not if I know it " 

" But the policy says" 

"I didn't write the policy, did I? Harris 
wrote it, and he know'd my house; he's been 
here a dozen times. No, sirree. I want pay for 
walnut logs no scrub oak but good seasoned 
walnut, an' it's gettin' mighty scarce 'round here, 
too. Why I could 'a sold them logs 
fer five hundred dollars, and'ud'a 
done it too if Lize'd a let me." 



Up against it, Jones, old man. Let's drop 
the house and tackle the furniture. 

' ' Have you made a list of the furniture? ' ' 

"Lize has." 

' * How did the fire originate? ' ' 

''How did it what?" 

"How did it start?" 

' ' Dunno, must 'a ketched from the chimbly. ' ' 

" Didn't you save anything?" 

"Saved the kids." 

"Well, let's go and see your wife. I want 
to get back before dark." 

We found Lize and the kids, six or seven of 
them, near where the house had stood. All that 
remained was the stone base of the chimney, 
looking like one of "Blunt's monuments" of the 
closing days of the war. I*ize was getting dinner 
in a kettle at an open fire. She wasn't pretty, 
though before the advent of the kids she might 
not have been ill-looking. 

" This is the insurance man, L,ize," was my 
introduction, which she acknowledged with a 
nod, wiping the smoke out of her eyes, or rather, 
the tears drawn by the smoke. 


" He wants a list of the traps." 

u Better wait 'till after dinner; I ain't got no 
time to fool with 'em now. You L,ige, you little 
brat, keep outin' the kittle, will ye?" making a 
swipe at Elijah, but not quickly enough to catch 

I took pot luck with them. What they would 
endure for days, I might endure for once, and 
when the meal was disposed of, we went to 
work. The list commenced with the items dear 
to her by association not with the wearing 
apparel the city bred woman would have men- 
tioned first. 

" Two feather beds, how heavy were they?" 

41 'Bout thirty pounds." 

* ' Sixty pounds of feathers at 20 cents a 
pound $12." 

u Twenty cents? You can't get first pickin' 
feathers like them fer no 40 cents a pound." 

"But they have been used, and we figure 

" No you don't figure nothing outer me. I 
know what feathers is, and nobody in this neigh- 
borhood had better ones neither " 


To stop her volubility, pass sixty pounds at 
30 cents, a fair compromise; same with half a 
dozen pillows. 

"Split-bottom rocking chair. What was it 
worth? ' ' 

" More'n we'll get fer it, I reckon. Ole man 
Thomas made it, and he was the handiest man in 
these parts. Raised every one of these young 'uns 
on it, and it was just as strong and good as new. 
'Druther have it than any of your store cheers, 
that can't stand no use and " 

Heavens ! At this rate, when will we get to 
the end? 

" How does $2 strike you?" 

4 ' Two dollars ! fer a seasoned cheer that has 
raised all these " 

"Three dollars?" 

44 Say four. It was wuth more'n four, but I 
don't want to be onreasonable " 

Item by item, down to the rolling-pin and 
the whole scheduled $225. I did not want to 
send in my first proof without a salvage, and 
made a bold bluff at 33i off, and a settlement at 
$150, but it wouldn't go. Finally they agreed to 


$175 which was ample, and I took up the house 
again with the old man. 

" How much is the place mortgaged for?" 

" 'Bout $400." 

" All right; I'll pay you $400, that will just 
cancel the mortgage." 

' ' Not much you won't. Them walnut logs ' ' 

"But we didn't insure a log house. The 
company prohibits log houses, and we must either 
agree upon what a frame house of this size is 
worth, or we can't pay you anything." 

" Ye can't, eh? By gum, we'll see whether ye 
kin or not. I saw lawyer Childs, up to Osceola, 
and he says * Don't you take a cent less than 
the policy calls fer ; ' that's what he says. They's 
d State law, a Statoot, or something that's fixed 
the hull bizness. I ain't a fool if I do eat 

Against it again. Walnut logs and valued 
policy law. Let's try another tack. 

u All right, if you want to settle your claim 
with lawyer Childs, go ahead; I'm going back. 
Understand, we do not waive any of the terms 
and conditions of the policy. The policy will tell 



you what to do and when it must be done. When 
you get ready to adjust the loss, if your lawyer 
will write the company, we will give the claim 
attention in the usual order of business." 

I hitched up and was preparing to go. The 
old man chewed a straw, scratched his head, and 
rubbed his chin evidences of deep thought in 
one unaccustomed to think but made no effort 
to detain me. After I was in the buggy, I gave 
him one parting shot. 

* c Have you agreed with Childs on his fee? ' ' 

"I've been thinkin', an' I'll tell you what 
I'll do. You make it $450, that's throwin' off $25 
on the house, and I'll call it a bargain." 

Accepted, proofs attested by a Justice of the 
Peace, estimate of frame house made to fit the case, 
and my first loss was settled, but not adjusted. 

One of the many differences between Kansas 
and Missouri is, that in the former State the 
Insurance Commissioner would, when reports were 
filed at the end of the year, volunteer as collection 
agent for the $25 compromise, giving the com- 
pany the alternative of paying or having the license 



Note by the Editor: Mr. Jones is mixed in 
his dates, as the valued policy law of Missouri 
was enacted in 1889, years after the time he set 
for his adjustment. 




ON'T permit yourself to get lost, but 
wire a change of route. 

Don't order a risk dropped at 
expiration unless you wish to reduce 
the line. If too poor to renew, it 
is too poor to carry over night. 

Don't write the office to cancel 
a risk. Have the courage to do it 
yourself on the ground. Agents, 
like women, despise cowards. 

Don't leave an agency until you have trans- 
acted all your business. Better stay another day 
than make another visit. Don't make two bites 
of a cherry 

Don't buy business. No company can long 
afford to employ an intermediary to make excess 
commission contracts; consequently the Special 
who practices this easy but expensive method 
of securing business is undermining himself, is 
working for his own abolition. 



f fbwje . 
09'^ order a rijK dropped *f exj>tr.fior> 

duce tlje liije . j|f -Joo poor-ft repw, f ij 

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carew o 

15 populArl^ 5uppo,c<) -io fcprc^cr/ ftt; u 




9^Re office . 
i^^t f>rjn$ -tt)t>i)*benj<tyt t} fy'i 

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cipli9 , if-^r 90 ol^er retkjop . 

ri^k i^ declined >vi^our* -re&5 

<rlK . | m**i^ fcrv > y 
i.^pcrt.l >5 Ut>o y -ou. live i". 


Don't talk too much. The spouter at board 
and association meetings, and the loud, long- 
winded supplicant at prayer meeting will both bear 
watching. The Lord is not deaf, nor are field men 
blind, though many are astigmatic. You may not 
evade responsibility for your own shortcomings by 
chasing the other fellow around with a tom-tom. 

Don't be a cad. The Special must be a gen- 
tleman at all times and places. He is the only 
salaried representative of the companies in touch 
with the public. His principal is judged by his 
habits, manners and conversation, and he cannot 
be too careful of his walk, since one black sheep 
is popularly supposed to represent an unseen flock 
of Southdowns. 

Don ' t talk shop outside the shop . The inclin- 
ation may be all but irresistible, but should be 
suppressed. Perpetual shop talk is not an evi- 
dence of the absorbing interest you take in your 
business, but is a bad habit and prevents the study 
and discussion of other interesting and important 
topics. An all-around man must give a portion 
of his attention to current matters only inferen- 
tially connected with his business. The change 


is a mental rest that invigorates while it cultivates 
and broadens. 

Don't go back on the office. The Special 
who spends his time apologizing for his manage- 
ment is himself an apology. Uphold and defend 
the office, right or wrong, as a matter of discipline, 
if for no other reason. Do not stultify yourself 
by taking the agent's part without considering 
the merits of the dispute. No company cancels 
a risk which it can consistently carry. No risk 
is declined without a reason. Investigate before 
rendering judgment, and, if you find the agent in 
the wrong, you will earn his permanent respect 
by pointing out his error. If you weaken his con- 
fidence in the judgment of his management, you 
eventually lose your standing in the agency. 

Don't cackle a reprehensible habit acquired 
by some Specials and exploited in public places, 
that is responsible for a portion of the general dis- 
trust of insurance methods. They are heard on 
the railway, the omnibus, at hotels in and out of 
season, boasting of their cuteness, and gloating 
over Green of Poseyville whom they did up in an 
adjustment. None of the imaginary details are 


omitted. If their fairy tales be true, they are 
unfit to adjust honest claims for an honest com- 
pany. As they are usually vain imaginings, the 
authors should be drummed out of a fraternity 
which they dishonor. We have enough real sins 
to answer for without adding an imaginary load. 
Broken doses of modesty recommended for the 
obstinate case. 

This decalogue is evidence that the things 
not to do may be as important as the work for 
which you draw a salary. If you earn it and 
obey these injunctions you may remain a Special 
as long as you live, unless you are promoted. 





NSURANCE has been so gener- 
ally adapted to the vicissitudes 
of life that nearly all contingen- 
cies are provided against. Most 
of the hazards are under-written 
by companies organized for that 
purpose, but a few have been 
grafted upon the fire company. 
In the Middle and Northwest, where the elements 
are capricious and unreliable, tornado insurance 
is a factor in the premium receipts of many com- 
panies, and hail insurance is a necessity to the 
farming community. 

While indemnity against hail was in the experi- 
mental stage, the farmer's crop was insured for a 
lump sum and the losses adjusted at the end of 
the season. As there were frequently a number 
of claims in one neighborhood, the advent of the 
adjuster was anxiously awaited by a number of 


poor devils whose winter provisions depended upon 
his liberality . Premiums were high , nearly always 
paid with a note, and when the harvesting, thresh- 
ing and marketing charges, in addition to the un- 
paid note, were deducted from the claim, the farmer 
who did not owe the company money was a lucky 
man. The popularity of the adjuster decreased 
as they got better acquainted with him. He often 
left the claimants less than did the hail storm. 

He never tarried when his business was done. 
His driver was educated to the necessity of prompt 
action in an emergency. When he saw his fare 
bolt out of the house or yard, the team was under 
way before he reached the buggy, which he 
mounted on the fly. Hearts were hardened against 
lamentations and imprecations, and the place knew 
him no more for a year, maybe forever. 

The story of the settlement is told in his own 
language : 

*' I had a sectional map of the counties, and 
located all the claims by a mark, so I could lay 
out my route. There was one spot in Western 
Nebraska where the map was badly disfigured. 
We seemed to have the whole country insured, 



and there were fifteen or twenty dots in one town- 
ship. After a fifty-mile drive I found myself late 
in the evening on the border of a Russian com- 
munity. L,odging and horse-feed were both 
refused me, and, to get shelter in a hut, I was 
obliged to disclose my identity. It was so late 
that I felt pretty safe in admitting that I was the 
hail man, but I underestimated the anxiety of the 
community. The news was spread abroad during 
the night, as I learned in good time. 

" We were on the road by daylight. Shortly 
after sunrise, as we reached the crest of a hill, I 
heard the driver say: 'Well, I'll 
be damned,' an admission quite 
in consonance with his walk and 
conversation, yet it startled me 
a little . He pointed to the valley 
below, where there was the stir 
and bustle and crowd usual to k : 

a camp meeting. A dozen teams were 
tied to the fence around a sod-house. 
The folks had congregated to greet me. 

' ' It was sometimes hard work to settle a 
single claim, and to tackle them in bunches was 



not a pleasing prospect; but I couldn't back out, 
and determined to face the music. They greeted 
me effusively and gutterally. All talked their 
jargon to me at once, each wanted to be adjusted 
first, and individual action was impossible. Some 
way must be devised, or I would be in the midst 
of a riot before I knew it. 

"The house had only one room, with the 
dining table across one end and benches around 
it for seats. I ranged my pack of claimants around 
it, crowding as many as possible against the walls, 
spread each man's policy in front of him, and 
began to figure. I made over a dozen statements 
of loss, of which this is a fair sample: 


40 acres wheat, estimated yield 30 bu . 1200 bu. 
actual " 5 bu . 200 bu. 

Net loss in bushels 1000 

Quotation at nearest Ry. station, 40c .... $400 00 

Premium note $60 00 

Interest 6 50 

Harvesting charge 50 00 

Threshing charge 60 00 

Marketing charge 70 00 $246 50 

Net loss 

153 50 



" I made out drafts for every claim, had the 
receipts signed, put them in my pocket, distrib- 
uted the drafts and bolted. Before I reached the 
buggy they were after me, a howling, gesticulat- 
ing mob; but the driver knew his business, and 
they never caught me. The ethics? Bless you, 
there is none in the hail business. If we paid 
them what they wanted we should be out of busi- 
ness, so we pay what they must have, enough 
sometimes to keep them in cornmeal and bacon 
'till spring." 




E were seated 
around the big 
fireplace in the 
rotunda of the 
Midland Hotel, 
recounting our 
experiences o n 
household furni- 
ture losses, when 
Kilgore, who had 
been a patient 
listener, said: 

* ( If you boys will wait a min- 
ute until I try Dewey on the slot 
machine for the cigars, I will tell 
you of my experience with Clara 
Buster Mound." 

He came back with a quarter's worth 
of cigars, but by the smile on Peggy's 



face we figured that they cost him about forty cents. 
This is his tale as near as I can remember it : 

' ' Now this is strictly confidential among us 
seven. It doesn't reflect much credit on my ability 
as an adjuster, but I take it from what I have heard 
that you have all been done up at some time. 
Mrs. Mound, to whom I have given the title of 
Her Ladyship, was one of these strong-minded 
women who was looked upon as a leader among 
women one who starts in her locality a move- 
ment for The Assertion of Our Rights, and when 
she gets the women together announces in a clear 
and decisive manner: 

' ' ' Now, ladies, you will please come to order. 
First of all we must choose a chairman.' " 

"And at the slightest hint, or suggestion, 
announces her election. I guess you know the 
style of her bonnet and set of her jaw. 

' ' When I got the notice of loss I found that 
besides our one thousand dollar policy which 
gave permission for other insurance there was 
five thousand dollars insurance in two other com- 
panies, and our agent, who was one of these ordi- 
nary matter-of-fact men who looks on the practical 



side of a loss, reported: ' Small loss in attic, will 
not exceed one hundred or two hundred dollars.' 
There was a little notation on the bottom of the 
loss notice opposite ' Remarks ' : ' Property dam- 
aged: some old lace curtains and other goods 
formerly in a $50, 000 Southern plantation home.' 
As the largest policy was in one of the home com- 
panies represented by our agent, and Mr. Smiley, 
their adjuster, made his headquarters in the city 
where the loss occurred, I sent a short form proof 
to our agent, requesting him to have Mr. Smiley 
represent us, and I supposed I was out of it. But, 
bless your hearts, within the next three days I 
received a letter and a telegram from my manager, 
a letter and a telegram from the secretary of the 
home company, a telegram from Smiley, and a 
very appealing letter from our agent all in the 
same strain, ' We want you you must come. ' I 
thought there must have been something besides 
humming-birds in that old Southern home, so I 
slid my alligators under a berth, told the porter not 
to forget me, pulled the curtains together and 
proceeded to pound the rails for three hundred 
and sixty weary miles. 



"When I arrived, I learned that the lady had 
formerly been Mayor of the town as a mere matter 
of form she held the office in her husband's name. 
She had presented a claim of $1,956.60, and about 
the time that Smiley had begun to prepare himself 
for a vigorous kick, she sprung a supplementary 
on him to the tune of $480.00. This, together 
with the fact that he (Smiley) feared to antagonize 
one of his prominent fellow citizens, was why your 
friend Willie suddenly became so popular with the 
home folks. Mr. Small, the other adjuster, sug- 
gested that I do the talking. I think Smiley put 
him up to it, he acquiesced so readily. 

' ' The first thing to do was to view the remains. 
There were none. Of course there had been, but 
everything had been cleaned up to prevent further 
damage. This looked all right, and sounded well, 
for it complied with that particular condition of 
the policy, but, as I found afterward, it removed 
the evidence of $1,605.10 claimed as totally 
destroyed, and Clara was no idle day-dreamer, let 
me tell you. 

" I took the lists and checked them up, keep- 
ing my eye open all the time for evidences of 


padding, for while Willie looks and acts like a 
jay at times, lie considers himself pretty smart, 
thank you. I observed the tattered and torn 
remains of three summer parasols without making 
any remarks, but when I came across a broken 
piece of chinaware, just to show interest in the 
matter, I asked: 

" ' Where will I find this dish on your list, 
Mrs. Mound? ' 

( ' With withering scorn she repeated the word, 
* Dish? ' 

" I said: ' Why, what is it? ' 

' ' She answered with dignity in every syllable : 
' A 1754 Sevres plaque, and I might add for your 
enlightenment, it is worth at least $100.00, but I 
put it down at $50.00. ' 

" I didn't turn a hair; simply checked it on 
the list, but I was more cautious thereafter in 
giving things a name. After looking carefully at 
everything on which damage was claimed, we 
made an appointment to meet Mrs. Mound, with 
her husband, at Mr. Smiley 's office, and it was 
there that the proceedings became interesting. 
Smiley and Small both expressed to me a desire 


to have the loss disposed of before night, fearing 
another supplementary, and from that time on 
they were as quiet, orderly and peaceful as Clara's 
beloved husband. 

" Right here let me remark, that practically 
all of the goods on which she claimed loss and 
damage were contained in the attic of a barn 
temporarily arranged for dwelling purposes, situ- 
ated on the rear of a lot, awaiting the time when 
Clara's husband would be sufficiently relieved of 
financial embarrassment to enable him to build 
a house on the front of the lot. He hasn't built 
it yet. 

' ' When Her Ladyship arrived, I did not detain 
her, but as soon as she was seated at the director's 
table I began at once, in the usual way, by open- 
ing up the list before me and asking : 

" * Now, Mrs. Mound, I notice the first item 
on your list is one oil painting, " On the Rhine," 
$75.00. Where did you get this? ' 

' ' She answered : * It was a present from my 
papa. He was a Southern gentleman of distinc- 
tion, who traveled a great deal, and gathered 
works of art from all the great art centers of 


Europe, and when he closed up his Southern 
home, shortly after the death of my dear mamma, 
preparatory to removing to Washington, he gave 
me (as I was about to be married) carte blanche 
to help myself to the furnishings of this delightful 
old home. As I pride myself on my good taste, 
and am recognized in this city as an Art Connois- 
seur, it is probably unnecessary for me to assure 
you that I selected the very best curtains, portieres, 
furniture, bric-a-brac, bronzes and statuary for 
my new home in the North ' 

' ' And so on and so on for fully half an hour. 
As there were four long closely typewritten pages 
to the schedule, I observed hope depart from the 
face of my co-laborer, Smiley, while our friend 
Small looked anything but comfortable. 

"The next question (I know you anticipate 
it) was: 

" 'How long have you been married, Mrs. 
Mound? ' 

' ' She answered the question very promptly : 
' Twenty years . ' But when she proceeded to 
recount the coming of poor Mound, together with 
4 What drugs, what charms, what conjuration and 


what mighty magic ' she had used in landing him. 
I broke in with : 

u ' Pardon me, Mrs. Mound, I do not wish to 
interrupt you, nor to appear rude, but in order to 
avoid unnecessary delay, we must confine our- 
selves to the list, so to expedite matters I would 
suggest that you take this pencil and mark a small 
cross opposite each article on this list that was a 
present from your father. ' 

The great majority of the articles received 
the mark of the cross, with a little compliment 
from Her Ladyship. There were lace curtains 
varying in price from fifty dollars for appliques, 
down to twenty dollars for torchons ; black thread 
lace at ten dollars per yard; a lace shawl (formerly 
the property of her mother) valued at one hundred 
and fifty dollars. Oil paintings from fifty dollars 
to seventy-five dollars each ; etchings from ' A 
Holland Dyke,' at thirty dollars, to 'A Country 
Road, ' at twenty-five dollars. All, all packed away 
for twenty years in the attic of a barn and insured 
as household furniture. And just as I was about 
to resume, Her Ladyship, with a splendid display 
of injured innocence, exclaimed: 


" ' I didn't suppose you would invite me here 
to insult me.' 

(No tears, however.) 

"'Why, madam, nothing could be further 
from my thoughts.' 

" 'Well, I certainly shall insist upon being 
paid every dollar of my claim as shown on these 

' ' Smiley tried to steal a look at me out of th 
corner of his eagle eye, but was checkmated by 
Clara taking a fall out of him and his company. 
This gave me a breathing spell, and as I was about 
to empty the water-pitcher, I collected my scat- 
tered thoughts, displayed my hospitality in a 
proffered glass, and was more than delighted to 
have Her L,adyship accept it. 

' ' I then took up the question of her wearing 
apparel, and found, from her answers, that her 
dresses were all made the previous summer and 
fall, but she would not admit of any depreciation. 

" I then touched upon the three parasols (you 
probably remember, that I saw that they had been 
discarded), and learned from her that they were 
all as good as new. One white silk and chiffon 


parasol, value seven dollars; one red taffeta silk, 
value six dollars; one blue and bronze taffeta, 
value five dollars. All according to her story 
bought in the same season ( last summer) , and she 
lived in a barn ; but when I endeavored to convince 
her that the depreciation on last summer's silk 
parasols was very heavy, she met me with the 
statement that I knew very little about such arti- 
cles, for she could very easily make them last 
three or four years. I very unwisely put my foot 
in it by saying : 

' ' ' My wife never can get a parasol to last 
more than one summer.' 

" And as old Uncle Remus says, ' dats whar 
I drapped my merlasses jug,' for she sneeringly 
remarked : 

"'Probably Mrs. Kilgore has never been 
accustomed to having good parasols.' 

" I pulled myself together, took another glass 
of ice water (she was on her dignity now and 
wouldn't accept my hospitality), and resumed 
operations by skipping the item of ' one hundred 
dollars for summer underwear ' and other 
items that might embarrass Smiley, and this 



brought us face to face with the dreadful sup- 

' ' The first article on the list was ' A Venetian 
Page.' It was a very graceful figure and had 
attracted my attention while I was poking around 
looking at 1754 Sevres plaques, and congratulating 
myself that the tea-set from the Tuilleries, once 
the property of Louis XV, had not been chipped. 
As my young Venetian friend had not been within 
fifteen feet of the partition, and the fire was on 
the other side of that partition, and he was simply 
suffering from a small blister under his chin, I 
could not convince myself that he was damaged 
to the extent of one hundred dollars, nor could I 
understand why the bronze figure of David should 
be damaged ten dollars because he had lost his 
sword, while King Saul, in the guise of a Roman 
soldier, was charged up with fifty dollars for losing 
his shield. I grew temporarily facetious by insist 
ing upon a compliance with the usually accepted 
traditions that we have enjoyed from our youth by 
picturing David with a sling and Saul with 
javelin. Clara looked me over very critically and 
asked : 


" ' Mr. Kilgore, are you an Art Connoisseur? ' 

" I answered: ' No, madam, I am simply an 
ordinary business man.' 

"She turned half way round, looked to 
Small to uphold her in the statement, and said: 

" ' Yes, very ordinary.' 

" But Small was silently pensive, hoping we 
might escape without an appraisal 

' * However, while she bowled me out on almost 
every proposition, I took serious objection to pay- 
ing seventy-five dollars for two Dore* engravings. 
She endeavored to convince me that because Dore" 
was dead his engravings appreciated in value year 
by year. I asked her if the plates were still in 
existence. Again I met that scornful look, which 
plainly said : ' You certainly are not an Art Con- 
noisseur,' and she added: 

4 ' ' Why should that make any difference when 
those were artisfs proofs? ' 

' ' I had seen them in their damaged and prac- 
tically ruined state, and knew by the engraved 
signature that they were not artist's proofs, and 
she finally admitted she was mistaken. My only 


" Oh, but she was foxy. At the end of the 
supplementary list was this open question, on 
which she intended to do a little trading. ' Also 
blue satin brocade medallion pattern parlor suite; 
whatever is needed to put suite in good repair. ' 
(Mrs. Mound volunteered the thrilling information 
that a copy of this set is in Holyrood Castle.) I 
decided that this open question must be closed 
before we made any figures, and I therefore asked 
if it had ever been upholstered since she brought 
it from her Southern home. No, it hadn't been. 
I asked what it would cost to re-upholster the set 
with as good material as it now had on it ? (The 
fire hadn't damaged it a particle.) She said she 
didn't know. I asked if she had endeavored to 
get an opinion from any of the furniture dealers 
in her city? She hadn't. 

" ' And,' I continued, ' you cannot give me, 
approximately, any idea of what it would cost to 
upholster a set of furniture? ' 

' ' She answered : ' I cannot. ' 

' ( Ah ! How delighted I was with myself now. 

" ' Now, Mrs. Mound, will you please inform 
me, if you cannot express an opinion on an ordi- 



nary matter such as upholstering a set of furni- 
ture, why it is you can so readily determine that 
# Venetian Page with a little blister under his 
chin is damaged to the extent of exactly one hun- 
dred dollars ? ' 

" Without ruffling a feather, she very coolly 
replied : ' Because I am an Art Connoisseur. ' 

" Smiley winked at me and we retired, leav- 
ing Small to pour oil on the troubled waters. I 
never knew Smiley to weaken before , but he said : 

u ' Kilgore, don't you know we're up against 
it ? That woman proposes to stand pat, and if we 
don't pay her every cent she claims, she will 
demand an appraisal, and on that old truck of 
hers she is bound to do us up.' 

"Well, to make a long story short, we called 
Small out, and as my company had but one-sixth 
interest, I bowed to the will of the majority and 
consented to paying twenty-one hundred dollars 
on a claim of twenty-four hundred and thirty- 
seven dollars and sixty cents, my proportion being 
only three hundred and fifty dollars, but I carried 
my point, that in view of cash payment the poli- 
cies were to be surrendered. I gave my draft 


right then and there, and when Her Ladyship sur- 
rendered her policies, Mr. Small played the part 
of the polished gentleman and said he trusted she 
had not taken offence at anything he had said or 
done, and that she would always feel kindly toward 
his company. Smiley and I were silent, but with 
a smile that reminded me of a hyena, she turned 
to me and asked this very pointed question: 

" ' Now, Mr. Kilgore, that you have cancelled 
my policies, I want to know if your Company will 
insure me again? ' 

' ' My first impulse was to answer ' No , madam, ' 
but remembering all the little jolts she had given 
me, and possessing to a certain degree that mean 
desire to get even, I answered in a hesitating way: 

<4< Why, yes, madam, we will insure you 
provided you pay us our rate.' 

" ' Why, Mr. Kilgore, is there any change in 
my rate because of this fire ? ' 

' ' ' Certainly , madam ; we thought we were 
insuring household furniture, but now that we 
know what you have in your house, we would 
have to charge you the Art Museum rate, which 
is very high.' 



"Within four months the house (or barn, 
which ever you please) burned down, and it caught 
the other two companies, and a gentle stranger, 
for seven thousand dollars, and although the lib- 
erality of our first settlement may have caused her 
to avoid any precautions against another fire, still 
my lacerated feelings found a soothing lotion in 
the knowledge that I was directly responsible for 
saving the remaining six hundred and fifty dollars 
of our policy. 

' ' The gentle stranger sent an adjuster out 
from Chicago, and I obtained from him a sight 
of her list of stuff destroyed in the second fire, 
but my Venetian Page was not there." 





HAD been in the field several 
years before I met the wet 
nurse, who calls himself 
adjuster for the assured. 
While he had preyed upon 
some of the Eastern cities 
for years, I believe his first 
appearance in the West was 
at St. lyouis. Why should 
the State of Missouri be 
chosen as the theater of all 
sorts of experimental deviltry ? No wonder her 
newspapers cry, "Poor old Missouri." She is 
insurance-wise, a worthy object of compassion. 
If, as asserted, insurance agents are reformed 
failures, what becomes of the insurance men who 
fail? Some try farming, where they can hold the 
Lord partially responsible if their luck still pursue 


them, and some, fortunately a very few, become 
"vipers, whose treacherous fangs smite the hand 
that fed them, ' ' otherwise public adjusters. After 
they lose their attached positions, and the com- 
panies (probably for cause) refuse to support them 
in an independent capacity, they sell their small 
stock of information, dearly paid for by some com- 
pany, to the first comer. As the dishonest claimant 
most often seeks assistance, he is the common 
purchaser of their ability. 

I did not, as a rule, adjust St. Louis claims, 
which were more economically handled by C. W. 
Kellner. However, one was presented so out- 
rageous in its nature, and so apparently doctored 
to rob the company, that I was requested to give 
it personal attention. I found old Galgenseil, the 
claimant, amidst the remnants of a cheap clothing 
stock. He was probably mentally casting up his 
prospective profits when I met him, as an angelic 
smile illumined his countenance. The sudden 
transformation produced by my business card was 
ludicrous. Instantly he became ruined even his 
dirty children howled an accompaniment to his 



It was a bad mess. The stock was originally 
bad; the location was bad; trade was bad; the 
man was bad; with such components, how could 
the loss be good, except for the beneficiary? 

He refused to disciiss the claim with me: 

"You must see my addorney, Mr. Night- 
ingale, I got noddings to say. I'm ruined. It 
was a beau-ti-ful sthore yusht see it now," 

As I had known Nightingale when he was in 
the field, I did not anticipate any difficulty in deal- 
ing with him. A good attorney is better than a 
bad claimant; but I had not made allowance for 
the changes induced by time and circumstances. 
Instead of a smile, a frown greeted me; a sour, 
ugly misanthropic frown at that: 

"Why don't you pay your losses, Jones? " 

"We do pay our losses, but not upon such 
proofs as you have furnished for Galgenseil. You 
have been in the insurance business long enough 
to know that legitimate claims are always recog- 
nized, and illegitimate ones usually investigated. 
We want to know, you know." 

' * What do you want? ' ' 


" Separate value and damage on each item. 
Your proof makes a lump demand for four thous- 
and ; how do you arrive at it? ' ' 

' * Two thousand totally destroyed and fifty 
per cent damage on what was saved." 

( ' So? How much stock do you claim to have 

" About six thousand." 
1 * Then one-third was totally destroyed? ' ' 

"Yet the counters, shelving and floor were 
not burned barely scorched? ' ' 

" The stock was burned just the 
same. Don't try any of your obsolete 
arguments on me . I have been through 
the mill and it won't go. We want 

"I don't doubt your wants. If 
there had been $10, 000 insurance, you 
would want ten instead of four; but I do doubt 
if you get it." 

As Nightingale has the claim on a percentage 
basis, it is a waste of time to dispute and argue with 
him. He is only amenable to the argumentum ad 



hominem . He knows his client's claim is dishonest, 
yet volunteers to assist him in his attempted theft. 
" To what base uses we may return, Horatio." 

Now commences an era of notices, evasions, 
counter notices, demands, counter demands, all 
over a dispute that could be closed with an 
honest man in half a day. What was the result? 
Appraisal, of course, and the ultimate payment of 
twice the loss. That was the result to the Cataract. 
To him? An increased clientage ; another letter 
of recommendation to the speculative claimant. 
Honest insurers sometimes employ him. Why? 
Probably because of the prevalent, undefined feel- 
ing that in case of loss the assured is unlikely to 
get fair treatment. This impression is false, but 
it exists. No other business requiring the deter- 
mining of contingent contracts can show so few 
disputes, so little litigation, so small a percentage 
of friction as the adjustment of fire losses. No 
fairer body of men are employed in any business 
than adjusters. 



Kingdom Animal. 

Sub-kingdom Vertebrata. 

Class Mammalia. 

Order Bimana. 

Family Securus. 

Genus Agens. 

Species Speciarius. 

MAY be urged in objec- 
tion to this classifica- 
tion that some of the 
sub-species lack the 
traits required to bring 
them within the order 
Bimana. In explanation, I may re- 
mark, that in their physical structure 
they resemble men, and if their mental qualifica- 
tions are deficient, they are no worse misplaced 
than possibly one-half of the human race. The 
dividing line between the next lower order of 
Vertebrata and the lowest specimens of Bimana 




is so shadowy that some celebrated writers have 
denied its existence. The Missing Link may be 
in the insurance business for all I know. If not, 
he is the only known specimen we lack in our 

.5*. Nepos. Wears good clothes, including 
dress hat and shoes. Is deeply interested in 
sporting and theatrical events. Habits, fair to 
middling. As his position does not depend upon 
the results of his labors, there frequently are no 
results. Does not worry agents for increased 
business. Seldom talks shop. Has a liberal 
expense account, and a correspondingly large cir- 
cle of admirers. Comparatively rare and expen- 
sive to his employer. 

6*. Risbilis. Never overdresses, rather inclined 
to be careless of appearances. His characteristic 
pose is feet on desk, and chair tilted, also hat. 
Laughs his way to his agents' hearts. Associates 
with traveling men on terms of equality, and tells 
stories of questionable morality. Conversation 
liberal, as well as his underwriting policy. Con- 
siders life a comedy, and gets as much amusement 
out of it as he can. A very popular character 



about hotels; known as "Jack " to all employes, 
male and female. 

S. Bibulus. His habits leave him just enough 
backbone to make him a vertebrate, and if he 
could breathe liquid as easily as he 
absorbs it in other ways , he would be 
amphibious . This almost excludes 
him from the list, and very nearly 
does the business of insurance a 
good turn. He is a good mixer of 
drinks, and nearly always addicted 
to the kindred vices. Changes 
employers frequently from neces- 
sity, but always contrives to get a 

salary and expense account equal to his daily 

5". Giganteus. A large man traveling for a 
large company, writing a large business. Self- 
esteem abnormally developed. Will never realize 
how small a factor he is until he represents a 
small company. Thinks the business his com- 
pany commands a personal compliment. Cold- 
blooded and arrogant. Considers his money a 
trifle superior to any other brand. Generally 



disliked, but his company remains head with his 
agents despite his handicap. 

6". Repens. Of a crawling, creeping nature, 
unable to stand up for rates, commis- 
sions or good practices. A slimy 
individual, worming his way into 
agencies established by honest com- 
panies, poisoning the agent and 
contaminating the business. Half- 
hearted efforts have been made to 
draw his fangs, but never with enough 
unanimity to ensure success. 
5*. Laboris. Is rarely pretty, but his plain- 
ness is counter-balanced by his industry. Helps 
the agents solicit business; inspects his risks 
conscientiously, and makes the acquaintance of 
his policy holders. Works as many hours a day 
as he can, and by constant hammering 
achieves results. He is not gregari- 
ous, is a poor conversationalist, and 
modest in his dress. Walks to and 
from the station and earns the cab fare. 
Is a thrifty personage, and his busi- 
ness ultimately partakes of his nature. 



5*. Vulgaris. Ordinarily, a promoted local, 
who either promised marked ability or an increased 
volume of business. After the callow period is 
past, when his freshness has worn 
off, he does not differ much from 
people in other walks of life. With 
an eye to the main chance he 
approaches it in various ways. 
Neither better nor worse than his 
fellows, he is nevertheless the 
material from which most managers and general 
agents are made, and we find the same diverse 
traits, the same peculiarities and the same attrac- 
tion for the merry rattle of the chips found in 
managerial circles. 

6". Lusus Naturae. Sporadic cases exist, not 
readily assignable to any class. The aboriginal 
farm solicitor sometimes breaks into the 
fold. The junior office clerk is sent out 
to gather experience. A life insurance 
solicitor, who never saw a fire policy nor vT"^ 
a fire-wall, is employed to prey upon an 
unsuspecting public. The local who does 
per diem work in his vicinity for the good 


it will do the business in his local office. The 
lightning rod peddler. Any one who cannot be 
readily assigned to one of the above sub-species. 
These are the men who represent the company 
to the local, and the local to the manager. Do 
you marvel that both are occasionally misrepre- 
sented? Some of the types are not numerous, but 
all of them exist, and none are overdrawn. 





HIS is an account of the evolution 
of Jones. Born after the man- 
ner of men and nourished on 
ordinary food, he filled his 
head with information and sold 
it to an insurance company 
for knowledge. The story of his youth is scrawled 
upon his school books; fly leaves, covers and 
pages; horizontally, vertically and diagonally. 
While he started on the common level Jones had 
aspirations and refused at this early age to be 
held down: 

When he outgrew the barlow and was 
permitted to use a sharp pointed knife, his 



individuality was carved on the desk, seats, school- 

building and 
forest trees. 

During his 
adolescence, he 
was quiescent, 
but there prob- 
ably are a hun- 
dred traces of 
his existence as 
N. Hawthorne 
Jones, possessed 
by as many re- 

0?e. ftffijf vlxif fe H r Jbiyes Old bom* 
19 Peni7*ylvAr>ifc -Iff* Editor very forr^t^tcK. 
secured /5e old fie K. &t wtyi'cb \je **.f i^ 
fie School Ar><i upoi; wKich %t Boy Joneft_ 

rve<r h'.i i^tijaU Ar>a. recWeA S- 7 d.l4 of 
)t crm/e . His se& r -n7*ie V.AJ e'<ictjfly a 

- S tje lefr ijo recorcl <Mj4 ob 



cipients of his 
fleeting admira- 

One of the adored landed him; as usual, he 
claimed the credit of the capture. Under her 



influence some of his conceit vanished, and he 
changed his personality to Nathaniel H. Jones. 

Taken from an insurance policy, issued by 
his agency, now in the Smithsonian Institution. 

From his correspondence as Special Agent; 
partially beyond the influence of Matilda Jones, 
his conceit re-appears in flourishes and off-hand 



He has reached the top of the stepladder, an 
elevation conducive to illegibility. Crystallize 
conscious importance, frequent repetition, and 
the hurry incident to the closing hours of the 
day, and the scrawl represents some manager, no 
matter who, as his name is printed on the letter- 
head to assist in identification. 

The Editor. 







S there are a hundred pri- 
vates to one Captain, and 
a dozen Captains to one 
Colonel, so there are a 
hundred agents to one 
Special, and a dozen 
Specials to one Manager. 
In functions as in numerical 
strength we parallel the military 
organization, and promotions 
are made in the same manner; 
the first usually for merit, the second 
sometimes through a pull, and not necessarily 
because of ability or seniority. 

As, however, some Captains secure com- 
missions without having served in the ranks, and 
a few Colonels have political influence enough to 
offset subordinate service, so it is in the insur- 



ance field. The office is our West Point, and its 
graduates occasionally step over the heads of 
weather-beaten field men, scarred by numerous 
engagements, familiar with the theatre of war, 
acquainted with every private, well posted on the 
enemy's strength and weakness, and capable of 
meeting any ordinary emergency. 

The adaptation of this system to a business 
enterprise produces results paralleled by a cam- 
paign. The unequaled courage of the private 
cannot outweigh the inefficiency of the officer 
who leads his men, himself courageous enough 
but unskilled, to almost certain destruction. He 
does not know his ground, underestimates the 
obstacles in his way, undervalues the strength of 
the enemy, is not mobile. Why? He is a 
theoretical soldier. He follows a system un- 
varied by circumstances and conditions. His 
plan of battle is carefully made, but instead of 
flanking a hill, he assaults it because it is in his 
way his plan was so arranged and he follows it 
without the variations the old campaigner would 
adopt when the necessity arises. He wins, if at 
all, by numerical strength. 


Contrast the commander opposing him. His 
army may be small, his forces unequal. He, 
too, has courage and courageous followers. He 
symbolizes the small or medium company Man- 
ager. He can hold his own only by superior 
tactics, superior generalship, superior ability. 
He has no unnumbered multitude (of dollars) to 
draw upon. He must husband his strength, can- 
not afford to sacrifice his men, and he must win, 
notwithstanding his limited resources. 

There are very few first class powers, and 
many third raters. The former may be strong 
enough and wealthy enough to afford such a 
system, but it is too expensive for the latter. 
Only men trained to their positions, whose en- 
thusiasm and experience outweigh superior 
numerical strength, are fit to command the hosts, 
and as a rule, only such are chosen. 

There are in the field to-day, the equals in 
many cases the superiors of the present General 
Agency force. They cannot all be chosen; there 
is not room for all at the top, but the material is 
at hand ready for the builder; well seasoned, 
with some knots perhaps, but generally classed 


as clear. They are the future executive officers 
of the companies. To their care the interests of 
the shareholder will one day be committed, and 
no safer repository could be selected. 

There is no royal road to preferment; acci- 
dent and opportunity are often more potent than 
design. I was called from the field quite unex- 
pectedly (some of my associates said unadvisedly) 
and I answered the call with alacrity. Did I 
weigh the responsibilities, count the annoyances, 
cast up the labor, consider the possible results? 
Yes, but the position counterbalanced them all. 

Ten years of constant traveling, covering a* 
times large areas, moderate familiarity with con- 
ditions at widely separated points, and a large 
acquaintance with the field and local personnel 
of the business, may have been some of the deter- 
mining factors. The judgment was untried it 
must be taken for granted. The conservatism of 
executive experience was lacking it must be of 
slow growth. The ability to organize and com- 
mand was embryonic it must be cultivated. All 
things considered, they took some chances in 
selecting Jones. I, Jones, concede it. 



Have my expectation? been realized 1 Are 
human anticipations ever fulfilled 1 The country 
Local imagines he would be happy if he were 
only a Special, but when he arrives at the coveted 
goal is he content? The Special longs for the 
revolving chair. Is it any more comfortable than 
the old straight-back? 'Tis distance lends en- 
chantment. Not what we have, but what we 
wish, we covet. Probably not over one or two 
executive officers in this country are really happy, 
and they own their positions, their directors and 
their subordinates for they own the stock. 



NE who manages. Sometimes in 
the imperative, occasionally in the 
potential mood. The head of a 
department, a responsible gerant, 
who gets the blame and may be 
punished for the faults of others. 
A buffer, bumped from front 
and rear like a draw-head on a 
heavy grade with a new man 
at the throttle. 

He is as varied as man- 
kind, all human, and with 
capacity and capability 
bounded by human limita- 
tions. The description of 
him and his idiosyncrasies would characterize as 
well the directing force of any business. To the 
country agent, he is a great man. To the city 
agent, he is an impediment, a useless barrier. 



To the special, he is the envied employer. To 
his superior officer, he is an employee, whose 
success or failure confirms or condemns the judg- 
ment that selected him. To his confreres, he 
may be anything from an able man to a ninny. 
What we may think he is depends upon the point 
of view of the judge, the deflection and refraction of 
the light ; what he really is depends upon circum- 
stances largely beyond his creation or control. He 
is the embodiment of his employer's policy, a mani- 
festation of the company he represents, and sub- 
ject to a limited classification upon these lines only. 
The complacent, satisfied Manager has the 
privilege of directing the affairs of a large, well- 
established and well-known company during 
prosperous times, in a prosperous community. 
His business flows steadily on, unimpeded by rate 
disturbances, his bank account waxes strong, 
undepleted by conflagrations. He is conserva- 
tive, content with a steady volume of profitable 
business. He is largely in the minority in fact, 
his existence has been doubted. His associates 
are more or less embarrassed by the combination 
of unappeased wants and deficiencies. 


The company may be large, but dissatisfied 
with its present volume of business. Its ambition 
is position, and the times unpropitious for any 
rapid growth. 

It may be an immigrant from some foreign 
principality. A giant at home, it brought over 
a giant's appetite, and finds good forage scarce. 

Another may be clothed in bristles, and 
though the badge is worn by all its employees, 
it cannot monopolize the trough with all its 
crowding and squealing. 

It may be old with the frequent accompani- 
ments of age, weakness and senility. 

It may be young, too young, a fledgling at- 
tempting to soar to distant fields ere it had learned 
to fly on its native heath. 

Or it may be, and most frequently is, a 
mean between the extremes, and the Manager 
still be unhappy. Disturbances in rates, unequal 
distribution of outgo, uneven flow of income, 
unjust legislative restrictions, all tend to disturb 
his equanimity; and when superadded to his 
daily burdens and annoyances, is it strange he is 
at times all but discouraged ? 



The road to success is up a long, steep hill. 
The companies are the wagons, the Managers 
the drivers. The gutters are full of crippled 
vehicles ; some minus a wheel , or with a broken 
axle, are out of the race. Some stationary, using 
all efforts to hold their own ; some with broken 
brakes sliding down hill; a few toiling labori- 
ously toward the top. It requires brains to avoid 
the debris, surmount the barriers, and arrive 
despite all impediments ; and that brains are not 
too abundant, even in managerial heads, is at- 
tested by the Annual Statements. 

Yet his is not the entire responsibility for 
failure. His policy is prescribed, the boundaries 
of his labor are clearly denned, the limits of his 
activity are set by the general management. If 
he is rightly responsible for the shortcomings of 
his own employes, of the corps selected by him, 
he may still divide the responsibility for general 
results, and this is applicable to the favorable, as 
well as to the unfavorable. 

The element of luck must be considered, 
both good and bad. A business based upon 
chance is subject to runs of bad luck that no 



skill can break and no dexterity avoid. If long 
continued and persistent, we call good luck 
ability; and bad, the lack thereof. The favored 
one has his salary raised, the other has his 
reduced or discontinued. One typifies Success, 
the other Failure. Are we not all gamblers with 
fate, some skillful, some awkward, but all sub- 
ject to the varying chances of the game ? 



HE degree of responsibility depends 
upon the authority granted or as- 
sumed in all agency grades, local, 
special and general. We are all 
agents of a principal, and subject to 
the general laws of agency, limited 
only by contract and established cus- 
toms. We are often agents for the 
same principal, some with direct re- 
sponsibility, and some with partially direct and 
partially indirect. 

The Manager is directly responsible for the 
results in his department, subject only to such 
limitations as may be stipulated in his appoint- 
ment, or to such customs as may have grown into 
his relations with his particular company. In 
some cases he is but an exaggerated Special ; in 
others he is the embodiment of the policy of the 
company, and his responsibility for results is 



exclusive, or shared in proportion to the authority 
conferred upon him. 

In what the Special is responsible to him, 
whether he is responsible for the Special and to 
what degree, again depends upon the variety of 
Special he employs. There are three classes: 
The old-fashioned Special, who is the company 
in his field. The other old-fashioned one who is 
an instrument or tool of his Manager, who exe- 
cutes orders and is not presumed to think his 
thoughts are all furnished ready-made. The 
modern variety who costs less, and whose whole 
duty is to get premiums. 

Each is responsible in his way; the first, for 
general results; the second, must make his return 
properly endorsed like an under-sheriff ; the third, 
must increase the income. All of them are labor- 
ing side by side in the field ; all bear the same 
name, but the former is the only real Special, 
and the others are rapidly supplanting him. The 
tendency toward centralization so apparent in all 
lines of human effort, is gradually converging all 
the authority, all the discretion in the one head 
the head of the department. 


The choice is only a matter of policy or ex- 
pediency. If the high-class man is disappearing, 
there must be a reason, aside from the common 
evolution that typifies growth. Possibly the 
Special has deteriorated? Or the scramble for 
income was too much for him? Or, more prob- 
ably, his passing is due to the union of a number 
of causes? At any rate the tendency is toward 
specialization, and the old all-around man is less 
frequently met in the field than he was twenty- 
five years ago. As he dies, is promoted or retires, 
his place is occupied by one less expensive, with 
less general authority, and inferentially less knowl- 
edge and more limited responsibility. 

The same tendency is apparent in the local 
field, and they all increase the load of the General 
Agent. As the Locals and Specials depreciate, 
the Manager appreciates. They are his selections 
and under his control, and when he assumes the 
functions formerly delegated he assumes the re- 
sponsibility associated with them. The imme- 
diate office force he can direct and instruct. He 
is always at hand for consultation ; but the office 
system extended to the field force is a doubtful 


experiment. With self-reliance and independence 
eliminated, how can a Special form, or act upon 
his conclusions? 

Every step taken in this direction removes 
insurance one degree further from a profession, 
while it does not elevate it as a business. The 
conclusion is manifest. In the course of time, 
the Manager will be the one responsible agent 
between the company and the policy-holder, and 
his subordinates will be automatons. 




F the dealings of insurance 
Managers with the public, no 
valid complaint can be made. 
Their financial integrity is un- 
impeachable; the fairness and 
liberality with which disputes, 
often involving intricate points, 
are settled, bear evidence of a 
desire to do right at all times. 
The customer always receives 
the benefit of a doubt, and ten 
concessions are granted to one 
received. No other line of business can lay claim 
to a more strict performance of all the duties 
imposed; no set of men take less advantage of 
opportunities for sharp practices. But it is not 
of our duties to the public, but of our relations 
to each other that this chapter is written. 



Managers are neither better nor worse than 
average intelligent business men, subjected to 
similar provocations and temptations. The ab- 
stract absolute is unattainable, difficult to ap- 
proximate even, and although there is but little 
positive dishonesty, the majority of the short- 
comings being of a negative character, only the 
hypocrite asserts he has kept all his engage- 
ments. Instead of mending one fault, he adds 
another. All deviate at times; some unfortu- 
nately more times than others. It is not the 
isolated case that debases, but the habit con- 
firmed by repetition. A man may take an occa- 
sional drink, yet be a temperate man, even a 
temperance advocate, but too frequent repetition 
changes his status entirely. There are few or no 
teetotalers, notwithstanding the Pharisaical pro- 

So long as insurance is a business, the ethics 
must necessarily remain shadowy and ill-defined. 
Generally speaking, there is no special ethical 
code applicable to money getting, or if there is, 
it is not apparent to the observer in other lines 
of business. What ethics we have is confined to 


and necessitated by our system of co-operation, 
expressed or implied. The outsider is entitled 
to and receives scant courtesy. As the quacks 
outnumber the regular practitioners, even our 
limited code is restricted in its application. Its 
laws are frequently subjugated by lex talionis. 
When smitten we refuse to turn the other cheek, 
and frequently strike back instead, another evi- 
dence, if another were needed, of our human 

As original sin, unrestrained by the lax 
moral code, leavens the whole lump, it fol- 
lows that practice, not theory, must be our 
business guide. Our associates are theoreti- 
cally above reproach. They are presumed 
to execute all the obligations they have in- 
curred, but we may not rely too implicitly 
upon presumption ; we must take account of 
the difference between theory and practice. 
Questions arise daily requiring practical an- 
swers. Conundrums are propounded neces- 
sitating practical solutions. Situations occur 
demanding practical treatment. The code 
of ethics, the courtesy due our associates, 

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-?~>-a->i-oO'2=^ Si *} I 

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-6 - 


can not untie all the knots. Self-preservation 
cuts some of them, and is responsible for a good 
many of our business short-cuts. 

The Manager who conducts an office upon 
theory, his own or another's, has little prospect 
of achieving success. If a better system than 
the one we are following were devised and 
adopted, the same elements would appear and 
disarrange the plans. Business will never be 
transacted ideally, but practically. In an ideal 
world there is no room for the Manager; it is the 
deviation from the perfect condition that makes 
a place for him. Theory will not even amelior- 
ate. We must meet common abuses in a com- 
mon-sense way. While we may not eradicate 
them, we may keep them within bounds, or 
reduce them to a minimum. If we followed the 
advice of all the insurance doctors, we should 
soon land in the cemetery. Such a course would 
be as foolish as an effort to regulate our daily 
lives by the don'ts of half a hundred physicians 
it would starve us to death. 

The conclusions are open to no misconstruc- 
tion, and do not excuse even negative bad faith. 



They do offer a plea in abatement, a plea entered 
from business necessity, and registered in the 
cashier's office. Loyola's maxim may not placate 
the conscience of the Manager, but it is quite 
sufficient for the business office if the means 
attained the end. The conduct of the average 
executive officer is like my railway line on my 
railway map. It is an air line straight and un- 
varying. No deviations are found on the closest 
inspection, but there are curves in the roadbed 
for all that. Engineering skill may reduce the 
number, may widen the gradient, but can not 
tunnel all the hills, nor fill all the depressions. 
Some curves are unavoidable. 




the General Agent 
owe any duties 
to his associates, 
his agents, or the 
t>lic not common to 
business men, they 
never been discovered. 
Wherein do our relations to 
each other differ from those of 
any class associated in the prosecution of business 
for gain? Do we owe the public our customers 
any debt not due from the banking interests to 
the same public, for instance? Solvency, ability 
to cash our obligations, fair treatment? 

It is in our relations to government that 
insurance interests differ from all others, and 
this anomalous position is the outgrowth of, and 
at the same time the most prominent example of 



the socialistic tendency of American legislation. 
Starting upon a parity with banking, where solv- 
ency only was considered the especial care of the 
State, see how the little mustard seed has grown ! 
The principle of State supervision once ad- 
mitted, who can foretell the end? Certainly 
not the present generation. The Manager of 
fifty years ago would have considered it impos- 
sible to transact business under present condi- 
tions. And, as the limit is not yet in sight, we 
may reasonably expect continued progress during 
the coming half century. 

That fire insurance is a legitimate, honorable 
calling can not be controverted by its most 
violent persecutor. By what peculiar mental 
process, then, is it classed with the liquor traffic, 
and hampered, restrained, licensed and all but 
taxed out of existence in many States, particu- 
larly in the West ? The most rational explana- 
tion is that it is a vicarious sacrifice for the real 
and imaginary sins of corporations in general; 
an easily reached representative of the non-resi- 
dent money power, that in some undefined way 
is responsible for the low prices of corn and 


cotton. The punishment is out of all proportion 
to any imputed crime. The effect too serious 
and far-reaching for any apparent cause. 

Anti-corporate legislation springs from two 
sources the assumption that the people cannot 
take care of themselves and must be protected, 
and the further assumption that corporations, 
especially insurance companies, are a menace to 
somebody or something unstated, and must be 
restrained. That the people are imbeciles and 
the companies pirates. That the one requires a 
guardian, and the other a keeper. 

The labyrinth into which this assumption 
has conducted us is complicated by the degree of 
vagary, and the absence of uniformity, among 
the States. One is content with prescribing the 
form and conditions of the contract the mildest 
variety of paternalism; and all the shades are 
added until the union of all colors is found in a 
few of the socialistic communities in the South 
and West. Underwriters are justly disturbed, 
for in addition to the prescriptions and restric- 
tions, the burden of taxation is annually increas- 
ing, until in at least one community it amounts 


(National, State and Municipal,) to quite ten per 
cent of the gross premium income. 

What can we do to remedy it? Nothing 
effective. The causes are mental, moral and 
political. We may hope the public has reached 
the crisis of delirium, and may change for the 
better, but we cannot cure it with doses of 
education. All the professors of political econ- 
omy could not convince an advocate of restric- 
tion that an insurance company has a moral right 
to existence upon any terms. The education 
required to change his views is fundamental, of 
a much wider range than any yet proposed, im- 
practicable, and impossible to execute in one 

Our agents are part of the community, and 
as they have been the instigators of some of the 
freak legislation, it is quite apropos to give their 
mental equipment some attention. We might 
reach the legislator through the medium of our 
agent, his neighbor and political associate, but 
we cannot do any effective work at long range. 
Arguments fail, reasonings miscarry, facts are 
scouted. They do not, combined, equal the 



approving nod of one of his country constit- 

The disease must run its course the fever 
must burn itself out. During convalescence we 
must grin and bear, or, if we cannot endure, we 
may succumb. The would-be physicians mis- 
understand the disease and prescribe palliatives 
when constitutional treatment is required. The 
cure, in any event, will not be accomplished 
during our generation, and we must adapt our- 
selves to our environment the best we may. 



HE object of our business 
is money getting. The 
source is the premium. 
The basis is the rate. It 
follows that the rate re- 
ceived and the distribu- 
tion of the premiums are 
the determining factors. 
If the one is adequate 
and the other not squan- 
dered, the object may be 
attained. In any event, 
there is no hope of profit 
if the rate be under-esti- 

WHAT IT Is. If the rate to us is the basis 
of the premium, to the people at large it is a tax 
levied more or less evenly upon the owners of 
real improvements and personal property; a tax 




paid to private distributors, stock or mutual, in- 
stead of government; a tax paid voluntarily, 
under only such stress as business prudence 
necessitates, but a tax nevertheless. It is within 
the province of the payee when requested to ex- 
plain not only why levied, but how arrived at, how 
distributed, and what disposition is made of it. 

The tax is necessitated by, and the rate of 
taxation approximately determined from, the lia- 
bility to fire waste. The possibility of fire is 
always present and can not be eliminated. The 
probability depends upon many circumstances, 
chiefly : 

Faulty construction of buildings, faulty ma- 
terial, plans, or execution. 

Proximity, congestion and exposures. 

The storage and sale of inflammable wares. 

Probability may be increased by vicious laws, 
or the absence of salutary ones, and diminished 
by fire protection of various kinds. 

So much for the object. But insurance 
companies do not insure buildings, they insure 
persons; property is not insured, but the owner 
is indemnified against its loss, consequently there 


are other and frequently as important factors to 
be considered as the physical, which we term the 

The credit and mercantile standing of the 
owner or occupant, his business record and repu- 
tation, his former successes, failures, or fires, a 
persistent run of bad luck, carefulness or care- 
lessness, will suggest some of the numerous per- 
sonal attributes that may contribute to or detract 
from the probability, aside from the physical 
hazard. As their presence or absence in the 
individual risk can not always be gauged, the 
moral risk is distributed among all insurers pro 

ITS SPONSORS. Its parentage varies with 
locality. In some States it is a statutory orphan, 
and under the care of its step-mother the as- 
sured it is growing weaker, punier, smaller. In 
other localities where it is not yet forbidden by 
public policy, nor considered a menace to public 
morals, the Local is its nurse, the Special its 
tutor, and the Manager its guardian. Its exist- 
ence is a modern Pilgrim's Progress, daily beset 
with temptations, trials and pitfalls; often neg- 


lected by its nurse, beaten by its preceptor, and 
all but abandoned by its guardian. Under the 
temporary care of the compact and State rater it 
grew abnormally, and was twice as large as its 
chief opponent Loss Ratio ; but when the Leg- 
islature sent its deputy guardian to the peniten- 
tentiary, it lost its advantage nearly lost its life. 
How IT Is MADE. In some localities, and 
in the whole country upon some hazards, by 
schedule. The basis upon which the schedule is 
built is the outgrowth of time, experience and 
competition. It is the unfinished product of evo- 
lution, and 'the varying conditions are responsible 
for its lack of uniformity. The schedule is an 
attempt, more or less successful, to equalize the 
tariff by classes. All are similar, all essentially 
one. While the Universal Mercantile Schedule 
comprises the Summum Bonum, it may be con- 
sidered an elaboration of any one in use. One 
of the best defenses of the schedule is that all 
of them applied to the same hazard yield ap- 
proximately the same result. They are con- 
structed to furnish the product z=x+y, experi- 
ence and competition. 


Though not pertinent to the subject, I can 
not refrain from mentioning one product of 
schedule ratings, the book underwriter Local, 
Special or General who is gradually replacing 
the man who relied upon his own information 
and experience for the conduct of his business. 
He is a good enough fair-weather pilot, but can 
he be trusted to steer intelligently through a 
storm that obliterates all his landmarks? Can 
anything replace personal study and experience? 

mitted that rates are not scientifically made, 
neither is the Cripple Creek mineral formation 
scientific, an illustration of the divergence of 
science from Nature. Rates may never be scien- 
tific, but improvements to the present natural 
system may be discovered. If it were possible 
(it is not), to reduce rate-making to an exact 
science, would not government confiscate our 
business and leave us worse off than we are now? 

Nearly all the companies have a classifica- 
tion of the receipts and the losses by States, by 
years and by decades. These show the experi- 
ence of the individual company, but are of little 


value in determining what the present average 
rate is by classes, and, consequently, what the 
future rate should be. The material at hand is 
not adapted to, was not intended for use as, a 
basis for rates. Companies keep their experi 
ence tables for their private information on the 
proportion of income to outgo by classes at going 
rates; to determine their trade profit or loss, 
and formulate their policy, gauge their lines, 
select their business from their experience. 

Basic classification sheets for rates to be of 
practical value should consist of amount insured, 
premiums and losses by classes and States. De- 
tails are of minor importance, but the amount of 
liability assumed is a sine qua non; yet this 
feature appears to have been overlooked in the 
general discussion. Losses to amount insured, 
plus loading for expense and contingencies, will 
show the cost and furnish a lantern light for our 
guidance; dim perhaps, but brighter and more 
reliable than the ignis fatuus we now follow. 

WHAT Is DONE WITH IT? The rate pays 
for everything, on an average, in about the fol- 
lowing proportions: 


Commissions 20 % 

Management Expenses 10% 

Supervising Expenses 4% 



Dividends 2% 

Total 100% 

For individual companies the division is 
made in different proportions, some with a larger 
commission account, some with a larger loss 
account, but the average is substantially as 
above. When the parts exceed the whole, the 
excess is supplied from the reserve or rest. The 
shareholder is served last or not at all, and in 
any event his returns are not proportionate to the 
jeopardy of his capital. 

There is necessarily considerable discussion 
over, and criticism of, the division, but it, like 
the average rate, is not arbitrary, but a growth 
the result of evolution, and has not yet reached 
maturity. Commissions are growing, taxes are 
growing, losses are growing. We can not con- 
trol taxes, we can only measurably control losses 
at the expense of some other item, and we ap- 
parently will not control commissions. While 
the parts are increasing, the whole is stationary, 


or decreasing. The dividends, at this rate, must 
either be paid from the rest, or shortly disappear 

One not familiar with the business would 
suggest an easy remedy. If the rate be inade- 
quate, raise it; but we may not arbitrarily inter- 
fere with long-established prices, and while a 
loss on the entire business would appear to justify 
such a step, we hesitate. Localities may be pen- 
alized, and for this there is a justification at hand, 
as in the case of a particular city where business 
has long been transacted at a loss. Our relations 
with our patrons are so delicately balanced, the 
competition is so active, the raison d^etre of our 
business so imperfectly understood, that Smith 
in California can not see why a loss upon an- 
other Smith in New Jersey should be summarily 
charged up to him; and the friction resulting 
from an attempt to convince him may equal the 
actual underwriting loss under his present rate. 





ECAUSE we charge 
upon an estimated per- 
centage of loss based 
upon past experience, 
and the estimates may be 
and frequently are wide of 
the amount required, it is 
impossible to fix an exact 
rate upon any risk or class 
of risks. All we claim is 
an approximation. All we 
can hope is annually to 
lessen the distance between the estimate and the 
amount needed. 

As we do not lay claim to infallibility in 
the aggregate, we cannot claim accuracy in 
detail. Rates are based upon the experience of 
years, in wide areas. No one year, no one 
locality can be considered apart from the aggre- 


gate. With a very few exceptions no one class 
can be detached from the whole, and be made to 
yield a profit, or even be made self-sustaining. 
The individual rate cannot be considered apart 
from the whole, of which it is a part, since no 
one risk can pay a rate that will pay a loss. 

No system of classification, however complex 
or complete; no experience tables individual or 
combined; no schedule built by fallible man can 
justify or defend the individual rate apart from 
its class. The reason is evident. No two risks 
are identical, physically and morally. They 
differ in location, exposures, construction, occu- 
pancy and ownership. Every one differs in some 
respect from every other, and the infinity of 
detail is not subject to classification; to attempt 
it would be absurd. 

Since the underwriter admits the impos- 
sibility of explaining the exact individual rate 
charged, whence does the assured, who has given 
the subject little or no study, derive the fixed 
opinion that his rate is too high? How may 
we best explain to him the unknowable? All 
attempts have miscarried, but to the reasonable 



policy buyer, and he is one of the large majority, 
should be explained the broad mutuality of insur- 
ance; that the stock company only differs from 
the purely mutual in that the rate is fixed, and 
the indemnity guaranteed by capital funds; that 
the responsibility for results is shifted from the 
insured to the shareholder; that he is relieved of 
the speculative feature ; that he is not penalized 
beyond his business competitor; and that he 
actually, at the present writing, gets his insur- 
ance at less than cost. No business man should 
require more for his money. 

influence of fire preventing con- 
struction and fire extinguishing 
appliances on the individual rate 
has been enormous, large enough to 
affect the general average. There 
is a difference of opinion on the 
advisability of underwriters taking 
an active interest in either con- 
struction or protection. My own is opposed to 
the custom as practiced. Admitting they ac- 
complish their aim the reduction of the fire 


waste at whose expense is it? The entire cost 
of the equipment is taken from the insurance 
charge in an average term of five years. The 
reduction in the rate pays for the installation, 
and in the West at least, the concessions made 
are over- adequate. 

Again, as a rule, we are general insurers. 
Our writings are not confined to any one class. 
If we pick out all the protected risks and insure 
them at a minimum, what results? The neces- 
sary loading for moral hazard, conflagrations, 
contingencies, even for proportionate expense, 
is not included, and must be distributed among 
the non-protected risks. It makes the sprinkler 
a preferred creditor, not only gives it a mortgage 
on the assets, but foists the expense of the admin- 
istrator upon the already burdened general insurer. 

As insurance is business, the only objection 
is dictated by policy. The impression left upon 
the general insurer is unfavorable; the gulf 
between the protected manufacturing risk and 
the unprotected mercantile risk, or even the non- 
productive dwelling house, is wide enough to 
cause comment; and it is questionable if the 


prospective profits justify the discrepancy in 
the charge. 

WHAT OF THE FUTURE? We may take it 
for granted that any change will be of slow 
growth, that united experience will be compiled, 
if at all, in the distant future. That thereafter 
it would require a decade to evolve a safe basis. 
How about the interim? We must continue the 
present defective system until a better super- 
sedes it, and we cannot do better than turn all 
our attention to such improvements as may be 
suggested. Percentage increases and decreases 
by localities and by classes have been used as a 
counter- weight for the fluctuating loss ratio. 
Cannot a better be devised ? It is open to the 
objection and partakes of the nature of a punitive 
measure, a permanent charge for possibly a tem- 
porary loss. As a penalty for deficient protection 
for which concessions were granted, it is justifi- 
able. Otherwise it is undignified, and a con- 
tradiction of the broad mutuality of insurance 
above referred to. 

Laying impractical theories and unattainable 
hopes and expectations aside, is there not suffi- 



cient grey matter employed in the business to 
originate something practical ? While we theorize 
and speculate, we are selling our wares below 
cost. A patron similarly circumstanced would 
be unable to secure our policies. He might have 
a fire, instead of a failure. Are we not in danger 
of an explosion or a collapse? 

The Manager who continues to accept busi- 
ness at less than cost, and the Manager who 
encourages or permits waste or extravagance in 
the division of the premiums, must surely settle 
their scores with the shareholder ; must anticipate 
une mauvaise quart d^heure. We owe our first 
duty to the stockholder, the next to ourselves, 
and a final one to the public. There is a dis- 
position to reverse the order, which bodes ill for 
the future. 






F the agents are the foundation of 
the business, local boards were 
the mortar that held the stones in 
place. When we gouged out this 
cohesive tie, letting the wind and 
weather in, disintegration began 
and unless checked will continue 
until the superstructure falls upon 
its crumbling base. In recogni- 
tion of its shaky condition we have propped 
it in one place with a compact, in another 
with a State rater; we have shored it up 
with union jack-screws, but we have not 
attempted to repair the foundation, though 
we have added loose material until it re- 
sembles a stone heap. 

Shall we continue to inhabit the shack 
likely to fall about our ears when another 
prop is knocked out? Shall we move it to 


a new foundation, or shall we repair the old one? 
We have an abundance of material at hand, some 
of it good, much of it indifferent, a little bad. 
We have scores of capable willing workmen. 
Can not one of the many architects construct a 
plan upon which we can agree and work? 

THE STATE BOARD. When the local boards 
were abolished the State Board was first whittled 
down to a Field Club, then to a social club; a 
nest for the compact was made out of the shav- 
ings; but there is not enough of the original 
board left to make a golf stick. The semi-lit- 
erary, semi-social gathering is all that remains, 
where business topics are tabu, and from which 
nothing of practical value is expected. Its 
raison d^etre was the rate making power, and 
when this was withdrawn it lost the cohesive 
attraction of a vital common m interest. It 


can be rejuvenated only M through the 


restoration of authority and M responsibility. 


cal agents recognized the iff necessity of associ- 
ation, and formed one ff national in its scope, 



which promises to become a considerable factor 
in the business. While it was viewed by many 
company officers with distrust when it was first 
proposed, it is now conceded by all to hold the 
germs of good. As it has grown, the original 
radical element has disappeared, and is succeeded 
by the conservatism born of numbers, 
with a directing force that recognizes 
the communion of interest between all 
branches of the business. As an effort to 
improve the condition of its members, it is 
entitled to aid and comfort; for what it has 
already accomplished, it is to be commended; for 
what it hopes to accomplish, it deserves encour- 

Its greatest efficiency will be reached only 
when the State Associations are further subdivided 
and localized. While it could not perform all the 
functions of the local boards, it might measurably 
replace them, and quadruple its usefulness; and 
the companies could not complain if the ground 
they have abandoned be occupied by others. 

COMPANY UNIONS. Nothing stands between 
us and chaos but the associations of the com- 


panics or managers, and what Chaos really is, 
can be explained by either the New Yorker or 
the San Franciscan, for both have lived under 
his rule. What polite language is strong enough 
to characterize the company or General Agent 
that not only refuses to contribute to the common 
security, but skulks around the block-house with 
knife and tomahawk in hand, scalping friends 
and enemies alike? What becomes of the guer- 
rilla when the regular army capitulates? Has 
he any sympathy in his merited misfortunes? 

These free-lances, under leaders old enough 
to know better, and strong enough to hold their 
own with any competitor under discipline, are 
comparable only to atheists. They offer no creed 
of their own, no substitute for an institution ad- 
mittedly a necessary one, and exist only by the 
sufferance of the society they are attempting to 
uproot. No epithet is too opprobrious for such 
canaille, no inquisition too rigid. 

The leper is cast out, sequestered from the 
community he contaminates. What rule of con- 
duct compels us to walk arm in arm with the 
like? Nothing but moral cowardice prevents 



absolute separation, and nothing less than sepa- 
ration will guarantee a continued healthy exist- 
ence. A few tainted ones, if cast away at the 
same time, would prove an additional safeguard. 
odd collateral societies indirectly connected with 
the business but not necessarily composed of 
insurance men. All are useful, especially the 
technical ones, but not worthy of particular no- 
tice. They serve as educational institutions and 
by bringing the individuals interested in like sub- 
jects closer together are useful adjuncts to the 
central unions of company Managers. 



I HEN I was a Local Agent I 
was an active member of 
a Board; as a Special, I 
did my full portion of State 
Board work; as a General 
Agent, I consider organiza- 
tion a necessity of the first 
importance. Without it, 
there can be no co-opera- 
tion, and without a measure of mutual assistance 
what would become of us? I am not only an 
earnest advocate of union among Managers, but 
I go further and deprecate the lack of managerial 
interest in subordinate associations. A large 
portion of our rate troubles is the direct result of 
the usurpation by the General Agent of functions 
formerly performed by the local and field force. 
As a very few disreputable adjusters were respon- 



sible for the valued policy laws, so anti-compact 
laws were enacted to kill the compact manager. 
When even the small measure of authority 
formerly vested in local boards was withdrawn, 
one of the closest bonds between the agent and 
the company was severed. When the agent saw 
long established tariffs arbitrarily changed by an 
independent authority with which neither he, his 
Special nor his Manager had any influence, we 
lost his sympathy and support. When he lost 
his influence on the rate, his hold on the policy- 
holder was weakened. Instead of arguing with 
the dissatisfied patron, or conciliating him with 
reasonable concessions, he made but one reply to 
his complaint: "I know your rate is wrong, but 
I can't help you. You must see the Compact 
Manager," etc. 

The result of this misapplied power is 
apparent in many localities. The appeal from 
arbitrary methods was so effective that we are in 
a worse condition than we were before. Now 
rates are lower than the old local board rates. 
The effect on the field force was secondary, but 
adverse. No field man can be found who is an 


advocate of the compact system at long range, 
though many may recommend it for business 
centers. St. Louis was the oldest local board 
city in the West, and the St. Louis merchant 
and policy-holder was the only man in the State 
that protested against the proposed Statute 
abolishing the board. His protest was vigorous, 
but unavailing. The compacts outside the city 
were too heavy a handicap. 

It can do no good to mourn over the unalter- 
able, but how about the many localities where 
existing conditions are tending the same way? 
Will we never learn ? Shall we pursue the policy 
to its logical conclusion, the abolition of rates 
and rating machinery in any form? The dif- 
ference between the Missourian, the Texan and 
the Oregonian is only one of degree. The same 
effects will follow the same cause; it is only a 
question of when. Shall we revert to the old 
system where and while we may, or shall we 
permit evolution to evolute until association and 
co-operation are but pleasant memories ? If the 
latter course is to be pursued, we should equip 
ourselves for the inevitable. We are not up 


against the Chinese, where hideous noises and 
grotesque antics will avail. We shall need armor 
and ammunition, especially ammunition. How 
about the arsenal ? Is it well stocked ? 

Co-operation is effective only through organ- 
ization. When we hear the cry of sauve qui pent 
we do not step back to permit our neighbor to 
pass. Where there is no organized society every 
man is his own judge, jury and executioner. 
We can look for assistance only from the ones 
we assist. 

Lax co-operation is as much the result of 
imperfect organization as the inherent desire to 
take a business advantage of our fellow-man. 
Without local boards we can get no local assist- 
ance. Our imperative orders may be executed, 
but in a dilatory way. The L,ocal can see no 
advantage accruing to him, and is not sym- 
pathetic enough to sacrifice anything for the 
company. Our Specials even seek excuses to 
delay. "Why help this company retain a risk 
by cancelling our policy ? It would not consider 
us a moment if the conditions were reversed." 
Unfortunately this prophecy is probably only too 


exact. If the Special of my company were bound 
by State board obligations to help your field man 
out of the mire, would he invent an excuse if 
none were at hand, to evade his duty? He 
would be ostracised if he did ; would occupy a 
position no reputable Special Agent could afford 
to fill. 

It results that what little assistance the 
companies give each other is confined to the 
executive officers, impeded by the dilatory tactics 
of the Local and the excuses or justificatory pleas 
of the Special. We are human, so liable to err 
(always in our own favor) that but one con- 
clusion can be drawn. As the Arizona minister 
said when asked to deliver an eulogy over the 
remains of Whiskey Pete: "The less said on 
this subject, the better." 



EW thoughtful men who 
have crossed the hill-top of 
life and begun the descent 
can avoid comparisons 
favorable to the surround- 
ings of their early labors. 
The toil and strife of the 
ascent are forgotten; the 
annoyances and disap- 
pointments, the unattained hopes and expecta- 
tions have faded from the memory ; but the way- 
side flowers, the overhanging foliage, is ever 
before them, and unconsciously compared to the 
withered leaves and dead branches of the even- 
ing of life. 

How much of the good we see in the past 
and the evil we complain of in the present is 
due to this defective but beneficial trait of 



memory? Is the world growing worse? Are the 
conditions under which we exist to-day more 
unfavorable? Is fortune more capricious? Or, as 
the optimist affirms, is this the best of worlds, 
and our yellow vision due to jaundice or infirmity? 
Which of the schools is right? 

Probably neither is wholly right nor wrong. 
We have improved in some respects and retro- 
graded, or what is equivalent, been stationary, in 
others. In general, our business is not in better 
condition than it was a quarter of a century ago, 
nor is the outlook brighter. We can trace some 
of the causes of our difficulties, and are too apt 
to give them overdue weight, and to generalize 
beyond a point justified by the particulars. Many 
of our annoyances were preventable, had we con- 
sidered the future instead of present expediency. 
Should we not now take heed of the final as well 
as the immediate result of the theories suggested 
for improvement? 


The major portion of present adverse condi- 
tions is the result of our failure to admit and 
meet the changes taking place around us. We 


should be the broadest of all business men, since 
we deal with all kinds and conditions of men and 
things, but are we? Is it not a fact that we have 
specialized our thought, and worn the groove so 
deep we can not see the procession that has not 
only overtaken but outrun us? Let us note some 
of the changes that have occurred both within 
and without. 

As accentuated in previous chapters, the 
duties, qualifications and responsibilities of all 
grades of agents have been reset and rearranged 
during the last two decades. The Local is un- 
trained and unfit for the duties he should per- 
form; the Special's education has been so special- 
ized to premium-getting that other and equally 
necessary qualifications have been neglected ; the 
Manager has been loaded down with responsibili- 
ties that were formerly shared by the locals and 
specials; organization has been relaxed or dis- 
banded; co-operation has all but ceased to co- 

From without, restrictive legislation has 
thrown its meshes about us, affecting every branch 
of our business contract, rates, claims and asso- 


ciation. Non-affiliating competition has in- 
creased; our largest customers, by centralizing 
their management, reduce expenses to increase 
dividends, and demand and receive wholesale 
prices at our expense. Middle men are weeded 
out. The tendency in all lines is toward concen- 
tration in mercantile and manufacturing, trans- 
portation and distribution. 


We need not worry over the safety of the 
principle of insurance, as it is secure, but we may 
doubt the perpetuation of present methods and 
the men wedded to them. 

If our positions depend upon the survival of 
the system, we should be prepared at any time 
to vacate them. We can not long sell our wares 
below cost, and the cost is composed of too large 
a proportion of expense to sell them at list price. 
We can not continue indefinitely antiquated and 
over-expensive methods antagonistic to the trend 
of general business. We must conform to our 
surroundings, or make way for a competitor 
modeled upon up-to-date plans. 


The shareholder will be the arbiter. When 
we fail to give him reasonable returns he will 
withdraw his capital. So long as he is satisfied 
we are secure, and it follows that the one final 
test of fitness is, and the future of the individual, 
from Local to company officer, depends upon, our 
ability to earn a margin equal to that afforded in 
other business ventures. Is not self-preservation 
a sufficient stake to put us on our mettle? 

Dr. Jones, after a thorough and searching ex- 
amination of the patient, Fire Insurance, finds 
him afflicted with the following ailments : 

CHRONIC DYSPEPSIA. Caused by gluttony. 
Bolting too great quantity in too hurried a man- 
ner. Symptoms: Capricious appetite, alternating 
hunger and nausea, flatulence, fever, and pains 
in the pit of the stomach. 

NEURASTHENIA. Caused by impaired nutri- 
tion, anxiety and grief. Symptoms: Disturbed 
rest, lassitude and mental depression, with a 
tendency to weep. Frightened on slight or no 



He needs attention, as his condition is grow- 
ing serious. His physicians in ordinary, as well 
as his nurses, are afflicted with a bad case of 
Hysteria, resulting from nervous strain, with the 
accompanying dejection of spirits, impatience, 
emotion, excitability and marked defect of will 
and mental power. They need a combined seda- 
tive and anti-spasmodic. What he needs shall 
be the theme of the next chapter. 





AISE the rates. Reduce the commis- 
sions. Abolish brokerage. Prohibit 
term business. Improve construction 
and protection. Abolish multiple 
agencies and annexes. These are a few 
of the specifics upon the market, but 
not one of them is a panacea; though 
each might relieve, none would cure. 
When his engine labors and 
groans under a normal pressure, does the 
driver increase his head of steam? When 
the current is grounded, does the electri- 
cian double his voltage? Do we need 
more power, or better and more economical 
application? Manifestly the latter. 

The present average rate is sufficient if col- 
lected upon annual business and properly applied, 
to pay losses, necessary expenses and a reason- 


able dividend. The power is ample, but the 
machinery needs overhauling. Forty per cent 
is lost in transmission, and it is our duty to 
reduce the waste before applying for an increased 
initial force. Useless wheels, large and small, 
imperfect gearings, untrue shafting, absorb five 
per cent of our power. We must reduce the 
friction. Unpacked valves, leaky cylinders, cor- 
roded pipes, waste five per cent more. We must 
repair them. The foundation has withstood the 
thumping and jarring up to date; is still firm and 
worthy of a better superstructure. 

The spendthrift's financial condition is not 
permanently altered by a new legacy; unless he 
reforms his habits it is soon squandered, and he 
is again dead broke. If the similes are appli- 
cable, our first duty is apparent. Before asking 
our customers for an increased tax, we should 
give them some evidence of an improved admin- 
istration. All of us admit the present expense 
charge is too high. A comparison with the 
economic conditions of other lines of business is 
unfavorable to insurance. A continued increase 
in the cost of administration is opposed to the 


universal trend of business. A reduction is a 
prime necessity. 

Inadequate rates are the least of our troubles, 
because rates are fluctuating and measurably sub- 
ject to individual influence. Expenses, on the 
contrary, are fixed charges and amenable only 
to unanimous organized co-operative control. 

No single company can accomplish a refor- 
mation; co-operation is necessary. 

There can be no co-operation without organ- 
ization; organization is necessary. 

There is no existing executive organization 
broad enough in its scope to include the whole 
country; a new union is necessary. 

A union composed exclusively of head execu- 
tives, having jurisdiction over the whole Amer- 
ican business, to whom Managers and General 
Agents are subordinate. A union superior to all 
existing organizations. A union with but one 
object, the reduction of expenses. Qualification 
for membership should be broad enough to admit 
all companies. Object of organization confined 
to the one question. Rates, tariffs, present affili- 
ations, ignored. A platform on which domestic 


and foreign interests may meet on an equality. 
A union ignoring all embroiling and embittering 
collateral subjects. 

Such a union is feasible and practicable, and 
if it included ninety per cent of the premium 
income, would be successful. Its simple edict, 
issued on January first, and requiring a percent- 
age reduction in expenses during the current 
year, would be effective. The Managers, under 
suitable penalties, would provide the ways and 
means. If insufficient, a further percentage re- 
duction could be promulgated. 

The effects would be far-reaching and bene- 
ficial. The abuses that fatten on the expense 
account would be abated. Even so small a 
reduction as ten per cent of the present cost 
(twenty-five per cent would be ultimately re- 
quired) would accomplish more good, because 
it is practical, than all the theories preached for 
a century. It would abolish all illegitimate and 
excess agency expenses; multiplicity of inspec- 
tions and adjustments; high commissions and 
brokerages in excepted cities and larger business 
centers, that have grown out of all proportion; 


duplicate and multiple agencies ; supernumerary 
specials and employees. It would reduce the 
number of agents, by weeding out the incompe- 
tents, useless departments and department mana- 
gers included. It would place the business upon 
such a basis that it would require no apologist, 
and it would not reduce the income a penny. 

The pill may be hard to swallow, the medi- 
cine distasteful to the middle man, but nothing 
less than such a cathartic will remove the ob- 
structions. If the proposed remedy is worth a 
trial, who will be the leader? Who will consti- 
tute himself chairman and call the meeting to 


NEW prophet has arisen in the 
world, whose coming is the reac- 
tion of overloading and crowding, 
whose doctrine is co-operation, 
the antithesis of competition. 
This prophet is The Trust, and 
Dividend is his God. 

The sun of domestic business 
expansion has set, and the day of 
contraction is dawning. The fire 
insurance field has been so thor- 
oughly exploited that not a vil- 
lage has been neglected. The 
plant is completed and equipped, 
and the construction gang must 
make way for the operating force, 
since the returns can not bear the 
double charge. 




The opportunity of individual effort is nar- 
rowing, for capital is preparing for emancipation 
by shaking off the yoke of mediocre brains. 
There will always be room at the top, but there 
will be less room, for there will be fewer tops. 

The soil is yearning for a reflux of the tide 
that for years has borne its cultivators to town 
and city. The farm awaits the return of the 
prodigal with outstretched hand and smiling face. 
Finance, commerce, profession and trade can 
spare mediocrity. Jones, old man, are you able 
to turn the grindstone yet already noche'mal? 





Something more than a century ago, Mr. 
John Weskett, Merchant, published a volume at 
Dublin under the following title: 

Complete Digest 

of the 

Theory, Laws and Practice 



; 1tE Gbeortes, Xaws and practices of f nsur* 
ance have 00 multiplied and increased in 
tbe interval tbat no 3obn TKIleshett, /R>er= 
cbant, of tbfs Oav> can Diacst tbem. 216 
an illustration of tbe antiquity of some of 
tbe Practices, tbe Editor quotes from tbe 
Butbor's preliminary discourse. ffour 
generations bave intervened, all of tbem 

preacbing reform, but practicing beress, and tbe legacy 

is ours. 

"It is certain that there have not been wanting; some 
Instances of those stiled great, and leading Underwriters, 
from their Avidity of beginning, or subscribing; almost 
every Policy that appeared to them, who, far more bold 
then wise, seemed to depend, in every Respect, on mere 
Chance ; and to follow intirely the ridiculous and vulg;or 
Adag;e,that"an Ounce of Luck is worth a Pound of Judg;- 
ment"; and, who have not only underwritten almost 
every Policy, but adjusted every Averag;e, Loss, Return, 



&c, just as they were exhibited to them, or as they 
have been requested, with little, and very often no 
inspection, or examination, and without a single Doc- 
ument, or Paper produced ; till they have, in the End, 
fatally experienced the infallibly bad Consequences of 
their Inattention, or Incapacity: for, was it possible 
that they should have been otherwise then constantly 
and grosly imposed upon; and caused many others to 
be so too, who were induced, from entertaining: false 
Ideas of the Knowledge and Abilities of such Leaders, 
to follow their illusive Pattern? By Leaders. I mean, 
more precisely, every Person who first underwrites, or 
first signs an Adjustment on, a Policy. 

NEITHER would it be short of Truth to intimate, 
that there have been some considerable Underwriters, 
os well as Brokers, who were totally ignorant of the 
true Import and Effect even of some of the common, 
printed Terms in Policies of Insurance; nay, who never 
read a Policy throughout in their Life ; as many Per- 
sons pass for very good Christians who never perused 
a single Epistle, or Gospel in the Liturgy. 

The numberless instances, daily occurring:, of very 
extraordinary Unskilfulness, Negligence, and Error, 
together with ATROCIOUS Deceit and Imposition, in 
the claiming, stating:, and settling 4 of Losses, Averages, 
Salvages, Returns, &c. even on Policies of large 
Amount, ore, in Reality, amazing, and demand a very- 
serious Regard. 

On the other Hand, it is also true that the very 
Misconception and Inexperience redound sometimes, 
though not often, to the Prejudice of Assureds them- 
selves ; by calculating: and recovering: less than their Due. 

It has been, for a considerable Time past, a very 
usual, though a very disgraceful Observation, in our 
Courts of Judicature, amongst the Council employed in 
Insurance Causes, that "UNDERWRITERS are like a 
Flock of Sheep" K ; alluding: to the Inconsideraiion, Indo- 


lence, or Incapacity, with which many of them perform 
their Business; and their Aptitude to follow implicitly 
the Example of a Leader; or any one who, perhaps 
with as little Judgment, or Information as themselves, 
first subscribes a Policy; or without Enquiry, first signs 
thereon an Adjustment of a Loss, Average, &c and 
afterwards, when some one or other whose Attention 
may have been awakened, his Fears alarmed, or his 
eyes opened, by a Discernment of some Fallacy, or Dis- 
covery of some Fraud, the whole Flock, too late, take 
Fright ; and, being puzzled in the Maze of their con- 
fused Ideas, but fast bound in the Pen, Dispute succeeds; 
and they find themselves obliged to run wildly into a 
Court of Justice for Redress ; which, however, is seldom 
to be found there, from the great Difficulty of ascer- 
taining Facts, and of bringing forth the real Merits of 
an Insurance Cause and the Occasion for which, by a 
previous, moderate Acquaintance with, and an habitual 
Attention to what they were about, and to the Nature 
and Circumstances of the Risque, or Demand, might 
have been intirely avoided; as well as the illiberal 
Garrulity of certain. Pleaders. 

Nothing is more usual, in such Cases, than for the 
Brokers to say, in order, merely through Impatience, 
to attain their End in getting the Policy adjusted, how- 
ever wrongfully, or to favor the Assureds, their Em- 
ployers " Why, Sir, such an one, and such an one, or 
so many have settled it; Why should you object? 
Well, 'tis always better to follow Example; to do as 
others do ; to fall in with the Crowd ; not to be sin- 
gular; or suspicious; to cavil, or pretend to know 
better than others ;" and a great Deal more of such 
Gibberish I But, this Manner of proceeding, besides the 
palpable and immediate Injustice of it, evidently tends 
to, what only can be effected by it, the firm Establish- 
ment and Increase of Ignorance, Error, and Fraua, in 
the Course of all Matters whatsoever in this Business.