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FFA ROOTS GO BACK TO GOLD RUSH
From The Visiting Fireman News, Vol. 1, No. 15, Page 3, July 31, 1967.

The state of Alaska is 100 years old this year and Fireman's Fund was 100 years old in 1963.

But the similarity doesn't end there. The history of the Company and Alaska go back to the same roots. From the day the United States purchased the giant territory from Russia in 1867; from the day some old sourdough discovered a bright yellow nugget in a bubbling creek; to that terrible March day in 1964 when the worst earthquake in recorded history nearly destroyed the state. . .Fireman's Fund American was there.

Fireman's Fund insured old sailing ships that hunted the giant whales in the bleak frozen Artic [sic] Ocean. Fireman's Fund insured the infant fishing industry that grew into one of the state's largest money-making businesses. Fireman's Fund insured grizzled old prospectors that defended their stakes with the rifle and six-gun.

Alaska is celebrating its centennail [sic] of the purchase of the 49th state with a huge exposition. . .Alaska '67 in Fairbanks. Just as Fireman's Fund insured every other aspect of life in Alaska, the Company is insuring the Centennial Exposition. Expert advice of Company engineers is helping to make the fair a success. Today, FFA is one of the biggest insurance companies in Alaska.

The Visiting Fireman News, because of the Company's close association with Alaska, presents a four-page pictorial report on Alaska '67.

Our roots in Alaska go back a long way.

Although the Fireman's Fund has commanded a good part of the Alaskan marine insurance from the time the vast region was purchased from the Russians, it was of little consequence until the summer of 1896 when a prospector found a yellow-colored speck in a pan of sand on the banks of a stream in the Yukon. His story precipitated the second greatest gold rush the world has known.

The Alaska Commercial Company, with its headquarters in San Francisco, had been formed to take over the trading posts which the Russians relinquished with the land. The company was given exclusive rights to choice sealing grounds and controlled all trading in the territory. Fireman's Fund wrote insurance on the company's hulls and cargoes from the beginning.

In addition, the Alaska Packers fleet, which in later years carried the men and provisions necessary for the rich salmon harvest, was and still is insured by the Company.

With the discovery of the bonanza, almost 100,000 adventurers poured into the country and many thriving towns sprang up. The Fireman's Fund moved in boldly with them. Alaska was so remote and conditions were so alien to the fire underwriters that it fell to the lot of the Marine Department to arrange coverage. In 1896, then Marine Secretary Levison wrote instructions to Louis Sloss, Jr., of the Alaska Commercial Company outlining the procedure for mapping the new camps.

"I have just arranged fire insurance for the season at Forty Mile and Circle City, and found considerable difficulty in so doing, because of the fact that there were no satisfactory diagrams in existence of either one of these places. The folks in the office had a rough one of the former, but nothing at all of the latter."

The fire business was good - at least until Dawson burned down one night - but the marine business was even better. Hundreds of shiploads of men and supplies sailed northward to Skagway, and in August of 1897 the first of hundreds of treasure shipments sailed southward. Arrival of the steamer Portland in Seattle with $1,000,000 in gold aboard caused the greatest excitement the city had ever known. Fireman's Fund covered all shipments of gold for many years, but there were the inevitable losses.

[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-3-5-28; 1334.]



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