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Salem Insurance Companies Records

Salem Insurance Companies Records

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Processing of the collection was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Title:Salem Insurance Companies Records
Quantity:2.5 linear feet (2 boxes, 2 folders, 14 volumes)
Abstract:The Salem Insurance Companies Records are comprised of papers generated from miscellaneous Salem insurance companies, insurance offices coordinated by individual insurance brokers, and the insurance activities of group underwriters.
Collection Number:MSS 139

Series List

SERIES I. Insurance Companies
SERIES II. Insurance Offices
SERIES III. Group Underwriters
SERIES IV. Miscellaneous Insurance Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Salem Insurance Companies Records are comprised of papers generated from miscellaneous Salem insurance companies, insurance offices coordinated by individual insurance brokers, and the insurance activities of group underwriters. This collection provides an overview of the history of Salem's insurance business, from group underwriting businesses of the 1780s-1820s to the fully developed insurance companies of the 19th century. The collection has been divided into four series.

Series I. Insurance Companies includes papers of eight marine and fire insurance companies from 1800 to 1893. Of note are furniture inventories included with policy proposals of the Essex Mutual Fire Insurance Company and the correspondence of the Salem Marine Insurance Company (1800-ca. 1840) (a company which is not to be confused with the later firm (1856-1897) of the same name, see MSS 137). This correspondence, most of which is with company president Jacob Ashton, discusses the marine claims of the brig Traveller, ship Merry Quaker, Industry, Borneo, brig Hazard, and schooner Ruth. The legal papers of the Union Marine and Fire Insurance Company consist of three copies of an 1813 case brought by the company against William Woart for the theft of company funds.

Series II. Insurance Office Records, 1794-1824, contains volumes of policies and miscellaneous papers generated by insurance offices which were headed by individual insurance brokers. These brokers coordinated group underwriting activities through their offices.

Series III. Group Underwriters, 1779-1828, reflects the early insurance activities of a number of Salem's prominent citizens. Organized more loosely than insurance offices, group underwriters were made up of wealthy merchants who put up capital to insure the cargos and vessels of others. Among the men who appear most often as underwriters in the policy volumes are John Appleton, John Barr, Francis Cabot, N. Goodale, Benjamin Goodhue, Joseph Grafton, William Gray Jr., Isaac Needham, Josiah Orne, Willard Peele, Stephen Phillips, Aaron Waite, and Joshua Ward Jr.

Series IV. Miscellaneous Insurance Papers include insurance applications, indexes and shares of insured vessels, and miscellaneous papers.

Historical Sketch

This collection includes the papers and records of several insurance companies in operation between 1779 and 1893 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Bowditch Mutual Fire Insurance Company was incorporated in 1847. The company was located at 27 Washington Street, Salem, Massachusetts. In November 1850, the company merged with the Essex Mechanics' Mutual Fire Insurance Company and moved to 208 Essex Street.

Essex Mutual Fire Insurance Company was incorporated in 1829 and operated at 42 Washington Street alongside the Salem Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Notable directors included George Nichols and Nathaniel Appleton,

Mercantile Insurance Company was incorporated in 1825 through at least 1840.

Salem Marine Insurance Company was incorporated on June 9, 1800 by George Dodge. As listed in the 1837 Salem Directory, the company held capital of $200,000 and operated out of 173 Essex Street, Salem, MA. The president at the time was Frederick Howes and notable directors included Joseph Peabody, Dudley L. Pickman, and William Pickman.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Appleton, John, 1739-1817
Ashton, Jacob
Barr, John
Cabot, Francis, 1717-1786
Goodale, N.
Goodhue, Benjamin, 1707-1783
Grafton, Joseph, 1757-1836
Gray, William, Jr.
Lander, Peter
Needham, Issac
Orne, Josiah, 1768-1825
Peele, Willard
Phillips, Stephen, 1764-1838
Rea, Archelaus
Waite, Aaron, 1742-1830
Ward, Joshua, 1776-1840
Woart, William
Bowditch Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
Essex Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
Mercantile Insurance Company
Salem Commercial Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
Salem Marine Insurance Co. (1800-ca. 1840)
Salem Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
Union Marine & Fire Insurance Co. (Salem, Mass.)
Union Marine Insurance Company (Salem, Mass.)
Fire insurance
Independent insurance agents
Marine insurance
Marine protests


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Salem Insurance Companies Records, MSS 139, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Records of Salem Insurance Companies are a reorganization and integration of 18 volumes and miscellaneous folders of manuscripts. The bulk of the collection is from an unknown source. The following were received as gifts: the Bowditch Mutual Fire Insurance Company meeting minutes donated by Carlos P. Faunce in 1923; the meeting minutes of the Essex Mutual Fire Insurance Company presented by Charles H. Odell in 1908; and a volume of group underwriters' policies, 1811-1828 (volume 14), the 1914 gift of Mrs. Henry G. Cogswell. Removed from the collection are 8 shipping volumes of Silsbee and Pickman (see separation sheet).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, July 1984. Updated by Catherine Robertson, May 2015.

Related Material

Salem Directory and City Register. Salem: Henry Whipple, 1837-1864.

Massachusetts. An act to incorporate the Salem Marine Insurance Company. Salem: Thomas C. Cushing, 1800.

American Insurance Company Records, 1825-1844, MSS 133.

Essex Fire & Marine Insurance Company Records, 1776-1887, MSS 134.

Essex Insurance Company Records, 1835-1855, MSS 135.

Oriental Insurance Company Records, 1825-1845, MSS 136.

Salem Marine Insurance Company Records, 1856-1897, MSS 137.

Social Insurance Company Records, 1803-1842, MSS 138.

Samuel Tucker Papers, undated, Fam. Mss. 1021.

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