Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 29, 2014
Michael J. McGivney

Michael J. McGivney

March 29, 1882: The Knights of Columbus (K of C) is formed. Irish-American Catholic priest Michael J. McGivney founded the fraternal order in New Haven, Connecticut. A group of men from St. Mary’s Parish first gathered on October 2, 1881 and the Order was incorporated under state laws on this day. All the beginning groups were founded in Connecticut but soon after they spread to other New England states and finally to across the nation and eventually, around the globe. Today, it is the largest fraternal order in the world.

McGivney wanted to provide for the poor families of his immigrant-laden parish. When the main income earner died, the entire family suffered and the priest wanted a way to provide for the widows and orphaned children. At the time, Catholics were often barred from joining labor unions or other organizations. Sometimes the groups, like the Freemasons, did not permit Catholics to join and sometimes the Church forbade them from joining a group. McGivney wanted to form a group of men who would be able to secure insurance to keep their families protected in the event of an early death, a dire possibility at the time. He traveled to other places nearby and found groups of collectives who were able to purchase the beneficial life insurance. These other groups were able to offer the insurance, but not across state lines.

The name of Columbus was chosen in part as a rebuke to the Angle-Saxon Protestants who honored Christopher Columbus, a Catholic explorer, as founder of the Americas while excluding other more recent immigrants practicing the Catholic faith. Columbus had not yet been vilified and was actually seen as having done something good and honorable when he landed in the New World. McGivney hoped to name the new group the Sons of Columbus, but James T. Mullen, the first Supreme Knight, convinced him to go with the feudal reference.

The original benefit was to be $1,000 given to a recent widow. Each member was charged $1 when someone died and when there were more than 1,000 members, the charge was lowered to reflect the greater pool of contributors. They also created a Sick Benefit Deposit for members who were ill and couldn’t work. Their families would draw $5 per week for 13 weeks. If they remained unable to work for a longer period, some other sum of money would be allocated. Today, there are over 1.8 million members in over 15,000 councils. In 2012, the K of C donated over $167.5 million directly to charity and performed over 70 million man-hours of volunteer service. They donated over 413,000 pints of blood in 2010. Their life insurance program has more than $90 billion in policies backed by $19.8 billion in assets.

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

If a child, a spouse, a life partner, or a parent depends on you and your income, you need life insurance. – Suze Orman

Insurance – an ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table. – Ambrose Bierce

For almost seventy years the life insurance industry has been a smug sacred cow feeding the public a steady line of sacred bull. – Ralph Nader

Also on this day: Rationing – In 1948, rationing of items increased to include more food products.
Ice Jam – In 1848, the Falls at Niagara stopped flowing.
Vesta – In 1807, Vesta was discovered.
New Sweden – In 1638, the first Swedish colony was established in the New World.