Create a timeline to document the history of just about any industry and you’re bound to find some interesting stories.

Do it for the life insurance industry and you’re going to find a bunch more.

Take the story of National Life Insurance Company‘s first death claim in 1850, for example. Rowland Allen was a 23 year old who had taken out policies #77 and #78 from the fledgling, 2-year-old Vermont company for $500 each — a substantial sum in that day. Allen set out from Vermont to seek his fortune in the California Gold Rush on a mail steamer out of Boston, made it all the way around the tip of South America, but died of dysentery on the ship just off the coast near San Diego. The resulting claim pushed the young company to its limits, as it had not been around long enough to accumulate enough assets to pay the claim. But the directors knew their company was doomed if they failed to pay. With the cooperation of a local bank and the personal credit-backing of the directors, National Life came up with the money. Its president personally delivered the $1,000 payment to the grieving but grateful widow.

Another example: on the eve of the Civil War in 1861, New York Life declared its commitment to continue paying all legitimate claims in both the North and the South. Throughout the war, the company’s agents paid death claims in Confederate states, sometimes crossing battle lines under a flag of truce to do so.

Or how about that Pacific Life had a significant role in saving Stanford University? In 1868, Pacific Mutual Life ceremoniously issued its first policy to Leland Stanford, the company’s first president. The former California Governor would soon found Stanford University. Following his death in 1893, the university’s financial support became uncertain. Intent on preserving the university, Mrs. Stanford used her husband’s life insurance policy to soothe the momentary financial distress.

This is just a tiny sampling of the interesting items we have compiled. I hope this will whet your appetite for our “History of Life Insurance” timeline project, which will be featured in the September issue of Life Insurance Selling, which — as our nod to Life Insurance Awareness Month — is being entirely devoted to the past, present and future of life insurance.

Stay tuned for more details…

To read more from Brian Anderson, click here.