Little Bits of History

Metropolitan Life

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2011

The MetLife blimp (photo by Matthew Field)

March 24, 1868: The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is formed. Commonly called MetLife today, the mutual organization went public in 2000. It is the largest life insurer in the US. They have more than $3.3 trillion of life insurance in force. C. Robert Henrikson is the Chairman, President, and CEO of the company. They are headquartered in Manhattan in New York City. They maintain office space in the MetLife Building, but it was sold in 2005.

In 1863, a group of New York City businessmen raised $100,000 to found the National Union of Life and Limb Insurance Company. They insured Civil War sailors and soldier against disability due to the war. By 1868, the company had undergone several reorganizations as well as several difficult years. They opted to focus instead on life insurance. Their primary focus was “ordinary” insurance sold to the middle class.

Dr. James R. Dow, a retired physician from Brooklyn, was the first person to buy a policy from the new company. He purchased his policy on March 25, one day after the company opened for business. He was also the company’s first President. The company’s office space was two and a half rooms that first year and was located in Lower Manhattan. By the close of business in 1868, the company had sold 1,477 policies for $4,300,000. The next year, they moved to an office on Broadway. By the end of 1870, the company had more than $13,000,000 in life insurance on its books.

In 1877, the first female employee joined the firm. They also got their first typewriter that same year. In 1879, they began selling “workingmen’s” insurance and by the end of 1880 had sold 213,878 industrial policies. Because of high prices, many holders let their policies lapse and fewer than 1 in 12 reached maturity. The federal government stepped in passed laws to avert misuse of the investment. As the company grew, they eventually needed larger office space. In 1980 they purchased the Pan Am Building [the largest single building purchase in history] and renamed it the MetLife Building. In 2000 they launched the seventh largest IPO in US history. They sell many types of insurances as well as other investment products. They serve clients in the US as well as in Asia, the Pacific region, Europe, and Latin America.

“I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.” – Stephen Leacock

“Justice is the insurance which we have on our lives and property. Obedience is the premium which we pay for it.” – William Penn

“Fun is like life insurance; the older you get, the more it costs.” – Kin Hubbard

“There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?” – Woody Allen

Also on this day:
Alaska Mess – In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to spill oil.
Cars – In 1898, the first Winton is purchased in the US.

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One Response

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  1. GYSC said, on March 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Great post!

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