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From the Fireman’s Fund Record, Summer 1962.

The first policy written in Los Angeles by Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company could well have been formulated in the shade of the old pepper tree. That’s pure conjecture, of course, but it could have happened. In 1869, when The Fund first started doing business in the sleepy little village of Southern California, Main Street was shaded by pepper trees, a fine place for discussion of business matters and for an occasional siesta. Life was leisurely. It didn’t stay that way long.

In the early 80’s, when the town began to flex its muscles and boasted 15,000 inhabitants, Fireman’s Fund appointed its first resident special agent there. He issued policies from an office shared with a grain company on old Court Street, his premium volume reaching $50,000 in 1885. Could that figure ever be improved? Some had their doubts. But the doubters have fled. Last year total premiums written by the Southern California Department reached $39,766,000. Inland Marine premiums totaled $7,156,000, placing Southern California in The Fund’s second position in this category, with only the Western Department leading with $8,379,000. But that’s getting ahead of the story. How did all this happen?

An elixir of oil and gasoline, sea products and grease paint supplies some of the answer, as does the multiplicity of insurance wants by Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen. About 1907 The Fund extended its automobile operations to Southern California, with an adjuster from The Fund settling the first automobile third party property damage claim in California. Last year the Southern California Department’s automobile underwritings totaled $10,576,000.

Oil was one of the developments which in its day ranked high on the list of problems which had to be faced and conquered by insurance men. Storage was of prime importance, for oil was produced faster than the owners could take care of it. This hazardous risk was refused by many underwriters, but Fireman’s Fund went to work and by engineering devices found a way to lessen the hazards so that underwriters could write the business. The oil industry played a good part in the Southern California Department’s early growth.

The fishing industry was another factor. Fireman’s Fund was in on the ground floor when Hollywood emerged as headquarters of the movie-making industry about 55 years ago. Problems were many. Highly flammable films were being made and stored, and it is interesting to note that The Fund’s manager in Los Angeles wrote the first film insurance article for the Fire Underwriters’ Association of the Pacific outlining the problem and its possible solution.

Costly cameras and other properties on location were protected by transit and floater covers. Wild and domestic animals used in pictures were insured through livestock coverage in those days. Fireman’s Fund was the first company to insure any of the Technicolor cameras now so prevalent. It has often been said that the success of the expanding industry was assured through the pioneering efforts of Fireman’s Fund. Today The Fund continues to play the leading insurance role in the motion picture and TV industries.

To meet the insurance needs of Southern California and Arizona, and to continue providing the utmost in service, The Fund’s Southern California Department occupies a new home – a home into which it moved only last year. It’s a home of beauty and efficiency – five floors of a 12-story, $6 million structure at 3223 West Sixth Street, West Sixth Street and New Hampshire. The building is located in the heart of the Wilshire office building district, three miles west of downtown Los Angeles, and hard by the Hollywood Freeway, the Harbor Freeway and the Santa Monica Freeway. Of reinforced concrete and steel, the new structure is finished in alternating panels of tinted glass and porcelain enamel spandrels. The canopied entrance is highlighted by Italian glass mosaic tile, decorative aluminum grills and multiple level decks, providing wide access ramps to large parking facilities. Spotlights illuminate planters of lush tropicals. More than 600 employees work here. Thirty-five special agents service nearly 1,600 agents in the department’s territory.

Long, long ago the shady pepper trees of 1869 went the way of all good pepper trees. But there isn’t time for siestas anymore, anyway.

[Fireman’s Fund Archives: 4-1-3-4-82, 0414]


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