The Herald’s Pocket Fire Insurance Chart for 1874
Comprehensive list of companies offering fire insurance in Illinois.
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The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 rocked the insurance world. Fifty-eight companies were driven to bankruptcy and thousands of policyholders were never compensated for their claims. Company executives and trade organizations from within the industry promoted reform, but a second fire in 1874 showed that the efforts were not enough.
The National Board of Underwriters recommended updates to water mains, a newly organized firefighting force and restrictions on wooden construction. For a time in 1874, insurance companies refused to provide coverage to buildings in Chicago until at least some of these demands were implemented. Many companies and individuals were financially ruined from these two destructive fires, and numerous efforts were made to offset future risk.
The Herald was an insurance journal that began publication shortly before the Great Fire, in 1870. In addition to producing a monthly industry periodical, the firm also created charts listing licensed insurance companies. This particular example shows the 140 different fire insurance companies that were operating in Illinois in 1874, the year of the second Chicago fire.
To allow the reader to make the most informed decision possible, the table offers data points such as assets, liabilities, income, expenditures, and risks. The information is noted as being based upon sworn statements from the companies, on file with the auditor’s office in Springfield. Advertisements on the covers validate the need for such a publication. “Since the Great Fire the public are fully awake to the necessity of selecting none but first-class Companies in which to place their Insurance, and use their own judgment as to the comparative merits for each.”
The Herald operated in Chicago between 1870 and 1877. George I. Yeager was the editor/publisher between 1872 and 1873. By the time this chart was issued, S.H. Davis had also joined the firm.
Hoffman, Beatrix. Insurance. Encyclopedia of Chicago. 14 April 2020, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/645.html.
Story of Chicago in Connection with the Printing Business. Chicago: Regan Printing House, 1912.
Publication Date: 1874
Author: George Yeager
Sheet Width (in): 21.40
Sheet Height (in): 15.70
Condition Description: The chart is in excellent condition, given its age. Printed on thin paper with creasing along originally issued fold lines and a few spots where the chart adheres to the original paper covers.