LETTER FROM RETIRED MANAGER OF THE EASTERN DEPARTMENT, ARTHUR K. SIMPSON, TO A. D. LANGE
March 15, 1923
A. D. Lange, Esq.,
My dear Mr. Lange:
I suppose my failure to further answer your letters of May 5th and 26th may have given you the impression that I had passed along, but I am happy to say that I am still in the land of the living.
Your letters were received just at the beginning of the summer, and all summer long I was in the office but about an hour a day, once or twice a week. I, however, kept cudgeling my brain to prepare something on the subject named that would be satisfactory, but without very much success.
I am returning you herewith the copy of what you have already prepared [a history of Fireman's Fund], and beg to call your attention to two errors. On page five you gave the name incorrectly - the hiring of the Special Agent which precipitated a row in the Shoe & Leather [Shoe & Leather Insurance Company of Boston], should have been W. S. Denny, and I have so corrected your copy. On page two you speak of Mr. Bowers as having retired from the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, and taking the management of the North British & Mercantile Insurance Company. This should have been the Guardian of London, the management of which Company Mr. Bowers took at the time of his retirement from the Fireman's Fund, and held until the Guardian retired from this country. After which retirement he became Manager of the North British & Mercantile which he held for some few years.
You speak in the write-up of the hiring of Special Agents for the Shoe & Leather as being the primary cause of its retirement. Mr. Kellogg told me once that when a Committee of the Board of Directors of the Shoe & Leather visited him in Hartford and tendered him the Vice Presidency he stated that he would accept the position providing the Directors were in harmony as to the course they wanted to pursue, and they assured him that they were. At the first meeting of the Board, after his election, he found that there were two factions - one in favor of doing a marine business only, and the other in favor of the fire business; and he knew then that the end was not very far off. He, however, went to work, cleaned up their business and put the fire business on a paying basis.
After he had been there a time the President of the Boston Insurance Company suggested that he reinsure the Shoe in the Boston and accept the Vice Presidency of that Company - the object being to give the Boston a nucleus upon which to build a fire business. He declined the suggestion, but ever after that he and the Boston were not very good friends. It eventually resulted in his being notified that his services would not be required after January 1st, 1885, altho his contract ran to April 1st of that year. He declined to accept the notice and consulted one of the leading lawyers in Boston, whose name I have forgotten. He told him his story, and the gentleman then said that he was very sorry he could not accept the retainer as he was then counsel for the Shoe & Leather. Mr. Kellogg asked him if he would give the names of some reliable attorneys in Boston, which he did. He thanked him and started for the door, and this old chap said: "Young man, I dont believe that I would pay any retaining fee in connection with the matter you have in mind". Mr. Kellogg walked back and stuck out his hand and thanked him; reported at the Shoe & Leather office every day and drew his salary every month until his contract expired. Shortly after that the Shoe & Leather reinsured its fire business in, I think, the Phenix [Phenix Fire Insurance Company] of Brooklyn, and its marine business in the Boston.
I am sending you herewith a copy of the Standard of June l2th, 1909, and would refer you to pages 358 and 607 which will give you a better account of Mr. Kellogs antecedents and activities than I could have given out of my memory.
Mr. Kellogg had two hobbies - one his family and the other the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company; and woe betide a man who came into the office and criticized the Company. He never was invited to return.
When he took the management the Fireman's Fund was not very well known here in the East, simply as a western company, and it was the mecca for all the brokers with their pockets full of slush offerings, which were submitted and declined. Some of these fellows were a little angry at Mr. Kellogs attitude and indulged in some criticism, which was always met by his rising and asking them to leave the office and not come back. Of course, after the Fireman's Fund made a name the attitude of these brokers, some of them big men, was very different, but he never changed his attitude, and they never could understand why they were never received cordially in his office.
I cannot recall any incidents that would be of interest at this time - in fact I feel as Mr. Morton, Vice President of the Fire Association, who is now celebrating his fiftieth anniversary with that Company. When he was asked if he had any recollection of the part which appealed to him particularly in his connection with the Company, he said; "I cannot pick out any happening of bye gone years which stands out in my mind, because I was so much occupied in what was taking place that I was not impressed by incidents occurring at that time."
When I came to the Company in 1887 an incident that impressed me with Mr. Kellogs personality was the 1889 fires. The day before Thanksgiving we had a conflagration in Lynn, and on Thanksgiving morning in Boston. These two fires cost the Fireman's Fund in the neighborhood of $50,000, not much in these days, but with a premium income of a little over $200,000 for the year, it was quite a bump.
I remember coming to the office Thanksgiving morning and finding Mr. Kellogg, who had already circled the fire in Boston. He asked me if I would make the trip again, which I did, and we both came back to the office ankle deep in mud. We then got out the maps and prepared a telegram for Mr. Dutton. Mr. Kellogg appeared to be very much downhearted, but the next morning we received a wire from Mr. Dutton congratulating him that it was no worse, and I think that was the beginning of his lifelong confidence in the management of the Company. That day it was about five o'clock in the afternoon when he suddenly looked up at me and said, "By jove, I have not had anything to eat today." So we went to get some lunch and he went home. He came in the next morning full of pep and laying plans for the recovery of our loss in the way of new premiums.
He traveled a great deal in those days and made personal friendships among our agents which lasted thru their lives and his.
I cannot recall any special instance that impressed me until 1906. One day a gentleman walked into the office with a bundle of Fireman's Fund policies under his arm and announced that he was a treasurer of a savings bank and he felt it his duty to have the policies canceled. Mr. Kellogg without a word handed him a telegram from Mr. Dutton, which he read, and remarked that that was only one mans say so and could not be true. Mr. Kellogg immediately rose, pointed his finger at him and said that any one who questioned the integrity of the man who signed that telegram could not remain in his office. The man apologized and began to talk Then Mr. Kellogg sat down again, invited him to have a chair and went over the whole situation with the result that he went back to his bank with his policies under his arm, and we never heard of him again except to renew the business.
There was another concern - a large office representing the trust properties. We never heard from them, altho they had Fireman's Fund policies covering millions of dollars worth of property, until the business was rewritten in the Corporation. The business was placed with Field & Cowles, and their counterman was an intimate friend of mine. He came to me two or three times and said that Mr. Cotting, the head of the firm, had ordered all Fireman's Fund policies replaced. We talked about it many times and I finally suggested that he have Mr. Cotting come up to the office. Mr. Cotting was a dogmatic man, dominated his own office and about everybody he dealt with. I was surprised to learn that my friend had induced him to come up and see Mr. Kellog. He sat down and Mr. Kellogg told him the whole story, and awaited with a great deal of fear his reply. He got up and said he was very glad to have met him and that the situation as outlined was satisfactory and if Mr. Kellogg would promise that, should any change in the situation occur, he would notify Mr. Cotting, he would allow all Fireman's Fund policies to stand.
During that time we never lost but one policy payable to a trust or mortgagee, and that was $2500 on a dwelling, payable to John D. Long, Ex-Governor and Ex-Secretary of the Navy. We offered to give him a bond showing the integrity of the policy, sent our friends to see him and did everything humanly possible but he said no, he had a duty to perform and the policy must be canceled. Incidentally we lost the risk.
There were many, many things that happened at that time which might be interesting if I could remember them but they were all in the day's work, and went out of my mind after the incident passed.
I note what you say, that you hope I will not, thru a sense of modesty refrain from giving you the interesting incidents of my own career. I was never accused of being modest, but when there is nothing to tell, of course, one cannot tell it.
I was born in Ohio in August 1855 and came to Pittsburgh in 1861. When I was old enough to go to work I entered the office of a railroad company and graduated from there to the Allemania Insurance Company, where I stayed a few years, I dont remember how many. Then went down into West Virginia in the lumber business and came back to Pittsburgh in the employ of the Citizens Insurance Company. I stayed in the office a while and then was made Special Agent, covering territory from Bangor, Maine to St. Paul, Minneapolis, Omaha, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Quite a job for a kid, but it was worth while as it gave me a lot of experience.
Mr. Kellogg offered me the position of Special Agent for Pennsylvania, which I declined because he was not prepared to pay me as much salary as I had been getting. In July 1887 he again offered me the position of Special Agent for New England, which I accepted, and reported for duty September l7th, 1887.
I became Assistant Manager in 1894 and Manager in 1909. Nothing occurred during all that time that I can recall that would be worth the telling. When I was appointed Manager the business, thru Mr. Kellogs efforts, had grown; the Company was well planted and my object in life then, was to increase our Agency plant and make some money and to that I gave all my attention. The Department made money except the year of the Salem fire and the year 1921.
After reading this over I am very much dissatisfied with it, but it is my first attempt at anything of this kind and I have done the best I can. Possibly Mr. Levison or Mr. Dutton will be able to suggest something on which I can elaborate, and if so I will be glad to make the attempt.
Yours very truly
[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-2-4-42; 0719.]
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