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Life Insurance Company of Virginia

A Guide to the Life Insurance Company of Virginia Records, 1871-1920
Call Number Mss3 L6263 a FA2

Processed by: E. Lee Shepard, March 2013.
c 2013 By The Virginia Historical Society. All rights reserved

 

 

 

Processed under the auspices of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Access
Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions
There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation
Life Insurance Company of Virginia Records, 1871-1920 (Mss3 L6263 a FA2), Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va. USA

Acquisition Information
Gift of Gift of Genworth Financial of North America, Richmond, Va., in 2010 in honor of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia. Accessioned March 5, 2013.

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Virginia Historical Society.
Collection number: Mss3 L6263 a FA2
Title: Life Insurance Company of Virginia Records, 1871-1920.
Size: 13 volumes.
Language: English
Abstract: The records in this collection, consisting of several series of bound record volumes, cover the formative years of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, primarily 1871-1912. They consist largely of policy registers for the “Ordinary Division” (offering whole life and annuity products) and the “Intermediate Division” (providing term life and related products). Two additional miscellaneous volumes focus on very specific operations of the company.

SCOPE AND CONTENT INFORMATION

The records in this collection, consisting of several series of bound record volumes, cover the formative years of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, primarily 1871-1912, with its beginnings in Petersburg and later move to Richmond. They consist largely of policy registers for the “Ordinary Division” (offering whole life and annuity products) and the “Intermediate Division” (providing term life and related products). The records do not cover the operations or policy offerings of the “Industrial Division.” Two additional volumes focus on very specific operations of the company, as explained below.

The policy registers provide extensive information not only about the policies offered and the growth of the company’s business, but also about its customer base. Almost uniformly, they include the insured’s name and occupation, place and date of birth, age, amount of insurance purchased, premium, agent, and often beneficiaries. The books also indicate policy histories, with routine labels such as “Lapsed,” “Matured,” “Deceased,” or “Surrendered.”

ORGANIZATION

The collection is divided into three series: Series 1. Policy Registers for the Ordinary Division (eight volumes); Series 2. Policy Registers for the Intermediate Division (three volumes); and Series 3. Miscellaneous Record Books (two volumes).

BIOGRAPHICAL/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

With the Civil War five years behind them and Virginia readmitted to the Union, a group of about two dozen Petersburg investors launched a venture that would become one of the largest and most successful insurance firms in United States history. The Virginia General Assembly passed an act of incorporation for the “Life Insurance Company of Virginia” in March 1871, with A. G. McIlwaine as president and D’Arcy Paul and D. B. Tennant as vice presidents. Within a short period the business was up and running and offering its first policies to local customers.

Initially, the company’s client base was centered around Petersburg, but in short order the firm formed a “Richmond Department,” with F.W. Chamberlayne as general agent, and began attracting a significant number of customers. Within a decade, the company moved its headquarters to the capital city, itself fast becoming a southern financial and banking center. During this first decade the company also gained clients from distant locations in the United States: Baltimore, New York City, and New Orleans. Many of these customers were expatriated Virginians, but as the company’s reputation grew and its advertising strategy broadened, both southerners and northerners were attracted in increasing numbers to products that proved reliable and reasonably economical to purchase. The Assembly modified the company’s charter in 1886, requiring a fixed reserve, and thereafter Life stood on firm financial ground for decades, despite the ups and downs of the American economy.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the Life Insurance Company of Virginia was offering whole life, annuities, and related products through its “Ordinary Division,” while its “Intermediate Division” provided term life products, endowment policies, and limited payment policies. An industrial arm offered a set of products for the workplace. As the century progressed, the company began to be known familiarly as “Life of Virginia.”

The great success of the company did not shelter it from the market pressures of the late twentieth century. Life of Virginia was purchased in April 1986 by the Combined Insurance Company of American for $557 million. Combined became AON Corporation the following year and soon found itself overextended in the market. After a decade, AON sold Life to the GE Capital Corporation, a subsidiary of General Electric, and GE placed it into GE Financial Assurance Holdings, Inc., and later GE Capital Assurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Genworth Financial, Inc. The company became known as GE Life & Annuity Assurance Company and then Genworth Life and Annuity Company in 2006.

The collection of papers described here focuses on the formative years of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, primarily 1871-1912.

For more information about the Insurance Company of Virginia, see: James K. Sanford and Robert B. Lancaster, Century One: One Hundred Years of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia (Richmond, Va., 1971), and Charles Newton Hulvey and William Hamlin Wandel, Life Insurance in Virginia (Charlottesville, Va., 1929).

INDEX TERMS

Life Insurance Company of Virginia – Records and correspondence.
Insurance companies – Virginia – History.
Insurance policies – History.
Life insurance – United States – History.
Petersburg (Va.) – Economic conditions |y 19th century.
United States – Economic conditions.
Virginia – Economic conditions – 19th century.
Virginia – Economic conditions – 20th century.

CONTENTS LIST

Series 1. Policy Registers, 1871–1912 (Ordinary Division).

The policy registers begin in April 1871 and were maintained by the company until the end of 1912, when the company went to a “register card” style of record-keeping. All volumes include annotations, however, concerning later actions regarding policies, the latest dating to 1920. The volumes are maintained in policy number order. Most of the policies are for what we would now call “whole life insurance” or annuities.

The policy registers provide extensive information not only about the policies offered and the growth of the company’s business, but also about its customer base. Almost uniformly, they include the insured’s name and occupation, place and date of birth, age, amount of insurance purchased, premium, agent, and often beneficiaries. The books also indicate policy histories, with routine labels such as “Lapsed,” “Matured,” “Deceased,” or “Surrendered.”

Initially, policies were primarily sold to customers in the Petersburg area and northern North Carolina, but the customer base quickly extended to Richmond and Virginia at large, and had gone national in a big way by the mid-1880s. Customers included many professional people, but also artisans and craftsmen, laborers and housekeepers. The first African American customer purchased a policy in mid-1872 and thereafter African Americans and women appear with some regularity as policy holders. Most policies range between $500 and $1,000, but by the first decade of the twentieth century the bulk are $1,000 with larger amounts at $2,000 and $5,000 appearing with more regularity.

Volume  
1 April 1871-December 1886 (A: Policies #1 - #3720)
2 January 1887-October 1901 (B: Policies #3721 - #8700)
3 October 1901-June 1903 (C: Policies #8701 - #13,700)
4 June 1903-April 1905 (D: Policies #13,7001 - #18,680)
5 April 1905-June 1907 (E: Policies #18,681 - #23,824)
6 June 1907-November 1910 (F: Policies #23,825 - #28,824)
7 November 1910-October 1912 (G: Policies #28,825 - #33,864)
8 October 1912-December 1912 (H: Policies #33,865 - #34,401)

 

Series 2. Policy Registers, 1906–1912 (Intermediate Division).

 

This set of registers covers the policies issued for products such as term life insurance, as well as endowment policies (limited premium payment period with benefits paid out at a defined maturity date) and limited payment policies (premiums paid for a limited period of time but policy held for the lifetime of the ensured).

These volumes are numbered sequentially, but “No. 1” is missing. The series begins with register “No. 2” and was maintained through December 1912, when the company went to register cards as its new record-keeping system. All volumes include annotations, however, concerning later actions regarding policies, the latest dating to 1920.

Most of the policies registered here are for $500; the endowment and limited payment policies normally appear to be set for terms of twenty years.

Volume  
9 December 1906-February 1909 (No. 2: Policies #I21,480 - #I27,130)
10 February 1909-March 1911 (No. 3: Policies #I27,131 - #I32,150)
11 March 1911-December 1912 (No. 4: Policies #I32,151 - #I34,838)

 

Series 3. Miscellaneous Record Volumes, 1873–1889.

 

The two remaining volumes in this collection relate to very specific company matters. The first, marked “O.L.D.” (Ordinary Life Division), is a policy register covering policies the premiums for which were paid on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, and apparently by cash. Most of the policies were written for a $500 value. It appears this volume may have been used for billing purposes.

The second volume is a policy register for the North Carolina Life Insurance Company dating from 1873 to 1882. The Life Insurance Company of Virginia absorbed this firm in 1882 and “re-insured” its active policyholders at that time. The volume contains annotations by Life Insurance Company of Virginia employees dating as late as 1920.

Volume  
12 Monthly and Bi-Monthly Policy Register, 1889-1897
13 North Carolina Life Insurance Company Policy Register, March 1873-July 1882 (Policies #1 - #3086)