(Please note: this is an advance preview. List to be completed by March 20. Please excuse any typos, grammatical errors, or broken links).
Those who write advertising copy aren't to be envied. It's not an easy thing to sell someone else's stuff. Especially when that someone else's stuff is insurance. Insurance against fire, against collision, against Life itself; insurance companies are selling their policies to clients who are already betting against themselves. From the start, they hope to never make a claim. (The policy's ideal use value is its total uselessness). Of the premiums needlessly collected? "That would've been money well-spent." This list concerns the psychology of insurance company literature. Because there's definitely a psychology in it. And one that's perhaps best expressed in its imageries. The following short list features a modest sampling from this genre. With a number of others on-display at Booth 120 of the Ephemera Society of America's annual fair and conference (March 16-17, Old Greenwich, CT). Despite its modesty, this list is dedicated to Susan Duff of Toronto's irreplaceable Ten Editions bookshop; a space that was more rewarding than any University could claim.
TERMS. Items are guaranteed to be described and delivered to the collector's satisfaction. Reasoned returns are accepted within 15 days of receipt. Reciprocal terms are extended to the trade; institutional policies are accommodated. For purchases, please phone (+1) 416-729-7043 or email email@example.com. Priority is given to first interest. To receive advance copies of future lists, subscribe to our mailing list. Specific wants are always welcomed, from both new and established collectors.
Hand-in-Hand Fire Office [Policy no. 26987]. London, 1779. 600 USD
Partially-printed document, accomplished in manuscript for Mr. Charles Turner of Queen Square, Holborn; policy no. 26987. Large engraving (with platemark of 48 x 35 cm.), with an expressive vignette to the top portion (14 x 19 cm.). Printed to crisp sheet, folded-over, with wide margins (55 x 44 cm.); two duty blind-stamps to upper right margin. Signed by five Company officers at bottom, with two manuscript calculations to left. Save for fold-lines; Near Fine.
In 1696, the Amicable Contributors for Insuring from Loss by Fire emerged as the fourth fire insurance company in London. (And very soon to be only one of three). It was the first to be based on the principle of mutual association, and would eventually become the oldest insurance company in the world. Within ten years of its founding, "the Amicable" would shed its (wordy) title and adopt the name-image of its fire-mark: Hand-in-Hand. Here, in 1779, under precisely this sign—illustrating the attraction of mutual benefit as almost-magnetic—Mr. Charles Turner was granted this policy for a 10 shilling premium, guaranteeing his brick building in Holborn for a value of 500 pounds.
Phoenix Fire-Company of London The rates and conditions of insurance of the Phoenix Fire-Office. London, 1782. 1500 USD
Single sheet prospectus (49 x 30 cm.), printed both recto and verso, with recto printed as bifolium and verso composed as tall broadside, with engraved vignette to top. Well-preserved, save for some minor stress from previous folding.
The Phoenix Fire-Office would distinguish itself from the gaggle of eighteenth century Companies by pioneering the market for overseas risk. Within the first five years, policies were held in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, South Carolina, and Turkey, with the first stable Canadian branch set-up in Montreal in 1804. Present here is the Company's inaugural prospectus, from 1782, in which aesthetics holds sway, with potential clients assured that engineers and fire-men were to be identified by their "uniforms of crimson cloth, with silver badges; the emblem, a Phoenix rising from the flames, which is also the Office-Mark."
A scarce historical document. This copy of the prospectus is of the "Home" variety; the only record discovered in OCLC or COPAC (at Yale) describes a "Country" variant.
Surrey, Sussex, and Southwark Fire and Life Assurance Company [Inaugural Company trade card]. London, circa 1825. 200 USD
Full engraving (12 x 8 cm.), printed to thick wove paper. Illustrated with neo-classical vignette to top potion, signed Folkard (at 260 Regent St.). Minor binding remnants to verso.
The short-lived Surrey, Sussex, and Southwark Company (1825-1826) is here represented by a classical column, receiving two classes of supplicants: a grieving widow-with child, to the left, and a man crouched in terror, having fled from the inferno to the right. To the left, a satchel of coins, to the right, the hose extending from a fire engine. "The Fire & Life departments are kept distinct, thus affording the same advantages as if the assurances were effected at separate offices."
ATLAS INSURANCE COMPANY [Mailer advertising fire and life insurance policies on Mulready stationery]. London, 1842. 120 USD
Single sheet (23 x 21 cm.), printed to Mulready stationery, with William Mulready's Britannia scene engraved by John Thompson to verso. Addressed and post-marked as self-envelope; now flat. Worn, but holding well. To verso: list of Company's Directors, information on Fire and Life departments, as well as list of well-known policy holders.
With this mailer, the Atlas Insurance Company took advantage of postage-paid "Mulready stationery," soliciting potential customers on the other side of a compassionate, global vision of Britannia. And on the verso, the sense of majesty continued, with a number of celebrated Life policy holders named, including the deceased King William IV, with the corresponding sums assured and bonuses numbered.
Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire... [Dramatically-illustrated circular, featuring list of fire escape stations and district Inspectors]. London, 1861. 350 USD
Large bifolium (34 cm.), with some creasing and short-tear to lower margin; otherwise robust. Manuscript notations to front panel, dated 24th August 1861. Interior spread illustrated with full-page engraving of "One of the Society's fire escapes in use;" same image engraved in miniature to front panel.
The Royal Society adopted a proactive approach to the concept of insurance: "by maintaining an organized body of men, provided with, and instructed in the use of, public fire escapes, and rewarding persons instrumental in saving life from fire." Affording bravery, rather than warding-off risk. This circular, to be administered by the neighbourhood's Fire Escape Conductor, provides Company and policy information, with a full list of addresses for the 73 fire-escape stations in London, along with the names and addresses of the four district Inspectors.
Trade card, printed to think card-stock (oblong; 7 x 11 cm.). Illustrated with full-length engraving, signed in Chandler, Colorado. With list of assets and investments to verso, along with sustained sales pitch.
Established in 1853, New York's Continental Insurance Co. branched-out West, and beyond the anxieties of the urban. Minnesota solicitor T. K. Keyser thus appeals to the elemental imagination of the gentry, both with the imagery of this trade card and the verso pitch: "Reasons for insuring in the Continental: Because it insures against damage to Buildings and loss of live stock by lightning, tornadoes, cyclones, and wind storms, a well as loss by fire."
Calendar 1889. Edinburgh: Scottish Union & National Insurance Company (printed by Banks & Co.), . 500 USD
Large chromolithograph on thick card-stock (39.5 x 48 cm.). Illustrated by Walter Crane to recto, with minor rubbing to corners. To verso: information about the Company and its history, as well as information on both life and fire insurance policies. Functional for 2019.
In 1888, the Scottish Union & National Insurance Company hired an otherwise-active Walter Crane to illustrate a new calendar for their clients. Crane thus designed this impressively-large wall calendar, in which the coming year of 1889 was surrounded by the Scottish imaginary of Sir Walter Scott; first President of the Insurance Company being advertised. "These figures so vividly pictured by Mr. Crane will call up scenes and incidents of a literature which the world will never let die; and the Directors of the Scottish Union & National Insurance Company have peculiar pleasure in the thought that this picture, distributed among the representatives and other friends of the Company—not in Great Britain only, but throughout America, and in every quarter of the globe—will associate with the name of Scott the name of this Company, of which it may be said, as of his work, that while thoroughly Scottish in origin, it is world-wide in influence and reputation." With no OCLC or COPAC records discovered.
Phenix Insurance Company of Brooklyn [Two novelty trade cards]. New York: Printed by S. C. Patterson, circa 1890s. 200 USD Two die-cut chromolithographs (15 x 8 cm.), with minor rubbing and scuffing. Both cards illustrated with turn-over "fence" narratives, for Brooklyn's Phenix (sic) Company.
Walker, C. A. (illustrator) Programme in aid of the Liverpool Seamen's Orphanage. Liverpool: The Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution, 1903. 75 USD Bifolium (22 cm.), with front panel featuring Art Nouveau illustration by C. A. Walker, printed in red and blue; engraving of Orphanage building to rear. Binding strip to rear panel; does not affect text. Interior pages, as single spread, provide programme of entertainment aboard the R. M. S. Tunisian, for the evening of Thursday, May 14, 1903.
An indirect form of insurance. The Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution was founded in 1869 "to feed, clothe, and educate the destitute or necessitous children of all classes of seamen, or seafaring men," regardless of nationality or religion. To fundraise, as evidenced by this programme, the Orphanage would sponsor musical concerts on board passenger ships, with a sophisticated appeal to the passengers' guilt: "No more fitting tribute of gratitude can be shown to the Almighty hand, who brings the ship in safety to her journey's end, than by helping to support the children who are left fatherless by the necessities of the seaman's life."
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company [Quasi-perpetual calendar, for period 1800-1957]. Newark, NJ: Whitehead & Hoag, 1905. 120 USD Two sheets of card-stock (16.5 cm. square), secured at corners with metal brads. With colour-illustrated front panel featuring die-cut semi-circular window, revealing volvelle underneath; spinning tab to upper right margin. Verso blank, showing some wear, with fold-out foot removed.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company A war on consumption. Ottawa: Canadian Head Office, 1921. 50 USD Illustrated wrappers (20 cm.); stapled to contents of  leaves. Illustrated throughout with green-printed vignettes. Cover design by the Tuberculosis Committee of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities (signed Ida Sherman).
Mid-twentieth century, Met Life would publish a series of pamphlets concerning health and well-being; this tuberculosis issue covering subjects of germs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. "This is an invitation from Good Health. It is to welcome you to the parks, the fields, the forests and the mountain tops—out into the sunshine and pure air. Make this booklet your guide." With 13 OCLC records discovered; only 2 in Canada.
Assicurazioni Generali Venezia [Striking blotter advertisement for life, fire, property, and carrier insurance policies]. Venice: Stamperia Zanetti, . 50 USD Well-printed blotter (15 x 24 cm.), in red-and-black, featuring the Venetian Lion of St. Mark. Near Fine.
Nazionale della Assicurazioni Storia di un cavallo senza previdenza. Bologna, circa 1930s. 75 USD Self-wrappers, with front cover illustrated in saturated colours. Contents:  leaves, featuring 6 compositions in duplicate spreads; one coloured, one blank. Near Fine.
A children's colouring book, that depicts the story of Fulmino, a champion race horse who laughed off insurance, "without a care for tomorrow." Eventually Fulmino ends up down on his luck, forced to work as a pack mule. "If only I'd been insured, I wouldn't be so tanned." With no OCLC or SBN records discovered.
The Travelers Insurance Company Smash hits of the year.
Hartford, CT, 1940. 150 USD Illustrated wrappers (23 cm.), printed in saturated colours. Rear panel inscribed by agent. Staple-bound to contents of 36 pages; richly-illustrated throughout, in colour. With striking centre-fold spread: "Death goes to a party."
This well-designed pamphlet is the source for the surreal cover image above ("Death goes to a party"), as well as countless statistics about traffic accidents and illustrated driving tips and tricks. "It is hoped that this booklet will serve as a prompter to those taking part in the great pageant of the open road. Let's view our smash hits behind the footlights and bot behind the headlights. Let's confine our tragedies to the road-shows and keep them off the roadways. All the highway's a stage and all the drivers and pedestrians merely players. Let's each of us strive to make our part letter-perfect." With only 4 OCLC records discovered.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company To parents / About drugs.
New York, 1970. 150 USD Psychedelic wrappers (20 cm.), with hand-stamp from Toronto agency to front and rear panels. Staple-bound to contents of 20 pages, printed in black, pink, and green, and illustrated with groovy geometrical patterns and drug reference tables.
"A factual introduction to an emotionally-charged public health issue of today. The epidemic-like spread of drug abuse among young people shows that, in a sense, it is 'catching.' How can we—as parents and as a society—encourage commitment to life, rather than escape?" With 2 OCLC records discovered (Harvard, Kansas).